Consequences of Secular Occupations

I’d like to discuss an important topic that’s central to what we do in the classical Liberal Arts Academy and will become increasingly so as we pursue the long term objective of our program, which is to provide extraordinary students with a degree in a bachelor in classical Christian studies degree and, and present that as sort of the the final achievement of our program.

The topic that I’d like to talk about, I’m going to title, the consequences of secular occupations, the consequences of secular occupations.

In the Classical Liberal Arts Academy, we teach a course of studies that’s ancient, and throughout history, this course of studies has been pursued by men and women who have shared a certain view of life in the world we live in. We refer to this system of studies as the “classical liberal arts”, and men and women in the past who have had such an education were said to be “liberal” men and women, or to be men and women with a “liberal” education. This use of the word “liberal” has nothing to do with the modern political term, so don’t get it confused with any talk about “liberals” in politics. This idea of “liberal” education has to do with the concept of freedom, as the Latin word liber means “free”.

This idea of a liberal education was understood in a time when society was divided between free men and slaves. Maybe I shouldn’t even say “slaves”; I should say, free men and servants. The idea of a servant is that, for some reason, and that reason could be just or unjust. But for some reason, a person’s life is devoted to what are called servile labors. This is the kind of work that’s forbidden on Sundays in Catholic faith and morals. There’s to be no servile labor on the Lord’s day, and this goes back to the ancient Jewish Sabbath law, which said that on the seventh day, there was to be no work performed. By this work, it meant the work of servants and farm animals, that is, servile labor. And while servile labor is one species of human labor, there’s another species that’s not servile labor, but liberal. Liberal studies were studies pursued by people who were not interested in servile labor and, in ancient society, this meant men and women who were not servants, but who were free.

As free men and women, they were responsible to pursue nobler ends. There was nothing noble, about a man with the opportunity to enjoy a liberal education, growing tomatoes; or, for a woman who had the opportunity to enjoy a liberal education, to weave a blanket. There’s nothing dishonorable about manual labor, and all wise men and saints recommend manual labor as a good use of time for all, in place of idleness, and honored it as necessary for human society (see Sirach 38). But, for those who have the opportunity for liberal education, there are higher and nobler human works to be pursued, the neglect of which is irresponsible, and selfish.

Every man is judged according to what he has, he’s judged according to his opportunities, judged according to his potential, according to his gifts, and resources. God doesn’t judge men absolutely as if all men are equal, because all men are not equal. Some men have extraordinary opportunities and resources given to them in life, and their life’s works are going to be judged in relation to what opportunities and resources they were provided with. And so in society, when there was a division between free men and servants, the free were responsible to pursue nobler human works. The same is true today, although the externals of society have changed. We no longer refer to people as “servants”. We refer to them as “employees”. So society, in some of its labels and systems, has a difference in appearance, but the same distinction between the free and the servile remains in place today.

Now, we might think, that all of this depends on one’s birth, and natural condition in life, that one is either born into a life of liberty, or into a life of servitude. But this is not true, or I should say, this is rarely ever true. In the outward appearance of our lives, we can see that some men appear to be under a burden of servitude and others appear free. But this is largely due, in most cases, to an inner condition, to a spiritual condition, by which a man chooses to live with the spirit of one who is free, and others who choose to live with the spirit of one who is a slave. The apostles write about this. Throughout the New Testament, St. Paul explained that anything, any influence or person or desire that we obey is our master. And, whoever has a master is consequently a slave. If our master is Christ, then we will live as slaves of Christ. But a slave of Christ lives a certain kind of life, because the work that our master assigns to us is a certain kind of work. But anyone who is a slave to anything else, or anyone else, is going to have to live under the burden of the work of that master. And that master not being Christ, we’ll be some worldly Master, or some worldly desire. And the person who presents himself as a servant of any worldly thing is going to be burdened with worldly work.

