I was sitting at an old desk that many priests used before me. I had to write a sermon for Sundays mass. I had no clue to write. I remembered the days when I was just ordained as a priest and I wanted my sermons to mean something. I wanted them to make a change in peoples lives. I gave up on this hope long ago. People came to mass and mumbled the same prayers that their parents have done. They did not listen to the sermon. They were thinking about the sports game in the afternoon or wonder how long I would speak. It made me think if I had done Gods work. Could a plumber or a car salesman say a mass as well as a priest?
I put my pen down and thought that I would write the sermon later. I also thought that I could use an old sermon. I was sure that no one would know the difference. I wondered if they would react if I have done the sermon in another language. This all reminded me that I should have invested in a computer. It would help me with my work. I could save old sermons and look for inspiration.
I have now been a priest for over 30 years. I was now 52 years old. I should have been proud of living for a half-century serving God. I was not the type of person to thank God for the blessings that I had.
I lived with 3 other priests in a parish house. We had to provide for the Catholic needs of the town. We had a lovely medieval Church and the people gave us good donations. We had a housekeeper, that cooked for us and cleaned the house. Her name was Mrs Brian and was a cheerful plump woman, that knew all the gossip. She also knew all the sins in the town and who committed what sin.
It was time for lunch. We sat around a small table and did not say much. There was no rule that we had to be silent. We just had nothing to say to each other. I just sat and ate one sandwich after another. Mrs Brian always joked about my appetite and said that I ate enough for 3 people. What could I say to this? I had the appetite of a teenager. I was always hungry! In reality, it was just not me with the large appetite. The other priests ate their fair share.
While we finished lunch by drinking some wine, the older priest announced what duties there was that day. There were of course some funerals and a pair wanted to talk about marriage. Then we had to visit some old people that lived alone and visit some people at the hospital. It was no like we smiled in enthusiasm. They were now like chores that we had to endure. I was assigned the couple that wanted to marry. This was not as bad as visiting an old person and listening to them groaning about how hard it was to get old.
The old priest asked where Father Andrew was. He was a very young priest that had just moved in after being ordained. He always seemed to do his things, and we never did see much of him. This was a shame, as I hoped that he would bring some life and fun to our small community.
I met with the younger couple. I had to hear an hour about how they met and fell in love. Then they would tell me how much they loved each other and how they wanted to spend the rest of their life together. They had it all planned. They were still studying and wanted to be teachers. They would have a small house and 3 children. It all sounded like a fairytale. I saw some bottles of wine in a small cabinet we have in the room. I wanted to tear one of these bottles open and drink it all. Instead, I had to pretend to smile as I heard their fairytale. They were asking me about when I could do the wedding.
I asked them why they wanted to get married. When they told me that they were in love, I told them that this was not enough. Being married was not some Hallmark film. They would face many problems. Some would be financial and some would be emotional. They may be unemployed and live in poverty. Their future children may have all sorts of problems. Who says God will bless them with children? At any rate, the love they have will wear off and the question is if they could live as best friends. I ended my reasoning with the statistic that half of the marriages ends in divorce.
The man could see that my outburst had hurt his future wife. He told me that it is strange getting advice about marriage from a priest that most likely was still a virgin. He looked me in the eye and asked me what I knew about love?
After the married couple went, I tried working on my sermon again. I gave up after a few minutes.
I went back down to the meeting room. I spent the afternoon with a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates and a carton of cigarettes. I just sat there as I drank and looked out the window. Life was active on the outside and I was just an observer. I did not notice that the room was full of smoke or that the box of chocolates was soon empty. I did wonder why a bottle of wine could not be big enough for one more class. I was not drunk. It took a lot more alcohol to get me drunk.
It was time for dinner. Mrs Brian cooked us some nice Irish stew. Father Andrew was not yet back, so I was sitting with the old priests. Once again, we did not talk. One could just hear the clatter of spoons and the sipping of wine. When the meal was over, I had four potions of soup and three glasses of wine. I opened the buttons in my pants to give place for my belly. I knew that I ate too much. However, the food tasted so good and I had very little to look forward to. I think that God has given each of us some sort of addiction. My addiction was good food.
After dinner, I went to a small prayer room that we had for private evening prayers or the divine office as we called it. I sat before a cross and mumbled the psalms and readings. If you asked me after what they were about, I could not answer it. The prayers were also a chore. They were something that I had to do. The most important thing was that I did pray. I recited the words as thousands of other priests have done. This was the cost of being so close to God. He wanted us to pray, so that’s what I did.
After prayers, I sat in the sitting room with the two older priests. One was asleep in his chair, while the other one was reading a book. I know that If I tried to start a conversation, I would be told to be quiet. Once again, we were silent.
I found some beer and turned on the TV. I did not pay much attention to the news, as it was politicians arguing, and wars and catastrophes. God may have created the perfect world, but mankind was screwing it up. I just sat and drank one can of beer after another one. Mrs Brian never complained when she found the small table full of empty cans of beer. I never did count how many cans they were. The beer helped me to relax and made me tired, so I always knew that I could sleep.
Father Andrew came at last. He apologised for being so late. He was smiling and full of life as he told about what he did that day. He visited a school in the morning and the rest of the day, he was at a prison. He told us about the many tortured souls there that had no hope. I invited Father Andrew to sit and talk a bit. However, he was too tired and wanted to say his night prayers and go to bed.
I did the same. I could not sleep. I was thinking about Father Andrew. He was so full of life and the ambition to help other people. I had to admire his energy and how happy he was at helping those who had no one else. I wondered would he get wiser or would get burnt out and become like the other priests that he lived with. The worse thing was if this was something that I hoped. It would mean he would be home more and I could have a drinking buddy.
A part of me also thought that he was very handsome. This was a thought that plagued me a lot. I was unsure if I had any forbidden feelings for Andrew. Did I fancy him? Did I love him? This would be a sin. I took a vow of celibacy when I was ordained. Was I strong enough to keep this, or if the opportunity arose, would I have a gay relationship with Andrew?
I certainly broke the vow of celibacy in my dreams. Andrew and I were involved in many impure actions. When I woke up, I felt like I was guilty even tho it was only a dream. I also asked myself how love could be a sin?
I also had a hangover. This was my penance for drinking so much beer. I tried to soften the agony by drinking a few glasses of wine as my breakfast. Andrew was in a great mood. He looked forward to the choir he helped run that would practice today. I smiled as he told us of his plans for the day. I just wanted to hug him.
I did morning mass at the Church. There were two old women in the church and I was sure that one of them was deaf. I just recited the mass and at times, I did not even wait for the two women to respond. I must admit that it was even a miracle that I could stand there. My head was in pain, I was sweating and my words seemed so slurred. I didn’t consider it my fault. In a way, I felt like a dedicated priest that I was saying a mass and not in bed.
Halfways through the mass, I noticed a boy sitting alone in the front pew. I wondered when he came in and why he was alone. When I looked at him, I could see him looking at me and then sighing. This made me stop reciting the mass for a minute or so. Why was he sighing?
After mass, I stood at the door and said hello to the two old women. I was waiting for the boy to come out. One of the old women told me that I did not look well. I tried telling her it was a small cold. She just smiled and told me that she would pray for me. As she walked away with the other woman, I could hear her whisper that I had a hangover again.
The boy did not come out. I could not find him in the church. This was so strange. Normally I would not think twice about a child coming to mass. However, this boy was so strange. He looked so familiar and I am sure that I knew him. I also wondered why he sighed and how he left the church unseen.
Who was this boy?
To be continued