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I struggled even writing this, never mind trying to summarise almost 16 years of my on and off friendship with this person. I wanted to share my story to let others know that they’re not alone (because for a while, I felt very alone and as if no one could understand). If I’m being honest, I’m looking for advice and a resolution too. My name is MA and my priest is J.

I met J through a family friend; they were both attending seminary at the time. I was attending a mass for vocations and after, I went down to the church hall for refreshments. It was then that J caught my eye across the room and right away, I wanted to know: “who is HE?” I cannot tell you how silly I felt when my friend introduced him as a fellow seminarian (he was not dressed in his collar). We talked for a while and I was struck by his smile, his dimples, and his pure excitement about becoming a priest, as well as his commitment to our faith and God. Frankly, I was blown away by the sheer chemistry and energy radiating off him and between us. For the record, it was the first (and last) time someone had ever caught my eye in that way. Regardless, I didn’t think we’d ever see each other again.

The following summer, he was placed at my Mom’s church as an intern. Right away, we clicked. We often joined other parishioners for coffee, attended masses for vocations around my state, and he even met a few of my closest friends and family. At this point, I wasn’t thinking of J as anything other than a mentor of sorts, someone who I could talk about my faith with. He also seemed proud of my work in the healthcare field and we discussed helping others a lot. He shared he had been engaged prior to entering the priesthood and had needed to take a break from seminary in order to discern whether he was on the right path. J admitted he struggled with celibacy and the thought of not being a father.

By the end of that summer, we were even closer & I felt sad that I was losing my friend as he headed back to the seminary. I was also a little shocked and confused as to why he hadn’t yet asked me for my email (no cells back then!). He waited literally until minutes before leaving and heading back to ask me for my contact info. I wish I had seen the confusion I felt then for what it was— a foreshadowing of feelings that would characterize and haunt our relationship.

We continued to email at least weekly during his school year and then he started calling me at work. It happened so often, that I actually got in trouble. Not to mention, every time he called, he would say it was “Father J,” making the poor receptionist have a heart attack, thinking that something bad had happened to someone in my family. I was there for his transitional deaconate ceremony and celebrated with him after. He introduced me to his family and I became friends with some of his family members, often emailing them on a regular basis.

His last year of seminary, J. treated me much like the previous year, except our contact greatly increased. A few months before his ordination, he confided that he “wasn’t so sure he wanted to do this and that his biggest fear was getting to his mid-40’s and realizing that he wanted to be a husband and a father.” At this point, I was starting to become physically attracted to J. and finding him working his way into my thoughts more and more. I struggled between the desires of my heart, being a good Catholic and friend, and giving him unbiased advice. I tried to give the best advice I could, encouraging him to take a good, hard look at his motivations. J. basically summed it up as: “My parents want me to be a priest. Besides, what else would I do? I didn’t go to college.” At the time, he neglected to tell me he was a trained healthcare professional himself.

In the end, he followed through with being ordained and it was one of the proudest, yet hardest, days of my life (it still is). I knew how he had struggled with the academic work, his emotions, but persevered because of his strong faith. As he lied prostrate, it felt like a knife to my heart. I love my faith and God, so I felt guilty and ashamed for feeling this way. It was that very day, probably the proudest day of his life, that I realized I was in love with him. The irony was not lost on me.

J ended up in his first placement as a parochial vicar not far from where I live. He invited me to his first mass and told me that my being there helped to decrease his nerves. He also asked me to continue to attend mass there and I found no problem with this, as I was dating a man from the area and often spent my weekends there. J was aware of this and made it obvious he didn’t approve. Despite the tension that my having a significant other created, our friendship continued to strengthen and we started to create special moments together. One snowy Xmas Eve J. begged me not to leave, as he was “lonely” and estranged from some of his family at that time. I helped to advocate for a family member of his when insurance would no longer cover her chemotherapy and filled out numerous amounts of paperwork to get her additional resources. Meanwhile, my faith was growing stronger than ever, but so were my feelings for J. Looking back on it now, I find it odd how I never dreamed that he could possibly reciprocate those feelings; I was brainwashed and saw him as a priest, not a human being. A person not only who is capable of love, but might even be desiring it. It was only until J started acting funny that I questioned his intentions, but immediately dismissed them. He insisted I have a confession with him when I thought it was a conflict of interest and fought with me about not attending a pilgrimage to Italy with his church (I couldn’t afford it at the time, he offered to pay for me). After mass on a beautiful spring day, he offered to walk me to my car after we spent hours chatting and laughing after mass. A red flag went up; I found it strange because we were in a suburban, safe neighborhood, with my car tucked safely in the church parking lot, in broad daylight. However, I was used to his being courteous, and he always walked me to my car but it was always in the presence of fellow priests. I started to feel funny as I loaded my things into my car, only to turn and find him leaning against my door, in close proximity to me. I started to feel that awkwardness when a first date is ending and you don’t know if the guy is going to kiss you or not. I didn’t know if he was going to do or say something, but I knew whatever was coming would change things for both of us forever, so I literally pushed him away, said goodbye, and drove off. I remember, still to this day, seeing his face in my rearview and cried the whole way home. It was the last time I would see him for a decade. There are no words to describe how I felt that day, other than I loved him so much, I wanted to protect him. I also didn’t want to hurt God. I thought of J over the years and wondered if my gut intuition was right regarding his feelings for me and what he was going to do that day or if I totally misread the whole thing.