For example, if a man likes to eat, and I don’t mean eat what is necessary for life (which is actually very little) but a man who likes to indulge, who likes to eat multiple meals per day, who likes every meal to taste good, who likes to eat a full plate of food every time he takes a break, that man’s gluttony makes him a slave. And while it may appear that he is happy when he’s eating the food, we’re going to find that that desire creates a very great burden in his life that he has to bear and makes him live like a slave for this master. Likewise, a person may like to wear fine clothes and live in a fine, luxurious home and drive expensive vehicles. Of course, the standards of what qualifies as luxurious in our society is often skewed by American standards of what’s considered normal, but if we consider it on a historical level, or on a global level, we’ll find that any new car is luxurious, any modern home is luxurious, almost all modern clothing can be considered fine clothing. The desire for these possessions brings with it a certain servitude. These desires, becoming the master of one’s life, require that that person perform works necessary for those things, in the service of that desire.

This leads to the topic of this meditation, which is the consequences of secular occupations.

Now we have a way of explaining all of this way. We like to pretend that the desires we have are all innocent, that we have a right to anything that we want. After all, we’re told in American politics that we all have the “right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. The problem with this talk of these three rights–life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness–is that these things take on different definitions and Aristotle explained this problem in his work on Ethics, that happiness differs in its definition among different groups of people. Some have a definition that’s false and wrong. Others have a definition that is true and right for human beings. Aristotle explained that, because of what we are as human beings, men created in the image and likeness of God, born of body and soul, with souls endowed with understanding, reason, and eternity, happiness exists only in the life of virtue, a perfect life. That is human happiness, that is the perfection, or fulfillment of the purpose of a human life. The vulgar, as Aristotle names them, live like cattle, he says, and they pursue things in the name of happiness, which are not proper for human beings. They define happiness in a way, which reduces men to mere beasts, and not men. And this, their definition of happiness, is the end of their life, and the purpose or mission of their life is to enjoy this carnal beast-like pleasure. This desire, this pursuit of happiness, in their case, becomes a master that turns them into slaves.

What’s most deceiving about this life of pleasure and self indulgence is that those who engage in it while they’re while they’re enjoying the use, or the consumption of the things they desire, they pretend that they are free. They scoff at those who deny themselves. They then ignore or deny all of the consequences of their way of life. Like a drug addict who is willing to explain away all of the consequences of his drug use, pretending that it’s just all pleasure that there’s no cost, they’re deceived. In modern Christian conversation we ignore the consequences or the costs of secular occupations, and I’d like to meditate on this a bit.

Jesus says to us, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be given to thee.” (Matthew 6:33) and he says that in the context of men, driven by anxieties in the pursuit of worldly things. When we say worldly things, we’re not talking about mansions or Ferraris or vacations. Jesus is talking about simple, natural necessities. He says, “Do not say to yourselves, what shall we eat? Or what shall we wear?”. He’s talking about basic, natural requirements of life, not addressing anything beyond that. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” and the Church explains that the petition for daily bread suggests a temperance of life in its simplicity, that’s concerned only with what’s necessary. When we consider in our lives, how far beyond these simple desires, we already are, even those of us who consider ourselves to be simple people, we should take notice that something’s wrong. Jesus warns us and teaches us to think about our lives in a way that’s entirely different from the way modern men think about their lives. He tells us not to worry about what we shall eat or what we shall drink. He tells us not to be anxious about our lives in this world. He tells us explicitly do not store up treasure on earth. And if we want to know, what does he mean by this “treasure on earth”, we can deduce his meaning from what he says after, when He says, “where rust corrupts, moths destroy, and thieves break in and steal”. So whatever is corrupted by rust, destroyed by moths, or stolen by thieves, is what Jesus refers to as “treasures on earth”. We often talk about how we can stop men from stealing our possessions. But Jesus asks us to stop seeking things that men steal.

So don’t be worried about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or your clothes what you will wear. Do not store up treasure on earth. St. Paul says, “Let us be content with food and clothing.” No matter what we say, this is the true and only Christian culture–a simple culture free from the desire for worldly possessions, even basic needs, and certainly free from the desire for treasure on earth.

But Jesus doesn’t simply say, “avoid these things”. He goes further and gives us a positive command. He says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”. So we’re not only commanded to not seek some things; we’re also positively commanded to seek something better: “Seek first the kingdom of God”.

