Open House: Father Jason’s Rectory
Thanks to Father Jason Malave for allowing me to take photos as he showed me around the parish rectory. Father Jason is an old gym buddy turned good friend, so while I’ll do my best not to tease, I can’t make any promises. Also, I don’t call him Father Jason in real life. Nor do I call him Malave, but that’s got a nice ring to it, so perhaps I’ll start.
Unlike most Open House stars, St. Bartholomew’s Father Jason Malave doesn’t own or rent his space. Free housing’s one of the benefits of priesthood but the Chicago native knows in a few years, the boys upstairs will move him to another parish; it’s part of the gig. Sure, Malave loves his parishioners and co-workers; he’s invested in the neighborhood and comfortable in his digs, but like all priests, he knows he’s just taking care of the joint until the next guy takes over. In this, the lack of control, the priesthood mirrors life.
Located on a lovely little residential street on Chicago’s northwest side, the rectory stands next to the school and church, but according to Malave, saving a little time on commuting pales as a benefit in comparison to the deep sense of purpose the work provides.
“I feel grateful and privileged that the parishioners allow me to be part of their families,” says Malave.
Unlike many corporate types in equivalent positions of authority, Malavi really means it. Indeed, while the preppy priest concedes that the job can be all-consuming, he does so only when pressed. Instead, Malavi talks about how much he enjoys being given the opportunity to minister, to help and to hang out with people of all ages and walks of life.
Continued . . .
“Womb to tomb and everybody in between,” says Malave.
Because this is a design blog (sort of), I feel comfortable pointing out that Father Jason Malave gets to live in one cool pad. While he doesn’t spend his budget buying the latest Moooi pendant to hang above the dining room table, he clearly cares about his space, a fact evidenced by his following statements (which I have paraphrased):
I don’t think I like the seating area’s wood paneling.
I like it very much and tell him so. Make a comeback, it will.
Do you like these chandeliers? A building’s being torn down, and the boss man called me to see what I wanted.
As I don’t love brass, I say I’d paint or lacquer them. But also, the boss man called him? Apparently, Malave is the Catholic priest equivalent of Architectural Artifacts founder and salvage guru Stuart Grannen, one of the only other people I know lucky enough to field these sorts of calls. We can only pray their paths don’t cross.
I’ll just put this into storage with the other furniture.
And how does one score an invitation to see this furniture storage room? I have a feeling that unlike my cluttered basement, St. Bart’s storage room is pretty awesome, and they probably don’t know what they have, making it easy to score a great deal, uh . . . for them . . . for the church coffers.
You need white marble? I think I have some big slabs somewhere.
I’d like to replace these avocado green kitchen appliances.
I won’t share my rather strong opinion(s) about avocado green appliances, as I’m working on a very special post about this important topic. But I’ll give you a hint. I love them! I also like the cabinets’ clean lines and the stainless steel back splash. (But the table has to go).
What do you think of the furniture arrangement?
“I don’t like it so much,” I confess (he is a priest after all). That’s my first big mistake. Suggesting a more suitable layout is my second.
Continued . . .
Because in what feels like seconds, I realize I’ve been put to work, adjusting the main seating area to symmetrically frame the fireplace, carrying unnecessary bookshelves to the next room, repositioning the desk and dragging a deceptively heavy chair across the room to create a cozy reading nook by the window. Moving furniture is an Open House first (and lest future stars get any ideas, a Strange Closets last), but Father Jason is, after all, Father Jason (clergy) and while I’m not Catholic, I do respect my elders (smack!). And I AM a design-o-phile, so I can’t help but feel guilty denying my friend a more comfortable, more visually appealing room layout. Plus rearranging other people’s rooms is good times.
As I admire my work enough for the both of us, an older man wanders in to ask if Father Jason will walk to the post office with him. As it turns out, the man’s a retired priest, and he tells me that Malave invited him to live at the rectory. This strikes me as possibly the greatest fringe benefit of priesthood. For priests, the odds are good that they’ll be cared for as they grow older, that they’ll have companions and comfortable places to live. I don’t even want to know what the odds for the rest of us are, but I’ll wager they’re not as good. While each of three priests who live at the rectory has his own quarters, they dine together and support one another as family do.
Much has been written about the church’s systematic problems and about the dangers of organized religion generally, but the vast majority of priests and church-goers are quietly helping people, trying to make a difference in their communities. Spending time at St. Bartholomew’s helped me to frame the politics and the sacrifice in the larger context of the service, and it prompted me to consider whether for all its faults, it’s the institution, the structure, which offers the support individuals need to do the work that needs to be done.
Because unlike many people who work so much and hear so many problems, my friend Father Jason Malave seems somehow both softer and brighter now than he seemed when we first met ten years ago; he seems kinder, more patient and paradoxically less burned out. Perhaps the role insulates him somehow, the larger structure nurtures. Or maybe practice makes perfect; perhaps spending the past 12 years being kind, patient, loving and helpful has worn away his protective layer, leaving him more vulnerable but more accessible, more open. Or maybe he was just happy I moved his furniture.
As Malave finishes his tour and we wander outside, he points at a canoe-sized paver pile in the church’s unkempt side yard. Laying them to create a new brick patio is one of the many projects on Malave’s to do list, and he shakes his head as he wonders how he’ll round up some volunteers to help him finish the job. With that I make a hasty exit, leaving Malave trying to figure out when he’ll have time to tackle the project. In this, the priesthood mirrors life.
Thanks Father Jason!