This morning I replied to a post in The Old Baguette’s Blog:
Old Baguette, Times, They Aren't A-Changin
It was kind of a long reply but I had got into the tale. Well I got an error message that my reply exceeded 4096 characters. So I start whittling away paragraphs and tried it again. Still too many characters. This went on for about 5 iterations and it was getting to the point that my comment was being hacked into meaninglessness. I tried one more time. “Sorry we can not execute your request at this time.” I paged back, my entire comment was gone. So once again I shall try to comment on the Old Baguette’s post. I am putting it on my blog so that I don’t have to hack it down, and I am writing it in Word off line so that if they can’t execute my request—at least they won’t execute my post.
In her post the Old Baguette tells us about a remarkable priest who has riled many authorities and continues to do so today. I wanted to relay a story about another priest, quite possibly remarkable as well, that I ran into at a wedding.
First a disclaimer. I am not Catholic, and as such, I do not share the sensibilities and beliefs of Catholicism. I am nothing. NO RELIGIOUS PREFERENCE it stated on my dog tags. “Privately bartered agreement” quite actually, a phrase I wish was original but I must admit I stole from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Committed”. I belong to no church or religion, yet I believe in something. I am reluctant to call it God because that over simplifies the belief and severely limits what it is that I believe in. Shall we leave it that God is beyond definition?
I was brought up Lutheran, and was a communicant member of the American Lutheran Church. Unfortunately if the Lutherans are correct, I am condemned to a Lutheran Hell for a sin for which I have never sought redemption. Of course, one must realize that if the Lutherans are correct, my dear Catholic friends, we shall be spending eternity together in less than fortuitous circumstances. I suppose I should be frightened, but actually I found my condemnation to be quite liberating. I am going to Hell anyhow, so why not find God on my own terms. That is a simplification, but it will stand for now. Having said all that, I must also confess that I am Irish or mostly Irish. If you are Irish, there is a very good chance that your ancestors were Catholic. So having it in my DNA perhaps, I do have a sympathy for Catholicism.
About 21 years ago, a Catholic friend of my wife got married, naturally in a Catholic church. The priest was rather young, late 20s I suppose, very intelligent, rather witty, athletic, handsome, and quite virile looking. He was something of a hunk. He conducted the service with aplomb and dignity and gave the best homily (is that correct?) that I have ever heard on the demands, obligations, and pleasures of marriage. I wished I had a written transcript, I would post it. Simply put I was quite impressed with the service and this very young hunk of a priest. (Take not my comments to be of an attractive nature. I am old enough and heterosexual enough that I can say a young man was quite a dish with out feeling any qualms about my manhood.)
After the service everyone was gathered around doing all these post wedding ceremony sort of things and chit chatting. I didn’t know too many people at this wedding other than the bride, so I was standing off by myself while my wife performed some sort of post nuptial duties, gathering of flowers and the likes. I was fascinated with this priest, so I took up the fine art of priest watching—not having anything else to do.
So there he was in the middle of a throng, getting his picture taken, meeting Aunt Matilda, blessing babies, and shaking a lot of hands. This guy was a master at dealing with people and I genuinely believe that he was rather enjoying himself. This affair was on the more mature side than the average wedding, the bride was in her early 30s and the groom was pushing 40. As such the crowd was basically married couples, the women highly animated, all quite beautiful, and loving this wonderful wedding atmosphere, (rife with female wedding pheromones) and the men, stiff and uncomfortable, anxious to get the hell out of there, and off to the reception and the booze.
There were a couple of single bride’s maids—lookers both, under normal circumstances, and just beautifully radiant in their sleeveless bride’s maid dresses with no backs. Hmmmm. Ah hmmmm indeed. I caught the priest checking them out. Subtle but none the less, he gave them the eye. Well our theological boy toy was the recipient of a few glances from the ladies as well including our single girls. It is amazing what you can see by watching.
The wedding party departed for photos, and things just sort of petered out, and our priest was standing by himself. With no priestly tasks to keep him occupied, he began looking about checking out the people still milling around, mostly couples in the early to mid 30s. His smile faded slowly and as he continued to stand alone, he seemed to become engulfed in sadness. I watched him closely and he descended into a lone despondency. My wife returned and said to me, “Oh he looks so lonely:” I felt my heart rip in half for the truth of her observation. My wife was then off to some other task, and I again was alone with the priest and my thoughts.
I finally went over to him. As I approached the melancholy instantly evaporated and he smiled and extended his hand. I shook his hand but found my self speechless for the huge lump in my throat. I mumbled something to the effect of “nice service” and immediately fled making something of an ass of myself. From a safe distance, I took up my clergy vision again. The sadness soon returned and as I watched, I felt a very deep and profound sorrow for this very nice young man.
Although I am condemned to a Lutheran Hell, if I try to find my place on the goodness scale of humanity, I would have to give myself an average score, perhaps slightly better. If goodness was measured on a bell curve like IQ, I would place myself at 101. This is certainly nothing to brag about and there is lots of room for improvement, but that is where I am. I will say this, any goodness I possess is a direct result of being married to my wife. She has made a far better human being out of me than I would be on my own.
I have a rather profound belief that men really need women. I would also like to believe that women really need men, but at times I am not so sure. I would be lost without my wife. Why is it that I am afforded the presence of a beautiful and wonderful loving woman, but my friend the priest is not? Would the loving gentle touch of a woman somehow make him less of a priest? Would he lose his powers of Transubstantiation? Would coming home to a kind and loving woman after officiating the last rites to a young mother somehow reduce his stature before God? I detected longing in my friend the priest, a deep longing that was exactly 180 degrees off course from his calling. Why does God demand this of his servants? How is the denial of the love of a woman to this priest serving God?
I believe that recent events within the Catholic Church has not elevated the concept of celibacy. I don’t understand how denying this most basic, beautiful, and necessary human relationship, indeed in my opinion a gift from God, is serving anyone—least of all God.
I read not too long ago that the real reason for celibacy within the Church had nothing to do with spiritual purity. The Church did not want the progeny of its priests and bishops laying inheritance claims on Church land holdings during the middle ages. I would think in this day and age that the legal system within most if not all countries in which the Church has a presence would protect against such claims. I understand that the Church is having severe difficulties filling the required openings for priests. Two immediate solutions come to mind. Do away with celibacy, and ordain women. I suppose not being Catholic, I have no business sticking my nose into the internal affairs of the Church. But I am a child of God, and what I saw that day was a brother in pain. My commentary is, of course, not limited to priests. Monks and nuns should have the same God ordained right to a loving human relationship. The long term survival of the Church may depend on it.