To make an already long story longer (kudos if you read this far), I ended up lapsing and not going to church for 6 years. I would be lying if I said my love for J wasn’t part of it. However, my faith and spirituality never faltered. It is my main coping mechanism despite chronic health issues and frankly, it’s what keeps me going. About a year ago, I started to get serious about returning to church and yearned for a place where I wouldn’t be judged, feel comfortable, and not be forced by the pastor to get involved behind the scenes in various roles (this has been an issue for me in almost every church I’ve attended). I looked up J to see where he was and found he was assigned to a parish in the same city I work. I attempted to contact him via parish email to break the ice and make it less awkward for us both if I decided to show up. Naively, I figured that so many years had passed; there would be no harm in seeing him again. I assumed he’s now an experienced pastor, that I have grown leaps and bounds and am pretty good at detecting red flags (that’s what happens folks when you’ve been dating since 15!), and that my feelings for him had leveled out because of lack of contact. I even prayed continuously and agonized over my decision. I prepared myself for seeing someone who might have changed in ways I would not appreciate, expected him to be different, even prepared myself that he might have a significant other (yes, we all know the reality). Nothing could’ve prepared me for what I’ve dealt with since my return.

He claims he never got my email message and within minutes of sitting down at my first mass there, I realized my instincts and gut feelings so many years ago were spot on. He turned pale, then beet red, stumbling over his words, hands shaking when he gave me communion, fidgeting when sitting on the altar. I have seen him drop the Eucharist once or twice and it was always the person before me in line. I cannot tell you how awful I felt, as if I was causing him to feel uncomfortable on his own turf and screw up his at his job.

I have never had a more awkward conversation, as I attempted to explain my presence to him. He couldn’t even look me in the eye and reprimanded me for disappearing all those years ago and not telling him why. I think he sees my leaving years ago as rejection, not the protection I intended. However, he never contacted me to see if everything was ok either. I was struck how emotionally immature he seemed, able to interact with parishioners quite easily, but not with me. For some reason with me it seems different; it’s hurtful and painful. J insists he “likes having me there and it’s not awkward for him,” but I don’t feel he’s being honest. There are days he’s friendly and like old J I knew, we laugh and talk with no issues. Then there are others where he ignores me and I don’t know how to act myself. I have always felt comfortable talking to a wide range of people, especially males; I am a tomboy and have mostly male friends. I talk and listen to people for a living, so to be struggling like this is a foreign concept for me. People always tell me that I am easy to talk to, that they feel like they’ve known me for years, and can trust me with anything. It says something that I don’t know how to act when I’m around J.

Over the summer, I started taking J’s unwillingness to open up personally. I also noticed his friendliness and closeness to another female parishioner our age, who is married and whose husband holds a highly respected job. She is actively involved in the parish in a variety of roles and donates a substantial amount of money to the church. I have seen him engage in a way that I think is inappropriate for a pastor to engage with a parishioner but then I think: “am I just biased? Is it purely the fact that she gives money?” I am aware the church is a business. I don’t find that a comfort though—it makes me think less of him and get angry. If money is what he bases his friendships on, I find it sad and hypocritical. I can’t afford to give thousands to my church, but it doesn’t mean I love God any less. I also don’t want to think of the alternative, that she’s special to him in a way she shouldn’t be.

I struggle to understand why he has no issue interacting with this woman but gets nervous and discombobulated around me. I feel jealous and frustrated, as if I’m on an emotional roller coaster. I’m beginning to think we weren’t as close as I thought.

As soon as I pull away emotionally and get to a good place, it seems as if J can almost sense it, and he’ll do something to pull me back in. One day, it was telling how he was struggling. I didn’t want to talk personal issues in front of other parishioners, so I told him to text or call, whatever he felt comfortable with if he needed someone to talk to. It’s something I would do for any friend in need. He’s never once texted, emailed, or called. It’s disconcerting when we used to talk every single week, almost daily. I began thinking if it weren’t for Mary and the Eucharist, I’d consider becoming Protestant. I struggled over the summer to see how my faith could continue to grow in this church, but I didn’t feel like leaving either. I like the people, feel comfortable for the most part, and was doing fine when I got to a peaceful place about J. Finally, I got to a good place emotionally and it lasted for a few months. I was proud of myself.

That all changed. After recently experiencing a serious trauma, suddenly nothing mattered—not J, not this other woman—nothing was as important and crucial to my well-being as God and my faith. I am so thankful and grateful not only to be alive, but to have come to see it as a learning experience that readjusted my priorities. J was involved in my healing process and was honest; he admitted it scared him to see me that way. He told me that “out of all people, you don’t deserve this.”

