... is that they are too true a foretaste of retirement.
I love my work [coordinating a religious education program for some 480 children in a NY suburban Catholic parish] but as I get older I long for a lighter workload. My typical work week is 50-60 hours long; the hours are irregular with two days ending at 5pm, two at 9pm and one at noon; ordinarily my days off are Friday and Sunday ... NOT consecutive and so, not as relaxing as might be. Today, I will go in to grade the exams and prepare the progress reports of sixty-five 7th graders, prepare the scripts for six stations of our next Family catechesis session and, angels and saints protect me, supervise the behavior in Church for Advent confessions for grades 3-6 of the after school session and grades 5-7 of the evening session. The last bit is the worst. Some of these children see the inside of a church only once or twice a year and consequently have never acquired the sense that it is holy ground/sacred space. Therefore, they feel free to chat and behave as they might in the schoolyard or playground. I have to walk a fine line between keeping the peaceful and reverent atmosphere intact and still being a welcoming, not scolding, presence for the children who ... through no fault of their own ... have never been taught to behave appropriately in this environment. The pastor, quite properly, does not wish to have the reception of the sacrament disturbed by noise or irreverent attitudes/behaviors of those still waiting to confess ... he also does not wish to be embarassed in front of the priest called in from a near-by retreat house to assist with the large number of children coming for the sacrament. Tomorrow's schedule is equally strained: getting paperwork for a major fundraiser out and a smaller fundraiser delivery in, distributed and finally wrapped up, followed by afterschool confession for Grades 3-6 and evening confessions for Grade 8 ... and it is the Grade 8 confessions I am dreading. Most years our Confirmation class is a reasonable group, with just the usual adolescent hormonal and social stuff going on ... but every so often we get a [how shall I put this delicately?] a truly challenging class ... obnoxious, disrespectful of adults and one another, cruel to one another both verbally and emotionally, selfish and self-involved ... it seems to go in cycles, don't ask me why ... but four years ago we had such a Confirmation class and we have another this year. Keeping order in Church shall be difficult since I will have to delegate the responsibility to the catechists ... I will be running the make-up meeting for the 2nd grade parents who didn't come to our Reconciliation/Eucharist Parent Meeting. I'll move through the meeting as quickly as possible so that I can get to the Church in time to help out ... for I know maintaining control of 85 darling 13 year olds in a church setting may be beyond the scope of my six 8th grade catechists. I've no doubt I'll have a less than pleasant meeting with the pastor on Wednesday morning.
Like I said, most days I love my work ... hey, most days I can even manage to see it as ministry ... but somedays, I just want to retire.