And very interestingly, Jesus makes us a promise. He says that when we do so, we don’t have to do so as if we’re making some kind of suicidal choice. We’re not choosing to have no food or clothing. When we seek first the kingdom of God, we’re seeking these things in a more appropriate manner, more appropriate for human beings. He says, “Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be given to you“. And He goes on to explain “for your heavenly Father knows you need these things”.

So Christ calls us to a certain quality of life that’s aimed at a certain end, and assures us that if we seek this life, to which He calls us, it shall not be a life where we lack everything, but it will be a life where our needs are provided for, even though we do not directly concern ourselves with those needs. And this life to which he calls us, is a religious life, seeking first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness. He says, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”. It’s this life of perfection, this life of true happiness, this life of beatitude that he calls us to. This is the Christian life.

When we look back through history, the people who we call “saints” are the people who pursued this life, who pursued the way of perfection. Even if we point out that some of the saints who we can name were secular men, like St. Thomas More, if we learn the details of their lives, we will find that they were not “secular” men. They were religious men who were serving God in unique ways. St. Thomas More, for example, was not a worldly man. St. Thomas More as a young adult, lived in a Carthusian monastery and considered the monastic lif,e but he pursued a career working in law, which eventually led him into political service. While he lived that life, even as a married man, he lived as a religious man. Did you know that St. Thomas More lived, wearing what’s called a “hair shirt” under his clothes that causes constant irritation to the flesh as a form of self discipline? Did you know that St. Thomas More slept only five hours per night? Did you know that St. Thomas More recited the divine office (or the little office) every day? Did you know that? St. Thomas More was a member of the Franciscan Order–a secular Franciscan. Saint Thomas More was not a worldly man. St. Thomas Moore was a holy man who served God in a unique lay occupation that ended up costing him his life. He was beheaded at the end of his political career. So when we talk about Thomas More, we have to make sure that we talk about the real Thomas Moore, and that we don’t fashion some fictional Thomas More in our own image, as some kind of worldly man, like us. Thomas More was a saint. He was a man who was seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. He was a man who was living like St. Paul who said, “I buffet my body and make it my slave.”. That was the life lived by Thomas Moore. Thomas Moore was also a student and teacher of the classical liberal arts, he was a liberal man whose life was directed at liberal ends for noble human works.

Most of the saints did not serve God, however, in secular circles, but did so within religious vocations. A far, far greater majority of saints served God in religious vocations, and when anyone talks about “raising saints”, religious life can be ignored as if it’s just optional. Very, very few men and women recognized as saints served God in secular occupations, and of them very few did so willingly, or freely. Normally, they were called, or led into those works in God’s providence, and they undertook them in service of the common good, not because they sat around dreaming of some secular occupation, certainly not because they hope to gain some material prosperity, from secular employment.

Now, what often happens in Christian circles is that children are told, when they’re growing up, that they’re free to choose any occupation, they desire. They’re told that they are free to choose religious life or a secular occupation. Some are told that a religious vocation is not for them to choose, but can only be had if God, “calls them” to a religious vocation. And of course, no one knows what that means, or can explain how that would actually work because it’s, it’s at least partly false. Christ has already called us to religious life, when he said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”. So telling individual children, that religious vocations are not for them, unless God in some unique, private way “calls them” is to deny the fact that Christ has already called all men to follow Him, and has commanded all men to seek first the kingdom of God and has commanded all men to be perfect. So children are presented with this message in modern society that there’s no difference. They can choose a secular occupation, or a religious vocation and expect the same blessed life.