Since then, I have noticed J. attempting to connect with me, but his immaturity and arrested development often get in the way and act as an obstacle in growing our friendship. He does small things, often within homilies or during prayers that I know are geared towards me. At first, I found myself thinking: “am I narcissistic? Egocentric? I think that was meant for me!” But then a smile or direct eye contact will reassure me, yes, I’m not crazy. I still find my mind drifting off to him, like a school girl with a crush. I feel sad, confused, angry, worried, and alone; it’s not exactly as if I can talk to just anyone about this. There are times, though, when I’m talking to him or praying with him, that I feel such joy and love, love for not only J, but an overwhelming love and closeness to God. One of J’s smiles can send me floating for days.

That being said for me, knowledge is power. I have actually sought out support groups online and in the process, read research and many books about this issue. Yes, women love priests. Some because it’s a challenge, some because they “lack self-esteem,” others because they love the priest not for his role, but because of the amazing man beneath the collar. I fall in this last category; I love J. for who he is, not WHAT he is. Yes, I’ve said it; I’m in love with a priest. It feels freeing to finally say those words. And I am no longer naïve to the fact that priests often love a woman back. I have rationalized my awareness that this man may indeed love me back for way too long. The key is he’ll never love me back in the way I deserve or need. I’ve come to understand that there is no happy ending in this situation. Will I ever tell J how I feel? Probably not, although if he directly calls me out on it, I wouldn’t lie. I don’t plan on leaving his church any time soon either, but don’t have plans to pursue more than a friendship. Believe me, if J ever tells me he’s leaving the priesthood, I’d be the first one (in a long line of women I’m sure) ready and eager to pursue a relationship, one that we both deserve and would be on equal footing.

Meanwhile, I plan on devoting some of my energy to advocating for the married priest movement. Why shouldn’t priests be able to marry? I find it ironic, as they speak about love and counsel married couples. Should a man who has chosen to spread the word of God be “punished” by an inability to experience God’s greatest gift—love? There is no way that anything that involves love can be a sin because it is of God. Period.

In ending, thank you for reading my story. It is because of the courage of the many folks who contribute to this blog that I was finally able to tell my story. I know many of you will relate to me and support me, but I’m also aware that others may think my feelings are wrong and am prepared for possible criticism. If you’re in the latter group, I only ask you to think of how it felt when you first experienced love: the excitement, the joy, and the confusion at times. Be kind to one another and may God continue to bless us all on our individual journeys.

Merry Christmas to All! Readers, let’s be charitable by finding the right phrase or writing, to help this lady.

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Let’s make it crystal clear at the very beginning: we never force any adult to take any decision. It’s up to the person to walk in the direction he wishes to discover. On the other hand, we are never going to promote clandestine relationships between priests and women. We firmly believe that the amount of stress, risks and guilt feelings are too much for both the woman and the priest in order to lead a hidden life. It is not ethical that while the priest preaches to others what to do, he himself lives a lie.

On the hand, let’s discuss openly and give some common directions to priests who are walking in this unique and particular journey. Falling in love is not a sin. Can we put it into the priest’s soul? We know that the priest has been brainwashed for many years with the mentality that love and priesthood are not compatible. Talking with other priests seem to be worse as most of them will force the priest to abandon the golden relationship with this special friend. It seems that they don’t have any doubts or second thoughts. It’s another alarm which sounds quite aloud as some persons seem to have all the answers in the world…for others! Yet some simple questions will paint the situation rather accurate: did they ever experience love? Did they ever communicate with another person on a special level? Most of them find refuge behind a wall of denial and copied truths which were handed down without ever being questioned.

What is this sudden love urge for one single person? Why is this person so special? Why did it enter into his locked up heart? How was the priest living his relationship with God? Was he successful in building mature relationships with other adults? What is God trying to say to the priest? It’s a wake up call. Obviously these questions have to be answered individually and personally. We cannot photocopy answers as each priest has to give his own particular answer!

The crisis in the spiritual life is not a negative experience. It’s the call for growth. God does not leave us in the same situation for long. Life itself changes many times. We have to face some new challenges. Sometimes the challenges will help us get out of a stagnant life.

The priest can decide that the challenge is too much. He might feel at odds with such challenge. In that case, one should at least be open and sincere with the woman concerned and not leave her hanging on for ever! It’s cruelty if one leaves the other partner in a permanent limbo! On the other hand, the fire that started to burn in his heart, should be listened to in order to start a fire in all his pastoral work. His out of the blues love relationship was not superficial. He has to translate the same enthusiasm and sparkle in his work.

In the case that the priest is doubtful about his work in the church or is at odds with the teaching of the church, he has to resolve the case. Either he believes in his work within the church, or else steps aside in order to find power, energy and spiritual growth in his life.

Stepping aside might lead to new, convincing answers ie. a mature growth in his faith. He might continue as a priest with a new energy. If not, he has to decide that he can’t live a lie and to walk in a different path.

What’s new in all our opinions, is that going for a married life does not mean that one has lost his faith and neither that he has acted like Judas who kissed Jesus for hidden motives! It means that one has to live his faith with a new pair of eyes: that of a married priest. It will help one to revise all the teaching one has received since childhood! We know that this is actually a revolution in one’s life. But this is what is needed in the church of today. If the experience of a married priest becomes worldwide, all the theological writings will have to be edited! Like a snake who has shed his old skin, all things will come alive in the new church.

