COLUMN: A reluctant celibate

THE start of my journey to become a priest was very shaky. I fell in love twice in my first three months.

The first time was the week before I entered the Seminary. I had received an itemised list that was considered essential for a young man starting off on the road to priesthood. Most items could be purchased locally in my hometown.

The clerical suite and soutane I could not purchase locally so I had a good excuse to visit my sister who was a student nurse in Dublin. I could try on the clerical attire and have a few days of freedom before commencing my studies.


I arrived at my sister’s flat in Stillorgan to discover that her flatmate’s younger sister Bernadette was also visiting for a few days. There was an instant chemical reaction.

It was arranged that Bernie would go shopping with me. The next few days were magical, filled with fun and laughter, fuelled by the electricity that was in the air, but never acknowledged. Stern-looking clerical outfitters who were used to more solemn fittings appeared bemused by the lack of reverence this young couple paid to their clerical attire.

There were trips to the theatre, parties at night, and intimate conversations that were in total denial of the fact that two weeks later I was starting on a celibate journey. We parted with sadness and promises to keep in contact.

The first letter I received in the seminary was from Bernie. In the written word she disclosed her unspoken feelings for me and unleashed a tidal wave of desire. Distraught I sought advice from a Spiritual Director. He directed me to end this straight away. He told me to write and tell the girl it was over and that I wanted no further contact. I did as requested and executed those human desires for love and intimacy that the church in her wisdom denies its priests. I never heard from her again.

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