My second year in the seminary, I spent the summer working in a Hill Country parish. Even though I-10 had cut its way into the hills years before, the area still had a sense of isolation that has long since disappeared under San Antonio’s sprawl.
A friend of mine, Father Marcos, had been the one to invite me, asking if I would work the hospital and handle small tasks on the side. I agreed and spent the summer reading fantasy, cruising the hills, and eating good BBQ–a sad reflection on my devotion to church ministry.
Marcos had been stationed there years before, soon after his ordination in the early seventies. Every summer since , Marcos had driven out to babysit when the pastor was on vacation.
I enjoyed Marcus’s stories about an unreliable Volkswagen Beetle and long walks to buy gas. ( He claimed that his old VW did not have a gas gauge.) What has stuck with me, though, are the stories about the pastor. If Marcos came in late, he would be locked out of the rectory. A padlock was on the refrigerator to prevent over-indulgence. The pastor watched over Marcus in much the way my mother had watched over me in junior high.
Marcus, though, was kind when he spoke of the man. They had remained firm friends. He understood the world the rector had been ordained into and had grown old in. (Marcus had a generous, loving nature that was hidden by his gruff laugh and absolute faith in the reality of pro-wrestling.) At one point, the pastor and his peers had been promised that the world they embraced was immutable. The remote parish cemented that promise. But that world had changed after five hundred years, wiped away with the Second Vatican Council and I-10.
The memory of Marcus’s stories about the pastor, have remained with me over the last thirty years. A cautionary tale–obviously. The wold of academia is changing. What once was is no longer. I must adapt.
Now, as I drive west through the developments that have swallowed Boerne and Camp Verde, I miss the isolation of the Hill Country. Its stillness. That was the other part of Marcus’s stories: he honored the love and commitment of someone who could not adapt to the changes in a world he had served.