Monday, June 12, 2017

Monday at the Bar; A Career Change: Former attorney professes first vows as cloistered Dominican nun

 The Abbey of St. Walburga, a Benedictine Abbey in Northern Colorado.

An interesting news story that might not be quite as unique as it at first seems. . . at least in an historical context, but which will still catch many off guard in this secular age.
Of course quite a bit of the reaction to this is in the nature of surprise.  I.e., why wold a person give up a "high paying career", etc. to live a life of cloistered isolation?

Well, because she has a religious calling is the reason.  Pretty simple.

Indeed, in this instance, we the level of her faith can be truly termed profound, so we should not be surprised.  Her nearly decade long stint as a practicing attorney was due in part to having to pay off her student loans and, as noted, an outside organization came to the rescue on that so that she was able to follow her vocation.

One of the interesting aspect of something like this is, however, always the "surprise".  I'm not surprised.

Law is a profession, in the classic definition of the word.  "Professions", as that term originally had meant, were the "learned professions" which, by their nature, professed. They were quite limited in number, being; 1) the clergy; and 2) the law, and 3) medicine. That's it.

Indeed, the definition was so narrow that some things we'd think today as naturally fitting these definitions didn't, originally.  Veterinarians weren't regarded as a profession until the Napoleonic Wars, at which time they became one in the UK due to a movement lead by them to correct the horrific veterinary care being afforded to horses.  Dentistry was practiced by barbers, oddly enough, rather than dentists in the Middle Ages when the concept of the professions came about.  Accountants, which we'd certainly regarded as professionals today, were not at that time irrespective of their valuable skills.  The clergy, law and medicine, that was it.

Which isn't to say that they were all held in equal regard. They certainly were not.  Lawyers in particular were widely looked down upon as being corrupt, which was something many truly were.

Which may be why, into antiquity, you can find quite a few examples of lawyers entering the clergy.  The morals of their first profession could not be reconciled with their own.

But beyond that, the law draws a lot of mentally inquisitive people, quite a few of whom are deeply introspective and a fair share of whom are introverts.  The practice of law, however, often values skills that don't fit this set.  Litigation in particular is not a scholarly endeavor, but having said that, much of the rest of the law isn't either.  This may be part of the reason you find lawyers in so many other things.  It isn't because the law lends itself to them, it doesn't, so much as their polymath minds took them out of the law.

I can't say that I've ever met a lawyer who became a monk or a nun, but I have known a few who became clergymen of other types.  One I knew somewhat became a Rabbi.  Another I knew became a Protestant minister.  I knew one Priest who had been a successful lawyer in Denver before entering the Priesthood  A couple I had cases against left their firms to enter Protestant seminaries.  Two I knew left their practices to enter Catholic seminaries but did not complete their studies and resumed practicing.  I've known a few who practiced law during the week and were Protestant ministers on Sunday or whom were Catholic Deacons.  It all makes a lot of sense to me.

What makes quite a bit less sense to me are people who take the opposite path, which occasionally you'll read about.  I suspect that a lot more people leave the law to enter the clergy but a few leave the clergy to enter the law.  I always suspect that involves an element of delusion, frankly, and I doubt that their later careers are very happy.  People entering law often claim that they "want to help" people but we mostly do partisan work for pay.  I don't know how many people really have that "helping people" motivation (fewer than claim it, I'm sure) but if a person really wants to help people, the clergy is a better option than the law and those who go the other way probably soon learn that after actually going to work.  Indeed, one such fellow I was aware of now seems to be working for his old institution, a Catholic Diocese, so his trip through the law with happy law school photographs seems to have lead him back to where he started, but in a lessor role.  I'm not sure what that means, but it probably means, if correct (and it might not be) that his old employer didn't hold grudges against him but his new career didn't turn out to be what he thought it would be.  He shouldn't have left it.

Anyhow, this is an interesting news story.  Sister Marie Dominic taking the better road.

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