It’s an old/new way to present priesthood. It’s old, because most of the apostles were married and so were some of the popes! New, because around 1000 years ago, Roman Catholic Priests stopped getting married!

Without being hurtful to the church, we do notice that most of the young people will never step inside a church unless they see the face of the humanity in it! Seeing the priests getting married and facing most common everyday challenges will help them realise that they are not far away from the kingdom of God! Let’s face it, in most European countries [with some exceptions), churches have become empty spaces! Are we happy to see the church die?

One final note. Christmas reminds us that a woman (Virgin Mary) brought the human and frail child to this world. Do we need women to revive our religion today? Married priests is another step which brings recognition to the hidden work done by many women who are the backbone of our religion, but who are not at the centre of publicity! Like Mary, they bring forth a new child to the world!

Guidelines for women!

We’ve been gaining experience for these last 21 years in our marrried priests’ movement! We have come to a point where we can be in a better position to help both the priest and the woman who are in love.

One of the aspects which has been built on, is the number of tips given to women in order to understand better their position. We are not abandoning the priest neither, but this time we’re giving out some practical guidelines to the women out there!

We insist that a relationship starts very early when most probably both persons are not aware of some dynamics going on! It happens in all the world and in all countries, but we’re trying to help the woman notice that the red bulb is lit! The fact that people meet, relationships are formed, with or without our knowledge! Now as the saying goes, it takes two to tango! The starting up might be totally innocent or innocuous, but the continuing needs both sides of the relationship! At one moment they will realise that things have gone too far and a decision is needed. We’re of the opinion that until that moment comes, one could avoid all heart breaking and other damages by being alert to many ‘hidden’ signals.

As usual we’re asking for some help from our readers to add, delete or comment about the coming lines.

Women are guided in order NOT to:

• invite the priest to her house nor go to the priest’s house alone;
• give her personal number unless requested for professional services in the church
• [in that case one has to keep all conversations on a professional basis];
• allow the priest to make a conversation based on his personal life;
• allow any provocative kisses, touching or patting;
• to dream about the priest as the perfect future husband;
• talk about her personal life in a secluded and closed room;
• let any conversation take on the form of a lovers’ chat room;
• let the priest communicate [through social media] on a daily basis and/or too frequently;
• let the priest say or write romantic words;
• let the priest promise that he is on the verge of leaving priesthood [or similar words];
• let the priest openly show that he is at odds with the church;
• accept presents from the priest;
• become his saviour especially when things fail in his parish;

Second Class Priests!

In the absence of love stories between priests and women, we are sharing our reflections regarding the latest news in the Catholic church.

In a March 2017 interview with German newspaper Die Zeit, Pope Francis used the term viri probati – in this context, religious married men of proven character – in saying he was open to the idea of a married priesthood, as is allowed for deacons, in remote areas where the priest shortage is particularly serious.

We are still not 100% sure of the outcome of married priests as we are still receiving conflicting news! Read this article

In any case it seems that all newspapers are agreeing that married priesthood is again in the news. Mulling all kind of news to look for positive news, we see some troubling ones. In the quoted statement made above, we have one single question: So are married priests just fillers? That is: are they being allowed as if they are necessary evil? Are they being allowed simply to fill in the blanks? Are we sort of second class priests who are allowed to work as priests simply because there is lack of?

Many people point to married priests because they think that will stop sexual abuse of children. People focus on sex because for news agencies it sells a lot of money! We do notice many priests who are living a solitary life. They are practically moving bodies but dead in their minds. Others who travel most of the time. Some who embrace luxuries. Others who are simply walking study books which amply shows the negative effects of forced celibacy. The list goes on and on.

Our main point of view has remained the same. Most of the apostles were married. Are we going to follow the bible or are we going against it? They do quote the bible profusely in other moral matters, yet about this one they are so silent! Why? If the apostles did it, why not the priests of today? Or are we like a supermarket: we pick up what we like in the church?!

Having married priests we hope it will bring the focus of the church on new challenges. One might be the complete overhaul of the relationship teaching (and not sex!). Strong and stable relationship calls for consequences which will help the priest to mature as he faces different challenges in life. One glaring example would be children. Taking care of your own children will bring a new insight in the life of the priest. Married priesthood will help the priest to reconnect with normal life with all its challenges. Consequently, the whole church will change. This is the revolution which we are looking forward to experience. In the end there will be winners all the way. All would feel much nearer to God. Everybody will experience the Emmanuel – God is with us! It would be interesting to visit a priest who has kids crying, eating and dirtying all the house whilst he is trying to communicate with God! It would be a good example of how to keep God in the centre of all activity!

It’s up to our readers to continue our reflection.

The signs of the times are calling for married priests in the Roman Catholic church. It’s not far fetched but we do feel that the wind is blowing in that direction. On the other hand, we are standing on the ground and not flying too high. It’s not going to be an easy change. This is because for various reasons. One of them is, that many people want progress but nobody wants to change.