Children are also told that the saints were not extraordinary people. They’re told that the saints did not do extraordinary things, but they just did ordinary things. They were ordinary people. This, of course, is false. The saints did not do ordinary things. The saints were not ordinary people. When St. Paul described the saints, he said they “shine like lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15). They’re not ordinary. That’s the whole point of the comparison. When St. Paul writing in the book of Hebrews talks about the ancient prophets, who were persecuted and killed, because of their holiness, he says, “of these men the world was not worthy” (Heb. 11:38). The world didn’t deserve such men. They were not ordinary men. They were extraordinary men. When Jesus spoke of John the Baptist, he said, “there hath not risen among them that are born of women a greater than John the Baptist” (Matt. 11:11). John the Baptist, was no ordinary man. He was an extraordinary man. And to be saints, we have to choose to be extraordinary men and women. Anyone who tells us that saints are just ordinary people who fit into secular society, and do the same things that other people do is a liar. Jesus said, “Love your enemies.”. Is that an ordinary thing? Is that something that ordinary people do? Can we look around in society and find people loving their enemies? No, we find them loving their friends. That’s ordinary. That’s normal. We don’t find men loving their enemies. We don’t find men seeking first the Kingdom of God. We don’t find men living in the light of the resurrection. Living with the hope of being raised from the dead and received into the presence of God for everlasting life. A life of that quality is not ordinary but beyond (extra) ordinary. Yet, children in our generation are being told these things, that there’s no difference; that they can be just as happy being a doctor, or a lawyer, or a nurse, or a carpenter or a housewife, as they can be as a priest, or a monk, or a nun or a missionary. But this isn’t true. This isn’t true. The happiness of a human life is based on human beings pursuing those things for which they were created.

I can give good examples of this from my own family life when my son Jonathan, who is now 21 years old. When he was 15 or 16, he got into bodybuilding and weightlifting and he’s a gifted physical specimen. He always was perfectly healthy. And he started lifting weights and exercising and he became very muscular, very strong. And he would boast in family discussions, and I’m not saying this in any evil way, I’m saying just in common conversation, he would take pride in his physical strength, his ability to lift this amount of weight, his ability to jump this high, and so on all of these physical achievements. And I, as a full time classical schoolmaster, am no physical specimen. And yet I was managing a 45 acre farm. And what I told my son was that if I need something heavy to be moved, I would never call another human, to move it. I would use a tractor, or a forklift, or a trailer. And so I would tell him that I don’t find this physical strength to be very impressive, because that’s not how things work. The way that human beings lift things, is by using their intelligence to create equipment and machines that can perform work far greater than any human body can manage. God, in creating the world, created animals to do work for men. So, while a man may be strong, relative to other men, he’s not strong relative to other helps a man has access to, not compared to the 2000 pound draft horses that are down in the barn, or the 1000 pound ox in the pasture. We don’t do this work by human physical strength, because really, physical strength is not the virtue of human nature. Understanding is man’s distinctive quality.

So, this brings us back to the idea of what is the most appropriate end for the human life, and many of the pursuits of men are not truly human. They’re not sinful, they’re not intrinsically evil, but we’re not commanded by Christ to avoid that which is intrinsically evil. Christ doesn’t say, “Don’t be evil.”. He says, “Be perfect.”. This is where this line of reasoning in modern society fails. Children are being taught that they can pursue a secular occupation and be just as happy as they would in a religious vocation, and this is false. They’re being told that married life is just as good as virginity, or celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of God, and this is false. In fact, that teaching is explicitly condemned by the Council of Trent.

Secular vocations and the secular state of life, these things are not all equal to religious vocations. What we find is that children having been taught this, which is the reason why there are no vocations today, grow up thinking of all of the potential benefits of these secular occupations. For example, men think of how much better it will be to have a wife than to be celibate. And they imagine that they’ll enjoy sexual pleasure, that they’ll enjoy companionship, that they’ll enjoy comforts of family life, and they list in their minds all of these benefits, all of these good things that they plan to receive. But what they’re not doing, is listing all of the costs.

When we think as young people of secular occupations, or the married state of life, and secular life, we list all of the perceived benefits to be enjoyed. And we imagine like children, that they’re all going to be free for us to enjoy. We think of all the things that we’ll buy, with the money that we earn from our secular occupations. We imagine having nice clothes, a nice house, vacations, nice cars. We imagine all of the activities will participate in with our children, benefits and benefits and benefits and benefits, and no talk of the costs of these benefits.

Yet, when we talk about the religious life, religious vocations religious works, we talk about the costs, and we don’t talk about the benefits. We talk about the cost of celibacy in the monastic life. We talk about the cost of working as a Christian school teacher and earning less pay than secular school teachers. We talk about the costs, all the negatives, all the sacrifices, as if there’s no benefit. And this false comparison between religious works, and secular occupations, guides the thinking and planning and decision making of Christian young men and women. And this is why there are no vocations.

