Tuesday, October 05, 2004

The Courage to Blog

I must apologise that it has been some time since I last posted. I've disappointed myself a little as I did intend to post everyday. Let's be positive though... from today on I will post every day!

I've spent some time over the last couple of days browsing through other faith/religious blogs and am inspired by the kind of writing I see going on there. They make my own journey here seem quite insignificant and maybe Anne-Marie was right when shecommented to me that I am burdening an alreay burdened world, when I should be shepherding souls in plight and struggle.

I will admit that there is a temptation to slip into a ministering/preaching type role on this blog but I remind
myself that I established it for different reasons, more personal reasons. I have a need to convey something very real about myself
and my own journey to date. I haven't gotten into that as much as I would like to yet. Perhaps I'm shying away from speaking the full truth about myself and will have to muster up some courage. Or maybe there's just not as much to tell as I imagined!!

Revealing my soul doesn't come easily to me. That I choose to do it in the anonymous world of cyberspace reveals a cowardice in me, and yet I'm not feeling ashamed. I feel liberated. I feel I am beginning to make the first true expressions of myself that I have ever made. I feel I am beginning to know who I am and as this knowledge grows so will my freedom of expression. There is not doubt that this blog will be good for my soul!

Right now I'm in the middle of preparing a large and important annual mass and the concerns of the early days of this blog seem a million miles away. Maybe that's the key to leading a wholesome celibate life ... keep the mind too busy to listen to the heart ...! If only it was that simple!

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Hung Over For Nuns Mass

Something really strange is going on. I've had four donations since I started my blog last week and each of them has been from somebody in the porn industry. I'm not complaining.. a charitable act is a charitable act no matter where it comes from but it is odd. Makes me wonder who is reading my blog. Surely, they have much more interesting things to review! It reminds me of the time the chaplaincy site here at work was hijacked by a porn site. Everybody who came to the chaplaincy web page was greeted by gorgeous naked women. It caused a right stir! Unfortunately, I was away at a conference and missed all the excitement! Can you believe that …I cried for my loss that night!

Anyhow, back to more spiritual things. Got quite drunk last night on half a bottle of whiskey and botched up one of my paintings. Did an early mass for the local nuns still feeling quite hung over. I hope to Christ it wasn't too obvious. Nuns can be so disapproving! I do find some comfort in the drink in the evenings but I've come over the bad guy because of it on occasion. There was one evening the car of a friend of mine was punctured close to where I live. She called me to give her a lift home. I had to ask her could she not find somebody else. I wasn't able to tell her I had drink on me, too ashamed, and we had such a terrible falling out over the next few days. She was very disappointed in me. I always felt bad about that one.

I've got this thing I sometimes do while dozing off to sleep. It's very meditative. I lie in bed and spread my spirit out across the world. It's difficult to explain but I incorporate the expanse of the world into my own small universe so while I'm aware of myself lying in my own bed, in my own room, I'm also aware of prisoners in Iraq, or Chinese families sharing a meal in Hong Kong, old people alone in Birmingham, dogs howling on the streets in Bejing, burglars entering houses in South Africa, people praying in Church in Australia, men making porn movies in LA. I see in my minds eye the variety of people and events taking place while I lie still in bed at that very moment. It focuses me less on my own problems and crises and reminds me just how much is going on in the world … everybody trying to etch out the best they can of life … we all have that much in common, that we try to make the best possible life we can for ourselves. It's a shared struggle and very much a private one for each of us, I think!

It seems too that writing this blog has focused my mind much more on what I want out of life, even at this late stage. I feel that very soon I could be strong enough to make some changes in my life. Part of it really is a money issue, though. Devout Catholics will hate me for this but if I had enough money, at this stage of my life, I don’t think I would be a priest. Don't misunderstand and think that I'm not committed to the work I do or to Jesus. I will always be a very spiritual person but my heart aches for a bit of free living! It'll be a strange day when I have to wash my own jocks and hang them on the clothes line!

Monday, September 27, 2004

Touched to the Heart

What can I say? I got an email today from a guy in the porn industry wishing me well with and supporting me in my endeavours to present the man that I am here in this blog. Got to admit I woke up this morning feeling not to great about going on with the blog but his mail touched me and gave me the words of support I needed.

