A good friend and former business colleague of mine was once a captain of industry and Chief Executive of a French company with one thousand employees and an annual revenue of one billion euros. When he turned fifty he found himself at a fork in his professional career. He had always been fascinated by the Law and had a lingering frustration that as a young man he had chosen to study Aeronautical Engineering and had become a businessman rather than a barrister. He decided it was not too late to fulfill his dream. He entered Law School with students half his age and is today a successful attorney whose experience in the world of business has given him a unique skill-set in his new profession.
He tells his story in a remarkable video which ends with his quotation from Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” : “Yes, there are two paths you can go by. But in the long run there’s still time to change the road you’re on”. He will, I hope, excuse me for plagiarizing his reference and applying it to myself – and to others who are still priests, wondering whether it is too late for them to dare to find freedom and fulfillment as laymen, as well as to Believers on the Brink, hesitating to espouse the atheism they recognize in themselves.
François and I decided there was still time for us to change the road we were on. I left the priesthood at 31 and “came out” as an atheist at 41. François was 50 when he courageously took the risk of starting from scratch in a totally new career.
For my former Franciscan confreres, like me now in their eighties, it is clearly too late to abandon their religious order and the priesthood. But it is never too late for them and for non-clerics, however old they are, to abandon the faith which they know is founded on fiction. There is “still time” – but it is running out. Carpe diem, my friends. François and I did, and so can you. Yes, you CAN !