If the church really wants married priests, how are they going to call for vocations with the present circumstances? The church calls itself the expert in humanity. Yet, do workers in the church have the best conditions of work? Is the church ready to preach by example? How many married men are going to join the church with the present conditions? What type of hindrance keeps married men from joining priesthood? Can we alter something in order to attract the best possible candidates? The financial package is not to be forgotten, plus spiritual, humanistic and intellectual formation.

On the part of the laity, are they prepared to study theology and other studies to give a professional service to their parish? Studying means many years of studies. On the other hand one can’t have a course similar to the one provided for non-married priests where they can afford 6 to 7 years without gaining money. How can they receive married ones while maintaining the responsibility of the family?

What about the general reflection about the family? Are the married ones expected just to obey? Are we prepared to re-write the whole ‘relationship’ chapter in the theological studies from the point of view of married priests? Are these married priests to be given their right to give a unique feedback to the general church?

One of interesting debates is when married priests have teens themselves. Even when they preach to the congregation their own teens will be there! That means somebody who is trying to live the gospel. This week I met some families who are complaining that there teens are abandoning the Sunday Mass!! That would already be a tough challenge for married ones. Yet, the challenge itself could prove to be a witness to many other families!

Speaking about the teens, what about the women. Is the wife of the pastor going to be a silent spectator? Or is she going to get a significant role in the running of the parish? After all, like many other women she is the silent supporter of her husband’s work! She is the one to help him going on. She could be the voice of many other women who are still living in the periphery of the parish!

With all this in mind, it makes sense to call back all those priests who have left. Why? Because they have something which new candidates don’t have: experience! Once they were at the centre of activity in the parish. In these last years, they have lived their most difficult time of their lives. They know how one feels when one is discarded in society. That makes them better candidates to look at those in society who feel not welcomed anymore. Those discarded have always been an important part of the church. It’s the new generation which will form up the new church. It’s not a surprise that most married priests welcome all kinds of people who are in different phases of faith!

Priests today have a dark cloud above their heads owing to the sexual abuse crisis. Yet married priests could prove vital to thwart that conception of priesthood. This is another hidden asset of married priesthood which could link the church with the outside world once again.

The word argument might have a negative connotation for some people in some particular cultures. Well, many years ago it was the basic form of education in the old times (referring to Greek and Roman times). People used to bring the hearsay to ‘old’ people in order to hear their views about it.

The so called ‘old’ teachers had the knack of building up an argument in order to expose their teaching. So the argument was an excuse to spread their way of thinking. There weren’t classes as such but the so called arguments took place in the square where all the people used to mingle (whether for business, curiosity, to hang out or simply to gossip!)

We too can start from what the people say and think and take it up to the next level. We should show our way of presenting the argument.

One of the most famous (or infamous!) hearsay is that of sexual abuse which might happen if priests are not allowed to get married. We have to be extra careful how we present it as our adversaries might tell us that married people too abuse young children. But it doesn’t mean we have to drop this side of the argument. Let’s get deep down.

Both single and married people abuse children. That’s a fact. Nobody can deny it. But is it for the same reason? Now this is the side of the argument that most of them forget. Let’s give an example: stealing. A poor person might steal because it needs to. Does it mean that rich people don’t steal? No sir. They steal TOO. But they do it for a different reason.

The same with sexual abuse coming from unmarried priests. Yes the lack of sexual expression might lead to different forms of sicknesses. One of them is to reach out for young, inexperienced and virgin young boys and girls. This has been proved in many scientific studies. Just to mention a comparison it’s like somebody who is dying of hunger and sees the trash bin of somebody. Without thinking twice he would open it and eat the first food item found, forgetting about getting sick from such food! Yes some unmarried priests sometimes are craving for just a handshake! Most of them would like to have a sexual encounter in their deepest and hidden wishes. They are practically being crucified everyday! They simply go nuts when the perfume of a woman enters their office. This is the environment when sexual abuse of children takes place. No one can deny it! They can’t contain their sexual appetite and consequently they express it on the most vulnerable section of society – children!

Married people too abuse young and inexperienced young children. Again we emphasize, but it’s for a different reason.

We are not simply going to give permission to an abuser to get married in order to solve the problem! That would be complete nonsense!

But why are we asking for married priesthood then?

The first primary reason is the bible. How could we encourage people to read the bible and then go against the bible? Most of the apostles were married. How can we justify that our priests today go against the bible? If we start making excuses for not following the bible then all teaching will fall away!

Secondly, we firmly believe that a priest with a woman at his side would change his outlook on life, spirituality and philosophy of work completely. We can’t simply insist on the mentality that men alone are better qualified for the job. As time passes by, we notice that teens who are still coming to church, in most cases have a very active mum (in the religious sense)!! Mums, in many cases are doing a priest’s job by speaking about God to children and bringing Him alive to them. In many parishes, the contribution of women is often hidden. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not important!

Married priesthood is going to be the starting point of a new revolution where all the teaching of the church has to be: reflected on, shared, discussed and action taken upon! All this enveloped in an environment of prayer. Let’s not be afraid of the Holy Spirit who speaks in different times and in different ways though various and unexpected people!

