Forming priests for the post-Trump era – Part 1

According to the Washington Post, Clinton and Trump raised slightly more than 2 billion dollars for their campaign for Presidency. The Seminary in Malta – crowdfunded from parishes – gets an average of €120,000 for the entire year. So it might sound stupid to explore how to prepare young people as priests for the post-Trump era. The impression one gets is that it is more catering for a niche market for the few people who still have Sunday mass as a hobby. I hope I am not writing this piece out of a delusional thought that my years of work in priestly formation mean I am a key actor in today’s world. I am rather encouraged by the fact that the empires of the past were challenged by people who had no power. In a small town of Nazareth, an insignificant town distant from the centres of power (Jerusalem, Rome then, New York, London, Paris, Moscow, today). God became man funded by a simple family. He was surrounded by twelve enthusiastic young people full of ideals but ill prepared for the complexity of power structures and the machinations of evil. Jesus of Nazareth brought the change by introducing a logic that appears absurd as much as it is effective. How this continues to take place in the way it does remains a mystery. But less so for those who live it.

Beyond the politics of anger

In an opinion on the recent US Presidential election, published on the Daily Telegraph, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote that with this result (election of Donald Trump), together with Brexit and the rise of extremism, we risk developing a new politics of anger with its risks. “Anger is a mood, not a strategy, and it can make things worse not better”. In a contrast he advocates a “politics of hope”: “We need to construct a compelling narrative of hope that speaks to all of us not some of us, and the time to begin is now”.

It is here that a priest needs to look beyond his immediate tasks and contribute with symbolic but concrete gestures that lead beyond the demand and supply of the parish supermarket. Although not the only voice and should complement the other necessary voices, the religious voice is essential. As rabbi Sacks aptly puts it: “When religion dies and consumerism takes its place, people are left with a culture that encourages them to buy things they don’t need with money they don’t have for a happiness that won’t last”.

Is it too much to ask of priests to be men of God who build communities who live a simple lifestyle, and whose prayer life opens the ground for the deep sources of spirituality?