Most countries import goods from all over the world. We love exotic fruits that are out of season. We drive foreign cars that continually create competition for manufacturers. We wear clothing that was made by people from the other side of the planet. But did you know that nuns and priests are being imported as well?
Shocking, isn't it?
Last winter when I was in Spain, I went to the beautiful city of Granada with a friend whose choir was performing in a competition. I happen to love Granada, home of the famous Alhambra, so I happily joined the choir on the bus ride there and back and even enjoyed the group meals that the choir master had arranged. One of the evening meals took place after the performance at a nunnery. The nunnery itself was gorgeous and the old world setting created an unforgettable ambiance. The food was excellent and the price was right, but soon I discovered something rather surprising. The nuns were from the Philippines. Lovely young women who whisked about the large dining room waiting upon us like we were royalty.
Yet, not a Spaniard among them.
I soon learned that Spanish girls are vey, very reluctant to become nuns these days. Go figure. Once upon a time when Spain lived entirely under the crushing rule of the Catholic Church, families tended to become impatient if none of their children chose to become a priest or a nun. All good Catholic families had been heavily indoctrinated to believe that it was their duty to have lots of children for god and to sacrifice at least one of their offspring to his full-time service.
But Spanish girls are having less and less to do with these old ideas any longer.
Their mothers can pray on their rosary beads all they want, the daughters are choosing to go to college or start a business or even live with a man instead of donning a veil and marrying Jesus. That's kind of how things work when more information is available to young people. Suddenly they realize they have choices and an actual say in how they want to live their lives.
Spain is only one of many European countries that is hemorrhaging nuns and priests.
America is also in the same boat. For all of our religiosity, fewer and fewer people are interested in a lifelong commitment to an old, outdated institution. Pope Francis is very concerned about the situation, but you know what, Pope Francis is an old man. He practically grew up in the Dark Ages and probably was so heavily indoctrinated as a child with the mumbo jumbo of the church, his parents, teachers and elders that like most young people of his time, he hardly had a chance to think for himself.
But wait a minute! There's a shortage of priests, too.
My sister who is a registered nurse in Maine told me recently that Lewiston, once a staunch French Catholic community, has such a shortage of priests that when a patient requires the last rites, she often can't find an available priest to perform them. Imagine that! People dying without a man in a white collar to perform incantations and rituals.
The candlelight ritual, known as the Sacrament of the Last Rites, is administered in hospitals, nursing homes, hospice houses and private homes, but now comes with a catch. You better plan ahead, because the only ones who can perform the service -- are in short supply.
I find this news to be encouraging.
Little by little, the old, archaic superstitions of the past are ending up in the dust bins along with ideas like demon possession and ridiculous costumes and rituals. Most importantly, more and more young people are refusing to be forced into a nunnery or the priesthood where they are told that it is their duty to sacrifice their one short life on this planet for the glory of god, the church and their families. To that I say, hallelujah!
I'm a myth buster. My recent published book - Have We Been Screwed? Trading Freedom for Fairy Tales - can be purchased on Amazon.