The truth, however, is that the costs of secular vocations, that is, the consequences of secular occupations are very, very great. In fact, they have no limit. The limit changes constantly.

We might think back to former times, maybe in societies that were governed by monarchy, or feudalist European society in the Middle Ages, where kings distributed land among their friends who served as governors of those lands and then those governors appointed and distributed the land they were in charge of, to their friends, and it went down like that through society and men were appointed lands and careers and work and things like that. For example, St. Thomas Moore, lived in a place called “Chelsea”, which was a beautiful estate on the Thames River in England. He did not buy that property; that property was given to him as his right, because he served the king, as the Chancellor of England, one of the highest secular offices in the kingdom. And the place where he lived was the place appointed for the man who possessed that title, who held that position, who has performed the duties of that office. That’s how medieval society worked. A man could take up a craft, and serve in that occupation. He would not be responsible for competing against other craftsmen, or making a profit. In his work, his work would be protected by a sort of territorial limitation that didn’t allow other craftsmen of the same craft to work where he worked, or the number of craftsmen would be limited to that number which could serve the area and provide for the needs of the craftsman.

But in America, in the 21st century, we don’t live in a society like that of medieval Europe. We live in a free market economy. And we can use that phrase “free market economy” as if it’s a good thing (and for some people, it is a good thing). For most people, it’s a bad thing, because a free market economy is driven by competition. And, because the competition is never ending, the work becomes more and more challenging over time. Many people can have a craft or have a skill, but not be able to perform it profitably in the market. The market, and the competition in the market, determine what men must do to earn a living in that market.

When a Christian chooses to enter into a secular occupation, they make their lives dependent on the challenges and constant changes of the market. They imagine that they’ll go into the market, work for a while, make a profit and then retire. Maybe, because they’ve heard about other people who have done that or their grandparents did that. But what they don’t understand is that the market becomes more and more competitive with every generation. The profit becomes smaller and smaller. With every generation, the comfort of that life becomes less and less.

Moreover, the Christian life is not a life designed for profit in a free market. The Christian life is not a life designed for profit in a competitive secular market. Let’s just take an example. Let’s say one man is married Christian with three children and another man is a single, non-Christian. If the two of them work in the same field, doing the same work, which one of them has an advantage in the market? It’s not the Christian man responsible to provide for other people. He can’t make his product or service as affordable as the single man can. He can’t work all the hours that the single man can. That single man who’s not a Christian will likely have no problem working on Sundays, which is allowed in our society. And so from day one, that Christian man will find himself at a disadvantage in the market.

Now, the Christian man also should (notice that I don’t say does, but should) have some advantages. Having a wife who is able to help him, having a good moral reputation for the the order of his household and the behavior of his children, the apparent happiness of his life and condition, the comfort of his life, that allows him to work and feel satisfied, the moral excellence of his Christian life, they should give the man some advantages over the unbeliever, over the non-Christian in this competitive marketplace, but that will only be true if the Christian man lives an extraordinary Christian life. What we often find is that the Christian men who choose secular occupations are not the kinds of men who live an extraordinary, virtuous life. If they were interested in living an extraordinary virtuous life, they probably would have chose a religious vocation. And the comforts for which they chose their secular occupation, will constantly undermine their ability to compete in the secular marketplace, and will take away from them the potential advantages that the Christian life would offer.

Same thing is true in marriage. We often will hear Christian men, or Christian women, talking about the kind of partner, the kind of spouse, that they hope to find. A man who pretends to be devout will say that he wants to find a woman who loves God, and who wants to pray, and live a holy life, and he’ll go on listing all of these virtues of this woman that he desires to marry. But the question that he doesn’t answer is, why would such a woman choose marriage? By the time the description is finished, we have the character of a nun rather than a married woman. Why would a woman who loves God above all things, and who desires to be perfect in holiness and devout who wants to receive the Eucharist daily on and on, why would she want to enter into married life? Or even worse, why would such a woman want to enter into some secular occupation? And so again, the man thinking of all the benefits to gain is not thinking reasonably.

