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Confessions of a Failed Ascetic

I’m more like the guy on the right than the one on the left….*

I have a girlfriend now, myself, which is weird, because I’m probably gay based on the way I act and behave…. I think like in heaven they build like three-quarters of a gay person, and then they forgot to flip the final switch. And they just sent me out, and it was like, “You marked that one gay, right?” and it was like, “Oh, no–was I supposed to?” and they were like, “Oh, man–well, this will be a very interesting person!”

–John Mulaney, New in Town

Mutatis mutandis (a fancy Latin phrase meaning “All appropriate changes having been made), I have sometimes thought this applies to me.  Change “gay” to “ascetic” or “monk”, and it strikes me as appropriate to an extent.  In heaven, someone made three-quarters of a monastic and then forgot to flip the final switch and just sent me out.  I did turn out to be a very interesting person (or “eccentric as hell”–take your pick).

As regular readers know, I grew up as a non-churchgoing cultural Protestant in small-town Appalachia.  The only churches I even knew existed until I was nearing my teen years were “Baptist” and “Methodist”, and I was none too sure about the differences.  I remember seeing some nuns outside the Catholic hospital in the next town south from my hometown.  Nuns, let alone a Catholic hospital, were anomalous there; and this random memory must be from when I was no older than six or seven (1969 or 1970), since most nuns abandoned habits by the early 70’s.  In any case, aside from that one sighting, nuns–and monks–to me were mostly something you saw in Robin Hood stories or histories of the Middle Ages.  I didn’t have any clear concept as to what they actually were, nor did I have more than a vague notion of what the Catholic Church was.  In fact, as I grew older and learned a bit about the Middle Ages and the Reformation, I developed a mild, somewhat genteel, anti-Catholic attitude–the “I have nothing against the Church, but it’s good that the Reformation swept away all that superstitious Medieval folderol!” type.  In any case, the point of all this is to note that, far from having a vocation to monastic life, I didn’t even clearly know what it was, let alone having sympathy for the church with which it is most closely associated.

That makes the following somewhat bizarre.

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