The power of a good community

Does anybody remember the story of Noah’s ark? If you have forgotten it then go to Genesis chapter 6 and read it!

Why do we start with this story? Well, some of our readers have been following this blog for quite a long time. I wish to say a big thank you. I’m really happy about it. It’s never an easy job to start a new community let alone an online one. Online-community has more challenges. We only meet through writing! It’s obvious that writing does not tell the whole story yet it is very crucial to communicate with each other. The fact that some people stayed here through writing is another hidden miracle!

A community is compared to Noah’s ark because we have several types of characters which is easily represented by the different types of species mentioned in the Bible. Some of them could be: there is the bee (busy person); elephant (somebody who thinks that he/she is the most powerful); the eagle (the one who sees far away); the horse (one who runs fast); the snail (the one who walks very slowly); the cow (a very generous person); skunk (a person who stinks – literally); chameleon (one who changes opinion in front of others!); monkey (one who takes advantage of others by climbing on their ‘backs’); the mouse (the one who works in the dark when others are not suspecting anything at all); the donkey (one who works a lot but most probably never gets a simple thank you) and many other animals.

Familiarity breeds contempt. It means that if one knows someone or something very well, one can easily become bored with them and stop treating them with respect. In other words, instead of respecting another person, knowing his/her week points, makes one treat others with disrespect! This is our phase at the moment where some readers are playing the part of God by judging others and using words to judge others. One can refuse to accept homosexuals but one cannot call them names or treat them with disrespect (just to mention one example).

I can mention an infinite number of private emails where some readers actually wanted to impose their opinion or values on our blog. They have called me names, judged me, tried to persuade me to delete some of the articles written. A few others tried to threaten me! Well I can write a whole book about adults behaving worse than children. Well, as I have experience with education, I know from first hand experience, that not all people would like to be taught notwithstanding all the buzz about the importance of education!!

One has to value one’s experience. It is one’s practical bible. God is telling something to somebody through his/her own experience. Therefore one has to value his/her own experience. Yet, it doesn’t mean that everybody has to come to the same conclusion! We cannot conclude that all priests are simply pulling women’s legs (although a large number do exactly that). There could be a unique story where love takes the right path and they get married! Why do we paint reality with a black colour? Or is it because we are still bitter about our own experience and we don’t like the idea that others could be more successful? In other words, are we jealous?

Others, surprisingly, think that whatever is being written on the blog, it’s done simply to tease them or to make them angry!! They are truly suspicious! A word of advice is never to mention names of other readers so there won’t be a direct reference – at least! If they are too sensitive, they should never write on a public forum!

I know as well that some people are still suffering from a past love experience with a priest. One can easily become bitter and tries to ‘bite’ other people! Maybe it’s time for such people to admit of having a problem and calling a professional counsellor who helps them to externalise what’s troubling them in a safe and positive way!

In the meantime, the ‘old’ readers can nurture or take care of new followers. The new ones will follow if what they read is ‘spiritually fit’ and helps them see God’s call in their private own lives. Please remember that the written word unlike the word which is spoken, remains there forever…even after your death! So please think before your write. If you’re angry, don’t write. Wait for sometime or a day or two.

In this case, as an editor of the blog, I would like to give the example of a captain on a ship. A captain should listen to what the sailors are saying, but finally it’s only him who has to decide. In a community too, somebody should serve the community by taking tough decisions. Now taking decisions means (sometimes) that some people are lost. This could be for various reasons but one of the most common one is that not everybody is trained to come to one conclusion whether one likes it or not. I do remember when I was in the friary, that trying to give voice to the people at first created more problems. Parishioners were invited to select the best time for mass. Well everybody gave a different time. There was no agreement. So we had to decide. Obviously those disagreeing with our decision said all sorts of words, but a community needs a decisive line of management after all. It’s like parents versus teens. Somebody has to decide whether you like it or not.

In any case, in Noah’s ark, all sorts of animals lived together! I’m not asking anybody to change his/her character, but to see everything from a different perspective – that of Noah’s ark. I will never ask somebody to leave (unless something really bad happens), but I would ask everybody to put on God’s glasses. Together we can make it. Yes all animals can live together if they have a strong community awareness. Let’s show and be that kind of community.

A priest-in-love writes to us!

Finally we have a priest who is speaking about his heart adventures!! Well, I’m not promising anyone that he is going to answer all questions or any questions at all. At least we can have a glimpse about how he seas this new person in his life. Maybe some day in the future he will continue to reveal more about his life in the parish. Obviously we are hiding his identity for practical purposes.

I’m Gabriel, a Catholic priest in my late 50s. 

I was ordained when I was in my mid-20s.

I’m 5 foot 10 inches (1.8 metres) tall. I’m fit and lean: a testament to the control I use when choosing only clean living and what goes into my body.

I’m a busy Pastor where I spend 8-12 hours a week driving between my rural parishes and diocese offices. On my “day off” I enjoy swimming and video chatting with friends and family. 

