This morning we all had BREXIT for Breakfast. A historic day for the U.K., a worrisome day for Europe and a black Friday for stock markets around the world. Britain has restated and reinstated its uniqueness and its insularity :
“This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.”
– (Shakespeare, Richard 2, 2:1)
“Every country should have its English Channel”. – (Winston Churchill)
But among the incertitudes facing the European Union is the possible contagion of the spirit of independence. Will BREXIT spawn in France a FREXIT, in Holland a HEXIT, as well as the exit of Scotland from the United Kingdom ? There is little chance that we will ever see the birth of the United States of Europe, with an elected federal government rather than an imposed bureaucracy in Bruxelles. But it is more than likely that we will see the dissolution of the United Kingdom. We may even witness the disintegration of the E.U. itself.
FREXIT is the dream of the National Front in France. But its pros and cons are hardly an appropriate subject for this Blog. The word, for me, has a totally different, personal, non-political connotation : Frank’s Exit from the Franciscan Order, from the Catholic Priesthood and from the Catholic Church itself. (That has to be the most outrageous punchline to any of the introductions of my 470 posts ! The Devil made me do it.)
Now that you have pardonned my misleading you, I can point out a couple of similarities between a BREXIT and my personal FREXIT. The Brits surprised all of us – David Cameron, Nigel Farage, the journos and the bookies. My triple departure surprised and shocked many people, including family, friends, students as well as sacerdotal and academic colleagues. BREXIT, at the time of writing this, has created worries for everyone except the seventeen million British citizens who voted for it. My FREXIT created serious worries for many but especially for myself. One could add that both decisions called for courage. It remains to be seen whether BREXIT will turn out to have been a good idea. I can assure you that my FREXIT was.
Sometimes I wonder what would have become of me had I not exited. My colleagues, confreres, should have done as I did. Those who did were not all as lucky as myself. Many were; some were not. But I’m glad I did not make the mistake of staying in the Order, the Priesthood and the Church, like the misfit colleagues who did not dare make the break. They wasted their lives in a dead-end street, in a life of loneliness, self-pity and frustration, if not alcoholism and hypocrisy. They never knew the joys of love, marriage and fatherhood (the reality, not just the empty title). They never knew the satisfaction of facing and overcoming, unassisted, the challenge to survive and to succeed in the unchartered territory outside the security of a friary and the faith.
BREXIT, voters were warned, is irreversible. I cannot imagine any former priest, or even simple believer, wanting to return to the profession, the intellectual desert or the credulity from which they had escaped. Not only have I never had any regrets, I consider my FREXIT the best decision I ever made.