Probing Conversation

I think the usual nervousness occurs in every occupation. In my case the nervousness was fueled by my enthusiasm. The first person in the confessional got all my years of seminary learning. I went on and on and on. When I finished the guy said” I’m almost deaf Father could you repeat that?”
Mike laughs Actually the guy was lucky he was deaf.”
“Thanks smart ass., My favorite screw up centers on my ability to speak Italian. It was known in the parish that I had this facility, so all the old Italian ladies would come to me for confession. Some spoke difficult dialects, but mostly I could understand them. Once this old woman confessed, and I could barely understand the dialect, but I presumed her sins were minor. When she finished I told her in Italian to say three Hail Mary’s. There was silence, and again she went on and on in this difficult dialect. I was somewhat impatient, but again gently told her to say three Hail Mary’s.

The following Sunday I an standing in front of the Church greeting the parishioners as they enter the Church, and one of my favorite persons ,Elaine Mone approaches me and she is laughing hysterically. She said” last night my Mother went to you for confession. She told you that when she goes to Mass she almost always has this urge to move her bowels. She asked you what she should do. You told her twice to say three Hail Mary’s.”

Although the story is humorous Mike appears to be serious. “God even then you were out to lunch. Sal can I ask you a tough question?”

: “Sure, why not? “
Hesitating mike asks: “Did you leave the priesthood because you lost your faith?”

Not the least bit surprised or annoyed by the question Sal responds with a question of his own. “What do you mean by Faith?”

“Come on you know what I’m talking about the Catholic Faith that we both grew up with. Did you just lose that along the way?”

“It depends on how you define faith Mike. I never bought into a lot of the rigid hocus pocus stuff. For me it was all about the Beatitudes the words of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount. The rest of the trappings were
part of the official institution that I never believed.. As the years went by, I could not live within those parameters. It wasn’t out of anger, but I felt that for me to continue would have been hypocritical. I don’t believe that I ever lost my faith.”

Somewhat skeptical of Sal’s response “That seems like you became a cafeteria Christian picking out only the things you like, and gave up the baby with the bath water. I don’t understand how you could walk away from such a gift We all revered the priests when we were kids.”

“Should I have stayed because of the expectations of others? Doesn’t conscience and personal responsibility have a part to play in one’s life?”

Frowning there is a tinge of annoyance at Sals response.”There is too much of that personal responsibility bullshit in the world today. I think that when ever we are faced with tough moral choices it’s fashionable to fall back on the conscience bit. Do you still believe in God?”

Pausing realizing that there is absolute interest by Mike and it is so genuine. “ It depends on which day you ask that question. There are days when down to my socks I am convinced that there is a God, and other days when it all seems like a fairy tale. It’s not that I don’t want to believe, I do, but it comes and goes.”

When I was in the sixth grade I was to serve the early bird mass. It was winter and the night was absolutely still and beautiful. Walking from my home I gazed at the stars and was mesmerized by their beauty, there were millions of them. When I reached the Church, all the candles were lit and it was almost a mystical moment When I went out on the altar I had a feeling that God was on my shoulder. I would love to have that feeling everyday.”

“But maybe you can have it, pride and intellect may be in the way. I can’t prove the existence of God in some scientific way, but I believe, and that belief is a leap. That’s what faith is. Maybe it’s time for you to come back Sal. You’re n not getting any younger, and this may be the perfect time to reconnect.”

“In a way I envy you Mike because your belief allows you to have a place to put everything in your life. If there is pain you can offer up the suffering. If there is joy you can thank God for your blessings. The absence of that is not something I relish, but I can’t buy in because it takes away all the questions”.

: “I just don’t get why you would discard this wondrous gift that has been given to you. Hell you’re obviously a guy who gives a shit about everyone so, I am not making any judgment about your character. If you said that you gave up the Priesthood because of Celibacy I could understand that, but doubt is part of being a believer. It would be easy if there was some magic trick that God could perform to convince us.”

Celibacy did not play a major role in my decision. I had already left the ministry in my heart and head before I met Helen.Actually saying I left the ministry is not entirely true. I left the formal ministry, but feel as deeply obligated to live the spirit of the gospels as to when I was an active Priest.”

“The Church is my rock Sal,I t got me through major personal losses as well as Vietnam.I experienced things there that still cause night sweats.Prayer and faith allowed me to work daily on the mangled bodies of young men. And one of the joys is that I believe that I will see Arlene again when I die. It is such a comfort for me to know that.”

“Your answer for what happens after death is one of the great bonuses of being a believer. There are days when I feel that I will see all of my loved ones again, and days when I think its’ all a fantasy.”

“But Sal that’s what faith is, a leap into the unknown. What harm is there in letting yourself go?. You once believed this with all of your heart, and if you are willing, He will touch your heart again. You may think it’s corny but I pray that you will find the gift again.”
: “I don’t think it’s corny, and I appreciate it.”

“Christ, maybe I should have been the priest.”

“With your religious convictions there would be more children in the world. You would have all of the Catholics in your parish playing Catholic roulette. Do you know what they call the “Rhythm method? Pregnancy”

“Let’s go have lunch before I ring your liberal neck.”

Chapter 3

Scene: Mike has been at Fox Hill for a month. Sal is worried that he has had trouble adjusting. He visits Mike at Breakfast. The two men are seated having breakfast.

: “
Christ it’s so boring here, very day seems like a month.”

“What’s your schedule like Mike
“well about 6:30 a.m . I piss like a racehorse, and about 7:15 I take an enormous dump.”
Sal grimaced at the graphic toilet habits of his buddy.
“That’s more information than I need, but at least your personal toilet seems to have adjusted: “

: “No that’s the problem. I don’t wake up until 8.”

“Asshole, when am I going to learn? Can you be serious for one minute? How are you really doing?”

MikeThe smile fades and Mike admits: I am bored to tears, it seems like I’ve been here for years.”

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