A paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification.

(New Oxford American Dictionary)

My high school violin teacher disagreed with this understanding of profession. “Your profession is what you do with excellence and respect, whether or not you make money.” Dedication to craft and pursuit of excellence were the hallmarks of a true profession, payment for services rendered a secondary matter.

I prefer this second definition. It involves dedication and a deep connection to a field and its practice. It also honors people who offer their services for the good of the world rather than the increase of their fortune.

My field is theology, seeking to understand and proclaim the presence of God in this good creation. It’s full of wonder and mystery, poetry and sacred texts. It’s also full of required reading so dull and so poorly written that purgatory becomes a believable concept. It usually falls into a different, less common definition of profession: a declaration of belief in a religion. Oddly enough, this is found under a general definition that goes like this:

An open but often false declaration or claim

(New Oxford American Dictionary)

This is a cautionary tale. To claim a profession which involves the sacred, and to earn a living doing so, is walking a narrow path. To profess the faith is one thing, to treat God and others as tools of the trade something else entirely. Sacred things and the holiness of all living creatures should be approached with humility, and the work involved done with fear and trembling. Otherwise it will surely earn the adjective false.

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