Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

This morning, as I was drinking coffee and getting "up and around," doing my usual blogsurfing, I got intrigued about this post on Elizabeth Kaeton's blog. Partially because I like collard greens, but it turned out to be about "collared" not "collard." That was okay too. I started realizing another of those similarities between physicians and clergy. Both go through rigorous, but somewhat "rigamarole-ish" processes to get to where you want to go, and there are always all-knowing assholes in the way, who seem to know better than you do what you deserve. Don't get me wrong; constructive things sometimes happen in these processes that are for the better. But there are always some individuals in power who tend to inflate their importance in the process.

I see this on the admissions committee for the osteopathic medical school here. I listen to some committee members brag on their "pet formulas", "stock questions," etc. They are frequently the kind of people I describe as "always wrong; never in doubt." Sure, we all are supremely confident about some things now and then. But these particular kind of individuals make a habit of it.

I take a different approach. I figure they are "pre-screened" to a degree by their GPA/MCAT score/the fact they "wanted" to apply. Honestly, on paper, a lot of these all look alike. The letters of recommendation are bland, standard, usually without any real insight and always glowing. "One of the best I have ever seen..." types of letters. It's like Lake Woebegon; all the children are above average.

I try to ask open ended questions that bring out "who" they are...things like "When you sit around and fantasize about being a doctor, tell me who you see." "Tell me the incident in your life where you felt you were as close to feeling what it feels like to be a doctor." Stuff like that. I address their "yellow/red flags in an open-ended fashion also." "Tell me about this semester where you got 3 "C's". This semester does not look like the others, to me."

I watch for what I call "the sparkle." There is a moment, in an interview with a good candidate, that their face brightens, their eyes light up, and they become alive. I remember this incredibly shy fellow, big tall skinny guy. We were having a rough interview b/c he was so darn nervous. I accidentally noticed volunteer work with a local elementary school in their reading program. I just asked, "Hey, tell me a little about this program here that you did some volunteer work." It was like a light switch turned on. He lit up, started talking about the little kids, the tiny chairs in which he didn't fit, the short sinks and toilets in the john, and how the kids clung on his pant leg wanting him to hear them read. I finally could imagine this guy being any kind of doctor at all. This vision of pediatrician popped in my head. Before, there was just a blank spot in my mind.

I became a lot calmer as a med school interviewer when I stopped listening to the know-it-alls on the committee and decided that this is a matter of my awareness that I am just a vehicle for the natural forces of grace and discernment to happen. I decided that those who are supposed to get in, will get in eventually, maybe not with me, maybe partially because of me, but most of it was in the hands of things out of my control.

Whether we are talking about medicine or priesthood, I think the "calling" will take care of itself. I'm just sorry that difficult people have to get in the way of both now and then.


Kirk, I was on a discernment committee for a young man who was a candidate for seminary. He was so painfully shy that I had difficulty imagining him as a priest. He said that he didn't necessarly want to be a parish priest, but perhaps wanted to teach. I thought of the few teaching positions available and how he was limiting himself in his vocation, and I was even more doubtful.

At one point, someone asked him his reasons for wanting to be a priest. His first response was, "Because I want to serve. Jesus calls us to serve." Those words, spoken in great humility and sincerity, along with his resumé, showing that he had always worked in helping positions, went a long way to turning me around in my opinion about his suitability for the priesthood. That a young 23 year old would state first his desire to serve, was profoundly moving to me

He is now serving quite successfully as an assistant priest. He has been back to our church to visit and preach on two occasions. He's a fine priest and an excellent preacher. Much of the shyness is gone. Of course, he will always be an introvert, but he's come a long way. Thanks be to God.

Well, I think about the story of my vicar. He had an awful, paralyzing stutter in childhood, clear up into adulthood and when he began seminary.

This is great schmaltz...the first time he had to get up to preach as a seminary student and give a sermon, his stutter disappeared. Over time, he got rid of it entirely (except when he is wound up or upset). But talk about a tale of a miracle and God's was if he was told "this is your calling, dude."

But I'm sure when he was admitted to seminary, everyone was thinking, "Oh, yeah, right, this guy is going to be a parish priest."

That's why I'm convinced this whole "discerment" schtick, whether it's the priesthood or medical school, is sooooo much "out of our hands."

"The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes."



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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