I’m a happy priest and I feel loved and admired by my parishioners: especially the seniors many of whom I have formed a close bond with.  In fact, they love me so much that they petitioned the diocese to keep me in their parishes instead of moving the Pastor every 2 years as is the norm in my diocese.  I’ve been there for nearly 7 years now.  

I thrive on the predictability of my daily life as a Pastor. I like to be in control of my world and refers to myself as “somewhat of a control freak”, though I’m very careful to never try to exert control over others.

I would like to share with you about something which happened today that shook my inner self.

Today I saw a woman. She is new, but somehow seems familiar.  There is something about her.  Something that draws me in and is enticingly frightening,  Like I’m playing with fire and want to get burned.

Something.  I can’t put my finger on it.

She has this sadness in her eyes.  Those eyes, big, beautiful and brooding. Sad, but sparkling – How does that work??  She looks healthy enough but yet seems frail and fragile.
 She is wearing makeup.  Why? to cover something up?  Not some physical imperfection, but something else that she doesn’t want the world to see?   I imagine her with no makeup.  Freshly showered, clean, hair wet.  Oh no, don’t go there!.  I’m immediately trying to guess her age.  Young, too young.  I guess about 15 years younger than me.  My brain starts arguing with itself – Too young for what exactly?  Stop it you fool!

I introduce myself.  I don’t even know what I said, in all probability something absurd, because for some reason, I’m not thinking clearly.  I wonder if she thinks I’m examining her a little too closely so I avert my gaze towards the other parishioners, only to look back to find that she is still looking at me.  Now I’m embarrassed.  Do I look okay?  Is my hair messed up?  Can she see into my soul?  Okay, gain your composure.  Act professional.  You’re not a teenager!  What is wrong with me?  I’m sure she thought I’m an idiot.  Oh no, I feel like I’m staring.  What in the world is happening here?  I shake her hand and somehow my other hand comes up and I have her hand in both of mine now.  I think probably that’s a little too friendly too soon but I’m committed now and  I blurt out “I hope to see you again – WE hope to see you again”.  She thanks me and leaves and I have to consciously remind myself not to watch her walk all the way through the welcoming area and out the door.
You’re acting like a fool Father.  Don’t feel much like a “Father” right now.

I go back to the elder I was speaking to before who immediately says “She’s lovely isn’t she?”  Oh my Lord.  What an imbecile I am.  Now I’ve embarrassed myself twice already in a span of about 2 minutes.  I don’t answer and try to resume the conversation we were having before my brain and my heart decided to go their separate ways.  But I can’t focus and feel the need to find quiet and solitude. Nevertheless, I carry on with all the necessaries and all the niceties I’m on cruise control, robotic.  All the while I want to bolt to the parking lot in case I can catch another glimpse of her.

I should have asked the elder who she is.  She seemed to know her.  No, that would be a huge mistake.  Oh well, it’s too late now. 
Why am I so out of control?  Why do I not feel like a priest right now?  I’m feeling guilty already.  Why?  Have I done something wrong?  Maybe I should talk to someone.  No, I don’t want to do that either.  I’m probably reading way too much into this.

I find myself praying that she comes back again but I feel thrown off.  Maybe I don’t want her to come back.  God help me.  What is happening?  I feel unsettled. 
A missed opportunity, or perhaps I dodged a bullet. 

I spend the rest of the day trying to get her out of my mind and trying to determine whether I am happy that I met her or not.  And to regain my confidence which is inexplicably shaken.

One of our readers, E.C., wanted to share some thoughts with us.

I’m a woman. When I started my journey back into Christianity about 7 years ago, I started with the Eastern Orthodox Church, where married priests with their wives and children were the norm, and an unmarried priest was seen as odd, but of course, quite welcome.

It seems funny then that I settled on Roman Catholicism, where the priests make a promise of celibacy to their Bishops, never to have a spouse or children.

I respect the priest who honestly wants and welcomes celibacy into his life and who knows how to handle that, but many men feel that they have no choice but to live this celibate life in order to have their priesthood.

So many men force themselves to live a celibate life when they are not meant to do so, hoping for the best possible outcome, only to realize when it’s too late that what they desire is a family as well as the priesthood.
A few scenarios are then possible:

-The priest continues on with his pastoral duties but lives a very lonely and frustrated life.
-The priest, in his frustration, uses his power to his advantage, using people to fulfill his unmet needs in an inappropriate way, either with adults or with minors.
-The priest forms a meaningful, loving, consensual relationship with an adult partner, but must keep it secret for fear of being exposed and losing his pastoral position, and thus his livelihood.
-The priest leaves the priesthood in order to pursue the building of his family, usually regretting that choice because he knows he was meant to be a priest, but he also loves the family that he’s made/wanting to make. He will be torn for the rest of his life.

