Now I have all the time in the world!
I am grateful to someone who came to church at St Clement’s for the first time last Sunday and said to me; “I love your blog, but I hoped you would write much more now you are retired and have all the time in the world”. Well, I was pleased that this person had enjoyed my blog entries for years, as he said, but had to put him right about “all the time in the world”! It’s true that retirement has brought more free time than when I was working full-time, but in a way, there is just as much to do, only it is at different times and more freely arranged.
One difference for a priest is in the recitation of the Daily Office. At St Clement’s, Morning Prayer was before the 7 a.m. Mass and Evening Prayer at 5.30 every day. For many years I have used in private recitation the five offices of the modern Roman breviary. (In Milan I used the Ambrosian office book which differs considerable from the Roman one). Of course, when I said the office in public I used the Episcopal Prayer Book. Now I am able to choose my times much more freely than before, and also what language I use. For many years as a young priest I used to say the office in Latin; then I said it in modern Latin (1.e. Italian!) which helped me learn the language for my job as Archdeacon of Italy and Malta. I never tried Maltese, which is, I imagine, one of the most difficult languages to learn. And lately I have taken to saying the office in Spanish, in that that is the second language of the USA and would be useful if I were asked to say Mass for one of our Spanish-speaking congregations.
(Through thick and thin, for over fifty years I have usually used the form of Compline in the 1929 Scottish Prayer Book. It never changed, so I soon knew it off by heart, and I have said it late at night, walking home from visiting a parishioner or a pub or a police station! I admit I just put in police station because it begins with a “p”, but I was for four years what Americans would call Commissioner of Police and we Scots called “Convenor of the Lothian and Borders Joint Police Board” (what a mouthful!) This meant that I had many evening engagements on police business, and when they were in Edinburgh and not all over the South of Scotland, I would often refuse the police car and walk home, specifically to enjoy Compline on the way.)
Anyway, after that little excursus, my point is that the Divine Office still takes up about a couple of hours of my day out of “all the time in the world”. Then there is the change from having a large Rectory to living in one’s own apartment. It would seem at first sight that that would reduce domestic matters. But no; in my colleges and rectories and deaneries I have always had domestic staff, cleaners, sextons, whole congregations with many skills who were always on hand to come to Father’s rescue, especially when Father was as clueless as this one in regard to anything mechanical or, indeed, practical! It is true that I still have many friends nearby who are willing to come to my aid when I get really stuck. But I do have to do far more for myself in practical matters than before. For example, I shop and cook, either for myself or for guests. This is a pleasure, but it takes time. Keeping the house clean, laundry and other household chores also consume quite a bit of time. This has made me even more aware of how heroically many young mothers (and increasingly in these enlightened times fathers) cope with having full-time jobs, keeping a house and garden and bringing up children.
Then there is the fact of simply being a priest, with almost as many demands on my time as I had in a “full-time” position. I have stopped hearing confessions at St Clement’s , but am still spiritual director for quite a few clergy and others in the Philadelphia area. And now that my fellow clergy know I am available, I have been asked to preach and take retreats and conferences here and there, all of which need preparation work. So there goes “all the time in the world” again!
However, having said all that, retirement has meant that I have been able to change pace considerably. Anyone who has lived in a Rectory knows the continual ringing of the telephone and the front doorbell, the almost daily visits to hospitals and homes, the stream of interviews and classes for baptisms, confirmations, weddings and funerals. Now that others are looking after all that, I am left with a good deal most time, and am enjoying that very much.
What to do with that time? Well, writing in this blog is one result. Another is the completion and expansion of an autobiography, which may never, of course, see the light of day. If it is ever published, I would like to call it “Have Biretta, Will Travel”! I am encouraged in this by the example of Colin Stephenson who never really expected his churchy autobiography “Merrily on High” to be published. A third use of this extra time is to be a more faithful friend and to visit friends I have not seen for many years. I began my retirement doing some of that, when I had a few months in Scotland and England, and I am beginning to make plans to visit many of my former parishes in Europe, such as Gibraltar, Stockholm, Milan and Ankara. But not all at once!