He also made a generous donation to me. It's ironic that the first entry in my priest's charity house book will record a donation from a guy in the porn industry. I think it's fantastic. I love the contradiction ... such charity from a guy in the porn industry ... he wished me well and sincerely I wish him well too. Being the first to donate, he'll stick in my mind always. I'll seek him out and shake his hand in the afterlife.

Temptations to My Celibacy

I received this email and decided to give an open response

I'm facinated by the dedication of people like yourselves to a life of celibacy in order to serve God. Particularly as you are surrounded by many who like you serve God without the restrictions that celibacy place upon you.I serve as a minister but have the support and love of a wife and family, and feel a deep sense of compassion for those who are dedicated to the teachings of a denomination which preclude such relationships for its clergy. If this lifestyle was clearly prescribed by Scripture then I could process the notion a lot more easily but I must confess that I struggle to see how people can adopt this lifestyle on the basis of what is essentially a church tradition rather than a spiritual imperative. Do you still after all these years accept the Roman Catholic premise of celibacy for its priests? A priest once told me that he totally agreed with the suggested reform of allowing Catholic priests to marry but he had left it too late and had become too idiosyncratic in his ways to adjust to livign with someone. I work in chaplaincy with a number of Catholic ministers who are married. They are not called priests but by and large they perform [in chaplaincy] the role of a priest. Your thoughts?

I was very young when I entered the priesthood. A priest came to my school and passed around a photo of a very attractive charismatic man who was the founder of my order. I instantly felt an attraction to this man, with his warm handsome face. I think I wanted to be like him. I was a child then but that atttraction motivated my vocation. When I entered religious life, I didn't think too much about how the celibacy thing would work out but I was naively committed to it. I've always been very attracted to women and even now keep mainly women friends and almost always paint women in my pictures. And I have always kept a close relationship with a woman. The first one fell to pieces but when I was 40 and just coming out of a breakdown, I fell in love, truly fell in love, with a woman, a nun. This relationship developed [nothing sexual, just hugs and affection and companionship, I guess].

For the first 12 to 15 years I felt I would have married her. I wanted to be buried with her but then things took a turn. She was very career focused and influenced heavily by another nun friend of hers. She claimed I changed and maybe I did. I had another woman loving me, in her 20's at the time, while I was in my 50's. The temptation was there with here as she felt we were soul mates but I felt I couldn't betray my nun friend by entering into a relationship with this woman so we are still friends to date and nothing more, though she still tells me often how much she loves me and wants to have a deeper more intimate friendship. It's complicated by the fact that she is married and has several young children. She is an adorable woman and I don't want to ruin her life. I feel I don't have enough to offer her and soon she would regret any decision to make a life with me. I am nearly 30 years older than her.

I'm giving a very personal answer to a very academic question. I believe that priests should have the right to choose whether or not to live a celibate life. Jesus loved women. I love women. Because I am ageing I have to some degree become set in my ways but I ache in the heart for what I have missed out on. A wife, a child, a home. The woman I love tells me I deserve to come home after a long and stressful day at work to a woman who will whisper comforting things in my ear … not to a small room with with only my paints and few glasses of whiskey for companionship.

In my heart, I know I would have made a good husband but maybe I am too old to change my ways. And there is too much fear. I have always lived in institutions where I am fed and my basic needs are looked after. I tell myself that there is virtue in living out my celibacy vow but a bigger part of me sees the fear and cowardice in it. I don't know where my heart truly lies on this one. I have the opportunity not to be celibate and yet I am … why?

If I had my own home, things might be different for me. My dream is to have a private space in which to live by the time I'm 65. For all my work as a priest … I think days that I would spend in my own home would be the happiest of my life. I'm hoping I can achieve this with the charity of others. I have already had donations from generous people and feel understood. There is great joy in that for me. I do feel guilty and a bit selfish that I'm requesting donations for myself and not a good cause … it seems selfish. This is where my doubt about this blog comes in …. It's something I have to work through! The guy from the porn industry who donated to me told me to spend the money on something frivolous for myself … generosity from this man has been the best gift I received in years!