The same thing is done by Christian women. Young Christian women will claim to have great concern for religion, and therefore, they’re looking not for religious life, but for a devout Christian husband. But, by the time they’re finished describing this husband, we would realize that such a man would not be interested in marriage. Such a man would be eager to serve God as a priest or as a monk or a missionary. And then what normally happens is that these young Christian adults, who are unable to find the man or woman of their dreams, settle for someone who doen’t meet the description that they’ve dreamed of. And the reality is, they marry away from religion, not into religion.

One thing that I always say to my children and students is that young people, young Christians, who talk of secular occupations constantly choose, in the name of those secular occupations, to do less than they would if they pursued religious vocations. And I’m never impressed by talk of future secular plans, because I always find that it’s used as a justification for taking a less noble, easier, lazier road in life. I don’t find it used as a call to a more virtuous life or a more strenuous life. It’s almost always used as an excuse to do less, to study less, to avoid the more challenging subjects, to not pray as much, to not go to church as much, to eat more, to exercise less, to spend more money on selfish possessions, and so on. The costs of secular occupations are not discussed.

Now to speak specifically, of my work in the Classical Liberal Arts Academy, we were approved to offer a Bachelor in Classical Christian Studies degree, because the mission of our study program is religious in nature. The classical liberal arts curriculum, the classical Christian curriculum of history, has always aimed at religious vocations. As I’ve said, there are exceptions to that–men like St. Thomas More. But what we’ll find when we find saints in the past, who are in secular occupations, is that they often had a connection to classical liberal arts studies, and they lived in a sort of, in-between state of life, half in religious life, and half in secular life. And that’s really what the secular orders in religious communities are for.

For example, my wife and I are finally beginning this year, our formation as Third Order Dominicans. We’re going to be members of the Dominican order (God helping us), but we’re going to be engaged in secular apostolic ministry, the work of the Classical Liberal Arts Academy. St. Thomas More, as I said, was a member of the Franciscan Order, he was a member of the secular Franciscans. So even when we do find saints in secular occupations, we often find that they were close to religious communities.

The classical Liberal Arts Academy is intended for Christian students preparing to serve God in religious vocations. And the Bachelor in Classical Christian Studies degree is intended for students preparing for religious vocations. That could mean actual Catholic ministry in the priesthood, it could be in monastic life, it could mean life as a Christian school teacher, it could mean life as a writer or artist, it could mean life working in private sector, self-employed, and so on. But the Classical Liberal Arts Academy is not intended to prepare students for secular occupations. It’s not intended to help a student get admitted to a secular college, where he or she will pursue a business degree. It’s not intended to help students prepare for medical school in a modern, secular medical school. The Classical Liberal Arts Academy is intended to prepare Christian students for religious vocations. The degree program that we’ve been approved to offer is for students preparing for religious vocations.

I, as a Christian, schoolmaster, am not interested in helping Christian students prepare for their own secular occupations, which they seek for their own personal gain. I’m concerned with helping students who want to devote their lives to religious vocations. Those are the students that I’m interested in sacrificing for, and helping students who want to devote their lives to the service of God in the church, or even to the community, not to students who are sitting around privately thinking of all the benefits, they’re going to draw to themselves from some secular occupation, who then look to me to sacrifice as a religious worker, to help them fulfill their individual secular plans. That’s not my interest. That’s not the mission of the Classical Liberal Arts Academy. My commitment is to those students, who want to devote their lives to the service of God; who want to seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; who wants to live for the service of the gospel. I’m willing to sacrifice and work for those students. But once a student decides, that’s not that’s not the life that he or she wants, and they begin thinking of all the benefits available to them individually through secular occupations, they need to pursue that road on their own.

There are consequences of secular occupations, and because the benefits of secular occupations that are pursued, are almost always selfish, one of the consequences is that people don’t deserve help in the pursuit of their own secular ambitions, and careers. The challenge of secular life is one of the consequences that has to be embraced. You’re entering into a competitive, individualistic market, where everyone competes for the money and benefits that are available. If you’re not interested in that competition, then you need to think twice about a secular occupation. If you’re going to demand that everyone sacrificee, so that you can gain the benefits you want for yourself, you need to think again. And if you’re not willing to embrace the competition, if you’re not willing to count the costs and take up the challenges of secular occupations, then you better check yourself before you end up down a river that you’re not willing to row against.

