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Father John: Chapter 15 - Trouble in the Rectory
Dorothy sat in the back of the church by herself for the eight AM Saturday Mass. Her parochial schooling at St. Andrews had made attending daily Mass a ritual for Dorothy, and if attending Mass on Saturday got you any additional points with God, Dorothy was going to get them. Her mother had successfully passed her devotion to the church on to Dorothy, and the daily routine of attending the eight o’clock Mass was so ingrained, that Dorothy could not imagine, not going. Her Catholicism defined her as a person, and at the tender age of fifteen, her love for Christ and his church had no real competition in her life. Her friends were interested in boys, and it seemed that was all they wanted to talk about. But the church gave her life meaning. It satisfied a hunger to belong to something bigger than her. It gave her life purpose, “to love Christ with all her heart”.
The Saturday 8 AM Mass was not well attended. Sunday is the day of worship for the vast majority of Catholics, and if any did attend Mass on Saturday, it was done on Saturday evening in lieu of the Sunday attendance. Like most Saturday mornings on this particular day, the church was largely empty, and those who did attend, sat near the front of the church in the first five rows of pews.
Despite Dorothy’s devotion, she was always late for the service, and always arrived just before the sermon began. It was for this reason that she sat in the back of the church, in the 35th pew, and always on the East side. She liked the East side because the early morning sun shone beautifully through the stained glass windows and cast a wonderful menagerie of colors on the floor and pews of the old St. Andrew’s church. As a little girl, she imagined those colored lights were God’s way of telling her that this was where she belonged.
The Saturday Mass was also not popular with the priests at St Andrews. They coveted their time off from their mandatory duties and looked forward to keeping Saturdays open if they could. They frequently used a relaxing Saturday to prepare for their Sunday sermons. At the Monsignor’s instruction, the priests rotated the saying of the Saturday Mass, and when they could, they took the opportunity to sleep in one day out of the week.
Because she sat by herself in the back, Dorothy’s late arrival was noticed by all of St Andrews priests, and it had become something of a subtle joke between them. Father Bill once remarked at dinner that he could set his watch by Dorothy’s late arrival. The remark brought smiles to the faces of all the priests. Father John agreed, and said he could always tell if his tempo in the Mass was too fast or slow, by when Dorothy arrived.
Dorothy knew all the priests at St Andrews and liked them all, but Father John was her favorite. He had been a priest at St. Andrews since she was a little girl. She had known him all her life, and for her, Father John was synonymous with St Andrews. She watched him mature from a man in his early thirties, to a handsome priest approaching forty two. He had a touch of grey at his temples that Dorothy thought made him look distinguished. The fact that Father John talked frequently in his sermons about his missionary work in South America only intensified her belief that he was wise and worldly…. something that at age fifteen, she could only imagine and dream about.
As he did with so many children at St Andrews, Father John had baptized Dorothy and saw her grow at St Andrews over the years More than once; Father John had noticed Dorothy noticing him. She never took her eyes off of him whenever he entered a room, and she hung on his every word during his sermons and his weekly visits to her classroom for Catechism instruction.
Father John made a conscious effort not to encourage Dorothy or any of the other young girls who secretly cherished him. Still, it was difficult for him not to notice her. She was physically advanced for her age and had blossomed into a beautiful young woman. She had caught his eye more than once. Though Father John had heard Dorothy’s intimate confessions of her love for Christ just a week ago, he could not imagine how far her love for him would be expressed on this particular Saturday morning. She was obsessed with him. After hearing the stories of his miracles, he was for her, the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
Dorothy exited the church with the other parishioners as usual when the Mass ended. It was a beautiful Spring day. The sky was blue and the sun had raised just enough to peak over the top of the old St Andrew’s church. Father John had said the Mass and had left from the back of church to make his short walk to the Rectory as he had done a thousand times before. He did not notice that Dorothy watched him with great interest from the sidewalk near the corner of the church, as he entered the side door of St Andrew’s Rectory.
Once Father John had entered the rectory, Dorothy raced around to the front of the building and stood on the sidewalk, twenty feet in front of the large picture window, just five feet to the left of the rectory’s main entrance. She lifted a cardboard sign that she had made the night before had hidden in the women’s rest room at the front of the church before she took her seat in row thirty five. Now on the front lawn, Dorothy began calling out for Father John. The sign showed a large red heart, a crucifix, and the name of Father John beneath it.
“I love YOU Father John!”
“I want to have your baby!”
At first no one heard her passionate expressions of love. She repeated herself but shouted her testimony louder in an attempt to draw attention to herself.
“I love YOU Father John!”
“I want to have your baby!” Dorothy began to cry.
Father Jim had just finished his breakfast of Cream of Wheat cereal when he heard Dorothy shouting from the front lawn. He quickly got up from the table and hurried over to the picture window in the adjacent room to see what the commotion was about. When he looked out the window, Father Jim saw Dorothy begin to disrobe on St Andrew’s front lawn. “Oh, my God!” was all that Father Jim could say.
Dorothy started to disrobe just as a garbage truck was turning the corner onto Willow Street, directly in front of the St Andrew’s Rectory. As the truck driver started his left turn, his attention was immediately drawn to the figure of a beautiful young woman stripping on the lawn of the Saint Andrews Rectory.
