Our reader wrote about her initial ‘spark’ between herself and her priest. Although it’s a little bit long, we don’t want to delete any of its contents as it is so interesting and mind captivating. Many women out there are passing through the same adventure. It could help others who are aren’t so capable with writing to feel some empathy towards their situation. It could happen to anyone. As in most cases, it’s not because the woman tempts the priest…..
I am Diana, a 28 year old woman, who by all accounts, is very attractive. I know some think beauty is a virtue and a gift, and I suppose in many respects it is. But I have also found that being especially attractive brings with it many responsibilities and burdens. I have encountered all kinds of uncomfortable and often infuriating circumstances on account of my appearance, from married men to model agencies that have reduced me to a beautiful face and a nice body. I have been the “trophy woman” latched on the fat cat millionaire’s arm, the brunette Barbie in her new sports car, frosted with diamonds and designer jewelry, I have been border-line raped, fought over, and strangled by jealous boyfriends. That was a dark past. I have, as such, grown a thick skin and a “stand-offish” demeanor as a means of protection. Let me be clear, I enjoy my solitude.
I have since awoken from that long nightmare and embraced a simple and drama-free life. I am single and like it that way. I have my Master’s and I am accomplished at a relatively young age. I am also a devout Catholic, but since falling in love with a priest some 9 months ago, I have approached the idea of celibacy with a new pair of eyes. My opinion on the matter is becoming clearer and clearer—this is not to conveniently make my own feelings legitimate and condoned (they are legitimate, regardless), but because I do not believe celibacy should be a package deal to a Godly calling to which men genuinely answer. Celibacy has its purposes and can be a powerful force to make a point, and also to help one tune in to his/her spiritual voice over the louder and persistent corporal one. But it should not be forced on anyone–least of all on young men who are experiencing a heightened zeal for their faith and are particularly impressionable. But to my story…before I begin let me make a disclaimer here. My love story with my parish priest is still in its initial stages and has not and may not progress to the stages most others’ have here. A part of me wants it to, but I cannot fight the “what if” voice in my heart—“what if this really will endanger yours and his salvation?”
In late January I was beginning to feel like my life was steady and complete; I had my Master’s in Conflict Resolution, I was commencement speaker for my graduating class, and I was offered a wonderful paid internship in the Holy Land. I had tunnel vision and all my attention was invested on my career. And after two years away from home, old water had passed under the bridge, former drama had dissipated and I was vying for nothing and no one. I felt thankful for having for the first time in a long time, no heart break with which to contend.
My mother and I were driving through my hometown one late afternoon, when we passed by the town’s principal parish. We had driven past this church countless times and I cannot recall having gone there once. I looked at the clock: 4:55 PM.
“Mom, let’s go say a quick prayer here! We never have before.” I cannot explain why, but I felt this tugging coming from the parish. Naturally my mother was all too happy to oblige, embracing her daughter’s new found zeal for her faith.
We sat three pews from the altar and there were only 15 or so parishioners joining us. The church bells rang and my mother realized then that we were about to sit in for mass, unintentionally. She looked at and I shrugged my shoulders as if to say, “Meh! Why not?”
The priest steadily walked up the aisle and approached the altar. He wasn’t very tall—maybe 5’7” with salt and pepper hair and a balding spot on the back of his head. His energy was very cheery and he sported a smile as he reached the altar. When he turned around to face us all, I made note of his patchy white and gray 5 o’clock shadow and glasses. At this time, he was just one more to me than middle-aged parish priest—nothing more and nothing less. That would rapidly change.
His gaze reached our direction and I distinctly remember some 9 months later his reaction after having spotted me. He tilted his head much like would a confused puppy and cracked a smile to himself. The rest of the mass his eyes kept meeting mine. Each time I blinked in innocence trying to appear like one of his regular parishioners. In truth, I didn’t think too much about his persistent gaze; at the risk of sounding terribly arrogant, I was used to this. He was after all a man—priest or no. Moreover, I was a new face. No big deal, right?
During his sermon it was clear he was from Ireland (I should say right off the bat: I am a sucker for Irish and Scottish accents, even though I grew up in Ireland). But what really stood out to me was his out-of-this-world sermon. It is clear that in every sermon “G” gives, he purposefully seeks to inspire us. He certainly has for me. I would later learn that Father G is known for his Irish wit, outrageous sense of humor, and saintly kindness. I would add he has the most beautiful and soften spoken voice I have ever heard from any man, and just thinking of it makes me weak.
On the way home that night my mother and I discussed “G” at length. “He truly enjoys his vocation,” my mother said. “Yes,” I replied. “A modern-day apostle.” I meant it then and I still do now.