There’s a reason why half the marriages end in divorce. All of those wonderful fantasy stories of love and comfort and pleasure end in divorce, because it’s not what people tell you it is. There’s a reason why St. Paul has to command women to obey and respect their husbands. There’s a reason why he had to command men to love and care for their wives. It’s extremely difficult. It’s not a life of self-indulgence and pleasure. There are many great costs in secular occupations and secular states of life, and those costs have to be counted. In the same way that the costs of religious life are counted, they have to be discussed, honestly, and soberly. And realistically, we can’t tell children that married life is is a lifelong honeymoon, where you play with your girlfriend for the rest of your life.

We have to tell children the truth about the secular market, competitive business, the stress of professional life, the constant competition, and how that competition is just going to get greater and greater with time. We have to talk about the real pressures and problems with married life, and why there are so many divorces. We have to tell the truth and count the costs of secular occupations because there are real world consequences of secular occupations. And when we talk about religious vocations, we have to talk not only about the costs of religious vocations, but we have to talk about the benefits of religious vocations. And if we compare these two things, honestly, and truly and soberly, we’ll see the truth that there’s no comparison.

There’s no comparison.

In the classical Liberal Arts Academy, I’m not interested in helping dishonest, diluted young Christians pursue selfish benefits through secular occupations. And by the time a student gets to age 15, or 16., if secular occupation is their plan, they need to get to work. They have no time to spend studying theology and philosophy or studying classical languages and literature. They have to go get ready to compete in a free market. They have to go get ready to qualify for their licenses and job requirements. They have no time for “liberal studies”. So, when the talk of secular occupations begins in a teenage student the time for liberal studies needs to end, and that’s one of the consequences of secular occupations.

No one in the marketplace is going to care that the person offering them a product or service has studied Latin or Greek, or classical Metaphysics, or the Summa Theologica. They’re going to look at the quality of service and the price. That’s all that matters. And things like marketing, business management, website development, professional licenses, and certifications, those kinds of things are more important for the marketplace than any classical liberal arts studies.

Once that talk of secular occupation starts, students need to realize that they have to accept the consequences of secular occupation, and not pretend to have an interest in secular occupation, simply using that talk to excuse themselves from the duties and goals of Christian learning.

So I want to make that clear, because I think that will make sense of decisions that we make in the Classical Liberal Arts Academy, why we focus on certain things, why we help certain students and ignore other things, and refuse to help other students. We’re not interested in providing Christian families with an affordable way to help their children gain secular benefits for themselves. That’s not the purpose of our program. We don’t seek to offer a more affordable alternative for secular self-preparation than is available in other competitive schools where prices are high–you better get used to it. And if you don’t want that competition, I don’t know why you’re talking about secular occupations, because that competition is real.

But if you’re in the Academy, to try and pull a fast one, and make use of our services, and then flip them into some kind of secular occupations, you’re going to be sorely disappointed, because it’s not going to work. W’re not going to allow the program to be hijacked and made subject to individual worldly ambitions, rather than our stated mission, which is “to research, restore, publish and teach the classical liberal arts” and the mission that we present to the state which is to prepare Christian students for religious vocations.

I think that’s enough. on this topic. What I want to make clear is that there’s no way to pull a short cut to secular success. If we’re going to talk about secular occupations, we need to embrace the competition and challenge of the secular market. We can’t fuss as Christians, as if we deserve some kind of special privileges in a secular marketplace. When we choose to enter into the secular marketplace and make the work of that marketplace, our work there’s no more talk about Christian this are Christian that we’ve chosen a secular occupation, and we’re going to need to live a secular life. These are the consequences of secular occupations.

William C. Michael, Headmaster
Classical Liberal Arts Academy

1 thought on “Consequences of Secular Occupations”

  1. GOD bless you for your honesty and clarity! This a MUST read for all students – especially those who have recently graduated from high school, and considering attendance at your academy. Hopefully, they will take it to heart and factor in to their final decision, all you have so carefully and accurately enumerated.

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