“What the….!” As the words left the driver’s lips he was so distracted that he failed to fully negotiate his left turn. The front right corner of his truck smashed into the rear of a car parked at the curb directly in front of the rectory sending broken glass and metal flying onto the street. The sound of the impact and breaking tail light was heard for half a block and startled everyone, particularly Dorothy, who spun around to face the street to see what had just happened.
“Mary Margaret!” Father Jim instantly saw the situation was out of hand. His eyes were glued to the unbelievable scene just outside the Rectory window. He was stunned by the accident, by the spectacle, and by the beautiful body of a naked young woman calling the name of Father John, twenty feet from the picture window.
“I’m right behind you.” Margaret had rushed to the front of the rectory from the kitchen when she heard the crash. She looked past Father Jim’s shoulder and saw the chaos unfolding as several people on the street came rushing to the accident…..to see what was going on.
“My God! That’s Dorothy Fitzpatrick!” Father Jim was amazed at what a beautiful woman she had become. Having been a strong Catholic all his life and having dedicated himself to the priesthood at age eighteen, Father Jim had never seen a completely naked woman. The church had taught him to banish such thoughts and had labeled pornography and sex outside of marriage as a sin. The site of Dorothy was nothing short of amazing. Her voluptuous body and radiant skin were flawless. Father Jim could not take his eyes off of her.
Seeing young Dorothy, now standing naked on the lawn with tears streaming down her face, Margaret reached for an afghan that lay on the couch next to her. “I’ll get a blanket around that girl!
Margaret raced out the front door and down the four porch steps as she unfolded the afghan. “Dorothy! Dorothy Fitzpatrick!”
Dorothy turned back around to see Margaret rushing toward her with the outstretched afghan. Not wanting to be caught, Dorothy tossed her sign to the ground and ran around the small crowd of people. They turned their heads as Dorothy ran by, followed immediately by Margaret.
Not knowing where to go, Dorothy ran back around the small crowd of people and fled up the porch stairs and into Saint Andrews’ Rectory in search of Father John. Not as fast as a fifteen year old, Mary Margaret was now ten to twelve feet behind her. Once inside, and not wanting to be caught, Dorothy slammed the front door of the rectory closed and locked it behind her. Caught on the rectory front porch and unable to gain entry, Margaret started back down the steps to run to the side door.
“Father John! ….. Father John!” As she fled down the main hall in an unknown building, Dorothy was crying once again.
As she turned the corner toward the rectory kitchen, the Monsignor Eckhart opened the door to his suite and came face to face with Dorothy. Both came to a complete stop and stared with unbelievably large eyes at the other. The Monsignor was himself a virgin and tried all his life not to think bad thoughts of naked women. Like Father Jim, he was taught and had always believed, that lust for women was a sin in the eyes of God. Dorothy knew the power and authority of the man standing before her. Neither spoke a word. Both paused in shock, if for only a moment, while each tried to make sense of their encounter.
Dorothy turned and ran down an adjacent hall as Margaret now rounded the corner past Monsignor Eckhart, who was standing stunned and speechless by the presence of a beautiful fifteen year old girl, running naked through his rectory.
“Father John! ….. Father John!”
Dorothy’s cries could now be heard throughout the building and the other priests came out of their rooms and started down the stairs to see what all the commotion was about. Father John stepped out of the rectory library only to find himself enveloped in Dorothy’s naked loving arms. “Oh Father John! Father John… I love you, Father John!” Tears of desperation flowed down Dorothy’s cheeks.
Father John, not knowing what to do, wrapped his arms about Dorothy. “It’s OK Dorothy. Shhh…. Stop crying now. It’s OK.” He pulled Dorothy’s head to his chest. “We can talk about this…. later.”
Margaret arrived just behind Dorothy who was now in a full embrace of Father John. Father John looked at Margaret over Dorothy’s head. Margaret returned his gaze and shook her head in disbelief and disapproval. Margaret raised the afghan to wrap around Dorothy. Father John nodded briefly to Margaret, but spoke again to Dorothy.
“Dorothy, I want you to go now with Margaret, and get dressed. OK? We can talk about this after you get dressed. OK?
Dorothy looked up at Father John with tears in her eyes. “OK.” She turned around and allowed Margaret to wrap her with the afghan and lead her back down the hall towards her small room on the first floor. Margaret didn’t live full time with the priests, but needed a room in which she could stay overnight when situations or the weather demanded it.
“You can get dressed in my room.” Margaret understood the overwhelming affection that a young girl can have for her priest. She had several of those feelings herself when she was a teen. It was what led her to devote her whole life in service of the priests of Saint Andrews.
Father John recalled the troubled confession he had heard four days ago from a confused young woman. He now knew it was Dorothy and now understood her cries for help. He knew it would be hard, but he knew he had to help her understand that she needed to meet someone her own age who could love and appreciate her for herself. He knew this episode would turn into a scandal for Dorothy, and he would have to prepare her for it. He also made a mental note to have a private conversation with Dorothy’s mother to get Dorothy the help, love and understanding Dorothy so desperately needed. The road ahead would be a tough one, but at least the problem had surfaced, and Father John now understood it.
As Dorothy and Margaret walked back down the hall, Father John met the eyes of the Monsignor. The Monsignor drew a deep sigh and slowly shook his head as he looked at Father John. Not a word needed to be said between them. Father John turned around and re-entered the library.
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