Forcing a man to choose one vocation or the other when he desires both will only leave him broken in the end. If he chooses one, he will always yearn for the other.
Although some are quite happy never to think of the priesthood again, they would be the minority.
Once a priest, always a priest.
“Tu Es Sacerdos In Aeternum”

Now, on to our beloved Pope Francis:

“Pope Francis has appointed members of a pre-synodal council who will collaborate with the secretariat of the Synod of Bishops in preparation for the Pan-Amazonian synod next year”
-National Catholic Register

To be discussed, among other things, optional celibacy for priests in that region.
In doing so, he is opening the door for wider discussion on the need for optional celibacy throughout the entire church.

“Although some exceptions already exist to allow married priests in the Catholic Church (the Eastern rites and the Ordinariate for former Anglicans for example), the Amazonian case could be used to allow for married clergy wherever priest shortages might exist, and therefore permit a far wider provision.
Whether any change to the discipline will actually happen remains speculative, but past statements along with today’s appointments makes it clear that a push for some change to the discipline is already going ahead.”
-National Catholic Register

Let us pray that this synod will open the eyes and the hearts of those who claim to be against optional celibacy for our beloved Roman Catholic priests.

Let them see the benefits that it will bring, including, but not limited to:
-A reduction in abuse cases.
-An increase in priestly vocations.
-An improved quality of life for priests.
-An increase in the number of people who attend the Holy Mass.
-An increase of understanding and trust between priest and parishioner.

And finally, on to one of the reasons that I take this topic so personally:

I have been in a relationship with a Roman Catholic priest for the last 6 months, but it has been very difficult on us both. My siblings and a few of my closest friends know of our relationship, but that is it.
He is a very confused man, he does not believe that opening the door for optional celibacy is the solution for many of the crises in our church, but he gladly keeps the secret relationship with me.

I cannot understand how someone in his situation can think that way.
Most likely, our romantic relationship will end, it has gone back and forth for a while now, so it’s just a matter of time. Although, him and I both agreed that when it ends, we will remain friends, as we do get along very well.
I am not the first relationship that he has had while he’s been a priest, I am at least the third -that is what he’s told me.

I don’t like the hypocrisy that he is putting forward, leading this double life.
I wish there was something I could do to open his eyes to what I’m trying to show him. I try to drop hints all the time about how I feel about forced celibacy, but he quickly changes the subject.
There is an age gap between us(15+ years, and I am in my 30’s) so I wonder if that contributes at all to his mindset?
For now, I have stopped pushing him, and just try to enjoy our time together.

Optional celibacy will not fix all the problems in all of our priests and in our church, but it is a step in the right direction.

Pictured above: My partner and I.

“Oh, to love and to be loved. It is to us sustenance, just as food, water, air, God!
We need it in our lives, and to deny that is to deny a large part of what makes us human.
We are made in the image and likeness of God, so then to love is not only good, it is Holy.”
-E.C.

The priest as a manager

I’m writing this article whilst looking at a young boy who is working in his dad’s shop. The way he talks to other colleagues is to say the least, disgusting. The way he walks, talks and behaves in the shop, is, as if he built the shop from scratch with his own sacrifices and sweat! Obviously he found everything ready made so he does not appreciate the meaning of hard work, of mistakes and of trying again and again. This is the typical mistake some parents do when they simply introduce them at work as their ‘son’. They don’t realise that other employees would never accept him as their boss, if not because of being forced on by their father!

Something similar takes place in a parish. The priest finds himself in a new parish. He never worked for the parish yet he is already in an important seat as a pastor! So what does one expect from him? What does he know about the parish? How many people does he know? Most probably he would rely on the people around him (which might be heavily biased about other people in the parish!).

In the early years of the church, the one responsible for the community would be chosen amongst the same community. Obviously this is another reason why we should go for married priests! The priest chosen should have already given an example of how to lead a larger community by leading his own family! On the other hand he already knows the community in which he has to work as their pastor! From the point of view of the parishioners, they already know what he is capable of!

This doesn’t mean that there won’t be any problems. When we present the married priesthood as a model, we don’t imply that there would be heaven on earth. Heaven is heaven. No place on earth is heaven, yet we firmly believe that on a weighing scale the advantages outweigh the disadvantages!

Earning the respect of the parishioners means a lot! Knowing the parish beforehand is an immense gift. Having a family would be a shinning example for the whole parish! The married priest although with one foot he is ‘in’ the world, yet with his other foot he is with God. He has to prove that he is a man of prayer. Only the prayerful priest is the one who continues to work against all odds! A prayerful priest knows that good work and good intentions alone won’t change a single thing in the parish. It’s God who works wonders and changes people’s heart!

Another challenge within the Catholic church is that of comparing today with yesterday. Recently I had a conversation with a friar (they live in a community but this friar owing to lack of vocations lives on his own). He was full of long forgotten dreams about the past where hundreds of people used to line up for confession (today it’s called the sacrament of reconciliation); Young people with Vocations for priesthood used to fill up the friary! Now they don’t have one single vocation!

We firmly believe that numbers won’t tell the whole story because God knows how to write in crooked lines too! We can’t be without faith (like other writers on the internet). It’s not the end of the Church! Yet God is changing it into something more beautiful. We are too tied to past traditions or criteria. God is changing the criteria too! One of them is to let married priests be a fundamental part of the Catholic Church.

It’s up to our mature readers to continue the discussion…