Chapter 6: An Unconventional Priest

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Father Simmons was, as the Monsignor had often enough accused him in rather derogatory tones, "an unconventional priest". The Monsignor was quite certain, though of course, much too gracious and charitable to tell his unfortunate curate, that he would never amount to much in the Church. Not like his previous curate, William, who had quickly risen through the ranks to become assistant to the bishop himself at Westminster Cathedral in London. But then William was bright. He was organised, efficient, punctual, the parish finances had never been in better shape - and a brilliant latin cantor at mass. True, William was ambitious, but then, whoever said that was a sin! Indeed, it would have been a sin to waste such God given talent. Besides, William looked after those who had looked after him - the Monsignor could always count on an invitation from Father William to the bishopric manor in London for the odd luncheon.

Although the Monsignor had never shared these thoughts, Father Sean Simmons was altogether aware of the Monsignor's low opinion of him. Though the Monsignor was an elderly man, indeed, more than forty years older than himself, the Monsignor reminded Sean of a child prizing the attention of people of rank within the Church and those of fortune outside it; happy to ride on the coat-tails of others to achieve his shallow ambitions. Still, Sean was sure that truly, his presence within the presbytery was a real burden for the Monsignor. Sean spent far too little time on the parish budget and currying favour by visiting those likely to bolster it; and far too much time on those "good-for-nothings", (as Monsignor would describe them), who were draining it. Sean felt sure that, from the Monsignor's perspective, he was an oddity.

But then his Ma had, in less fancy language, more or less said the same thing about her eighth son. Sean remembered, because it was nothing short of spectacular that his Ma, not having much time or energy to single out one of her brood for attention, had bothered to speak to him at all. She had spoken - not to tell him to take care of his younger sister, or to wash his face for mass, or chop the firewood for the stove - but to actually regard him with a strange disassociation, as if he stupefied her and she'd never laid eyes on him before: "Sean Simmons, you are a peculiar boy". So spectacular was her utterance, that for years afterwards, he had had to endure the taunts of his brothers, "You're weird! You know that. Even our Ma has said it!" And he had responded:

"She didn't say I was weird ya ijits! She said I was peculiar is all."

"Same thing ya daft fool!" they had chorused.

But peculiar wasn't the same thing as weird. All the same, Sean wished his mother had kept her thoughts to herself. But there it was. His whole life had proved her right. He didn't seem to fit in anywhere: not in his large, boisterous family or with the other boys at school. But neither had he tried to fit in. He accepted he was different, even though it caused him embarrassing isolation and enforced solitude. It was the solitude that had given rise to his contemplativeness. Quite simply, in his solitude, he encountered God. He felt God's breath in the coolness of the breeze on his face; he saw God's grandeur in the magnificence of the sky at dawn and again at dusk; he marvelled at God's creative brilliance in the diversity of the plant and animal life in County Cork, Ireland. In becoming a priest, Sean had never been more sure that he was answering a call from God and yet, why did he still feel a misfit in the company of his brother priests?

Charlotte TrueWhere stories live. Discover now