Having loved his last sermon, I started going to his parish daily and I can honestly say that any good work I do, I can partially credit G’s sermons. I assumed that after some time, I would blend in with the normal crowd and he would no longer single me out. I was mistaken—sorely mistaken. What is even more alarming, was my body’s reaction every time his eyes met mine. Suddenly my heart was racing, I felt feverish in my face and my knees were shaking. “What the Hell is wrong with you?!?!” a voice screamed in my head, while I kept a very peaceful and reverent demeanor. His gaze become too much for me; I started practicing custody of the eyes and could not look at him. His looks drove me wild. I also noticed that he no longer stepped down from the pulpit when giving his sermon, but remained up there (remember, I sit only three pews for the front). The few times I greeted him at the end of the Eucharist, he went form smiles and laughs with the others, to frozen stone with hardly a smirk when I approached him. “Take care,” he said very quickly, hardly making eye-contact with me or giving me a chance to respond before looking to another person to greet. From then on I began to exit the side doors of the church, upon the conclusion of mass.
My first time in confession at this parish was beyond awkward, to say the least. It was anonymous but yet somehow he seemed to know it was me. He was very curt and said very little. This surprised me; I added in my confession that I wished for the Lord “to forgive all those I have unintentionally inspired to sin, for it was not my intention to provoke such thoughts” He then gave me absolution quickly and shut the door to the screen. The most awkward part of all—he forgot to give me my penance. Mass followed afterwards and I could sense the feeling of embarrassment emanating off of him—he was read in the face, distracted and made a point to not look in my direction the entire mass.
I asked a friend about his behavior with me—another parishioner there. “I don’ think he cares for me very much,” I said. “No,” she said. “It’s quite the contrary. He cares for you very much—maybe even too much.”
G fell down the side parish steps and fractured his foot. He was out indefinitely. It was during this time that I realized to myself the feelings I had developed for him. To not know when he would return, to not be able to give him words of encouragement, or know how he was was torture to me. I and other parishioners gave him “Get Well” cards and care packages; I myself gave him a card and wrote to him words of encouragement. Nothing terribly personal—just “chin up” and “you will conquer this”. I also enclosed a beautiful wooden scapular of Carmel.
Two and a half months went by, and each day therein I woke up and went to bed thinking of him and praying he was safe. When he made his surprise return one Tuesday morning, I fought back the involuntary smile by looking to the ground and talking myself through it.
Our usual eye “tug-of-war” recommenced; as he would sit and listen to the Lectio he would look over to me, then I would look away, then I would like at him and he would look away. One mass it was so strong and border-line ridiculous that we both fought back smiles, and even shared a look of “okay, let’s keep it together!” I remember looking to the left and a lady whom I think was sweet on him gave me a stern look. Apparently his gazes had not gone unnoticed.
That mass I walked up to receive communion when he stopped everyone in line and rummaged through the chalice for one of the broken pieces of the Host he had just blessed. He then made eye contact with me and placed the Host very hard in my hand and if to say something—but what exactly I can only speculate. It’s these little nuances but clear efforts to communicate that move me to seek the thoughts and advice of others. I wanted to replay this moment and many like it over and over in my head, while the logical part of me said, “Don’t over think it.” But after months of such instances, and being very astute to the attraction of men, I know for a fact this isn’t just love-goggles playing tricks on me. Especially when my friend has noticed his way with me, too.
The retired-in-residence Msgr (also from Ireland) and I became thick as thieves, over the months I started attending daily mass. I decided to tell him about this attraction. I said I was attracted to a priest and to my surprise this 82 year old man immediately said, “It’s Father. G isn’t?” and he had a large grin on his face. I was shocked for two reasons—one: How did he know? And two: He is very ridged and old-fashioned and I was not expecting him to smile at this! I also told him I was worried that the attraction would get so intense that he would request a transfer, in which case I would leave so my parish family wouldn’t lose the best priest I have ever had the fortune to come across. Msgr vehemently denied this likelihood. “No! For one thing he is old. For another, I have a lot of money in the kitty here. Even if he wanted a transfer, the bishop would not likely give it to him.” When I asked how old he is, I was floored—fifty-six. Now, Msgr is old and forgets a lot but these details usually don’t miss him. I wouldn’t have put G a day over 45, and even then his personality was like that of a teenager most times. “Don’t worry about it,” Msgr said. “This happens all the time and it will soon pass. Your friend has been trained on how to handle this.” Well low and behold the attraction has only intensified.