Again, apologies for such a personal response. My aim with this blog is to keep it personal, a journal of the interior.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Celibate through Cowardice or Committment

Got over my little hangups about whether I should or shouldn't write this blog. I'm definitely making far too much a deal of it in my own mind. Thing that strikes me most about my life is how predictable it has become and just how fast time seems to spin by. I'm beginning another academic year now. It has been ten years in total in this job and place and wow, really can't see where it has gone. Maybe I'm tiring of it a bit … is it too late to look for adventure. Where does a 63 year old priest seek adventure…I've been offered love and sex by a woman for the past eight years … a talented, attractive, spiritual and very creative woman but I haven't taken that path. Don't know whether it's because I'm too cowardly or because I genuinely am committed to celibacy. I try to tell her it's the latter. I do think that at my age, I'd never be up to the job. I've left it too late. Yes, I think it's cowardice/fear more than anything else. I She's an atheist and can accept but not understand why I commit to celibacy. When I met her, one of the first question she asked me was 'Am I celibate'. As blunt as an overused kitchen knife ! No, she's special and I struggle to treat her fairly, have slipped over the boundaries every now and again … but after nine years, she understands me. I do try to speak to her of my emotions but she has no idea whether I love her or not in any way other than friendship. Fact of the matter is, I do!

I read in another blog that Leonard Cohen, the poet/singer from the sixties, reckons that we can reach a state of grace whereby we become Love and once becoming love don't need to seek it out anymore …. Nice idea in theory but how practical to implement … maybe I've had moments of that during spiritual highs but I reckon it would be pretty difficult to sustain that ongoingly …

Friday, September 24, 2004

Hello, this is my introductory post and it's a little awkward for me because I'm not quite sure yet what I hope to achieve from this blog. Also, I have some kind of floating anxiety that, somewhere down the road, it might lead me into trouble of some kind but I'm going to go with anyway. My intentions are good!

I've titled this blog 'Confessions of An Ageing Priest' because, well, I am an ageing priest [63 and in denial … my sweet little heart thinks it's no older than 42!] and I do have much to confess [and will do so over time as this blog develops]. Why I'm choosing to confess it here, in this virtual space, to anybody who wants to listen….well, I want to present myself in all my humanity and perhaps give some insight into the interior journey of a priest's life. So much lies behind the collar, so much humanity, that is kept secret and buried for the sake of maintaining the ideal of 'priesthood'. I have fallen in love, twice! I have struggled to remain celibate during some intense moments. I've had drinking problems. I've been raped. I've masturbated. I have been loved by a woman 25 years younger than me and this is ongoing. But I have also reached out to many many people, have seen and helped individuals through enormous crises, have felt uplifted by my faith, have cried at hundreds of funerals, have married dozens of couples, have baptised many babies, have remained celibate. At best I hope to present the man in the priest that is me and hope that you won't reject me for this… maybe this is part of my fear. But maybe too there are others like me, each with their own variation of struggles and their won secret dreams to wander through at night.

Another thing I hope to achieve with this blog…. I've lived for 63 years, 57 of those in one form of institution or another. I haven't ever had a physical space of my own and have found myself over these past few years, dreaming a dream that all Irish people over the age of 55 seem to have … of a cottage near sea and woodland, with an open fire and a small light room to paint in ... Right now I live in box, with a lifetime of gathered possessions surrounding me … simple things like books and photos and small gifts that I've received. I lie in my bed at night and I see everything that I own within 6 feet of me, and my black box beneath my bed with everything that is most private stored in it. I worry about this box and what will become of it when I'm gone.

I paint in this small room in the evenings, while others sleep around me. And I suppose I am guilty of wanting something a little more for myself. I have some notion that this blog will help me achieve this over the next two years, in time for my 65 th birthday and the state pension! … I believe in the goodness of people and my own faith in them and if I can achieve enough donations through this weblog over the next few years, I will buy a cottage somewhere in Ireland and establish a trust for it. It will be my borrowed home, a taste of a life I haven't yet known!. I also have a notion that the home will have a book with it … containing a message from all those who have made a donation and made it possible … perhaps I'm being too idealistic and naïve here .. perhaps nobody will donate … the ideas is still young. Maybe there will be advice from some folks reading this on the legalities and so on or additional ideas … we'll see how it goes! I do like the idea of the book, though! I can see myself glancing through it on a winters evening.

Anyhow, enough for now. I'm sure some people will be angry with me or will have issues about what I write. Or will consider me selfish. I can only say my intentions are good and my motives sincere. I hope there are some too who will see this. Looking forward to sharing with you all!

Until next time ….