One Saturday evening before mass, I was in the vestibule looking at brochures and taking a bulletin with me when Fr. G entered. He stopped in his tracks and I stood still and stoic, but unable to say a word. There was an awkward moment of silence and intense attraction. He had a look of surprise and fright in his eyes but for the sake of breaking the sense of awkwardness and attraction, managed to say, “Hell—hello…” and he quickly waltzed through the doors. All I could do was smile at him in reply. The energy that was bouncing off between him and myself at that moment was so intense that I half-expected sparks to fly…fireworks and bells to ring. Realizing I was holding my breath, I exhaled and put a hand to my forehead. “For Christ’s sake, girl, get a grip!” I told myself aloud and followed through the doors a few moments later.
My friend and I exited the front that mass, and while she shook G’s hand I tried to slip away. Alas, she called my name to come back. She smiled at G and said, “We have to greet our priest, after all!” G and I exchanged looks and he smiled at me warmly and said, “Well that’s okay!” and then he reached out his hand. I took it and gave him a smile and a very soft shake.
A week ago in confession he was much calmer and collected, and we even chatted up and laughed a bit, almost forgetting that I was receiving the Sacrament of Penance. A sensation of joy and peace overcame me, and I wanted so much to stay there with him and keep talking. I loved hearing his soft throaty familiar brogue; I wanted to reciprocate and provide him with the attention he was giving me at that time, even though it was only his job to do so. We both shared in some laughs and when he prepared for mass that evening, he seemed especially chipper and walked back and forth past me a least half a dozen times, trying to catch my gaze. But his behavior is a roller coaster of uncertainly and contradictions.
As is with every morning now, he greets and hugs some of the parishioners before beginning mass—most of whom are elderly or matronly. I often watch with a wee bit of jealousy, wishing I was embracing him, myself. When he reaches my pew he hardly looks at me but says a quick “morning”. I take no offense—on the contrary, I feel special in some sorts. But this game of nuances and “tag you’re it” is leaving me frustrated on all levels–dissatisfied and I wonder if he feels the same.
A part of me thinks I should stop this juvenile behavior between the two of us and elevate this attraction to a spiritual one; we cannot share a physical relationship but we do share a great thing in common and that is our faith. Perhaps we can be friends? But then I think that I am far beyond that naivety, and moreover can’t help but wonder if he would welcome a friendship with a woman to whom he is clearly very attracted. He is also twice my age and there is little chance for a future. I do believe we would be an incredible pair; our personalities click and we share a sense of humor under appreciated by most. We are both book worms, Catholics of action before words, lovers of Christ, practitioners in our faith, and let’s not forget that intense and undeniable attraction! Thoughts of being with him on an intimate level drive me wild. I know he entered the seminary very young, but I wonder if he is a virgin. He has a vibrant and fiery sexual orb around him; the man is very sexual, even if he doesn’t make use of it. He is also just damned sexy—to me, anyway, and I gather other women there may have a wee crush, too.
Aside from the obvious mutual sexual attraction and appreciation of each other’s company, all I have to boast is fantasy and speculation. One half of my heart says to leave it at that and let it go, for the odds and facts are against us both. The other half says I should stop holding back and go get him. Yet I know this will end in catastrophe and terrible heartbreak. And so I want an in-between, where I can share my love with him in a way with which we are both comfortable and happy. But I cannot carry on with how things are much longer. I will go mad—no, not stalker mad—just within my heart and to myself. To start bringing this attraction to a heightened spiritual level, I have begun reading the Lectio on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
I used to tell myself I am not in love but in lust. I now know this is not the case; if suffering in unrequited love for him would keep him happiest, or even leaving the parish so he can carry on without diversion, I would oblige. He need only say so. I just want him to be happy. When he is in pain, I am in pain. When he laughs, I cannot help but join in.
I have read many books and watched clips on the priesthood and celibacy; from “Priests in Love” to “Dilemma” by Fr. Alberto Cutie. I have also researched the introduction of mandatory celibacy in the Church, and I am resolved to believe that while I love my faith, I am very weary and at odds with much of the Vatican. I have always said it is just another political institution wrapped up in a religious camouflage. I now can say the larger part of me believes it.
Who knows what will happen between G and myself. As a professional peacemaker, I maintain that status quo is the most dangerous menace to peace. I have no intention of leaving this at the status quo– that is for certain.
Please we’re waiting for your comments. If you want to make this blog alive, please do write your comments. Not surprisingly, the New York Times has discovered a new niche in writing – priest’s celibacy issue. It’s an invitation to all writers or better to people who have passed a similar experience to put your experience into writing. Our readers want more true and passionate ones!