The Camillians were a religious order that was dedicated to helping the sick and the dying. A friend of mine thought that I should contact them as it would be an order that suited me. He thought that the compassion I had would be good for people that needed someone by their side. I was afraid of joining another order, as the failure and rejection in the White Fathers hurt so much. I was not bitter with the White Fathers. I blamed myself. I have done some things that I should not have done. In a way, I was not mature enough. I was still a teenager in spirit. The big question is if I was now ready to try a new religious order.
I met with the Camillians and it was agreed that I would be a volunteer at one of their old people's homes in Westmeath in Ireland. I would be a volunteer for half a year until new priest students were accepted. This would give me time to see if I liked their work and prepare myself spiritually. I thought this was a good idea. It meant that I would not be doing as I have done until now by jumping into a religious order. I also decided that this time I would play my cards right. I would not be a rebel or let others persuade me to do crazy things. I would try to be humble and work on a closer relationship with God. In other words, I would be myself. I would not try and please anyone or pretend I was something I was not.
I loved working at the old people's home. I was only supposed to work for 6 hours a day, but I spent most of my time there. I quickly became a favourite of the old people that lived there. I think this was because I was a volunteer and I was there so much. This gave me a lot of time to sit with the old people and speak with them. I loved hearing about their past and what they have done with their life. We would speak about their lives and families and at times they would ask me to pray with them. At times I would help them with practical things. I did not consider this as work. It was something that made me so happy that I was sure that it was something that I could do for the rest of my life.
There was one woman there called Maggie. She had her legs amputated and was confined to bed all the time. She was always laying on her side, so I often had to help her move from one side of the bed to the other side of the bed so she would not get bed sores. It ended up that she only wanted me to help her. She said that I was the only one that did not rush and showed her respect. For some reason, I spent a lot of time with Maggie. She reminded me of my grandmother. She was blunt and said what she was thinking. She was not diplomatic either. She didn’t care if people did not like her views. She was generally a happy woman. This impressed me. Maggie had a tough life which included losing her legs at a young age. She was a huge influence in my life.
Not everything was easy though. There was an old woman that was very senile. She thought that I was her son. The staff asked me to play along with this and pretend that I was her son. This was because her family never came. When she thought that I was her son, she was happy. This was hard to do. I always felt as if it was a lie and I was deceiving her. It did not last long though. As she died. This was the first time that I have seen someone prepare a dead person for the coffin. This gave me nightmares and It reminded me of when my grandmother died. I would have images of my grandmother's sewn lips in my head.
I ate with the other priests. I could see that they were a strong community that was like a big family. This impressed me. The problem was that I never knew what to say. This was because I did not want to say anything wrong. I did not want them to have the same opinion of me that the White Fathers had. My self-esteem was not too high. I wanted to show them that I was a good Catholic and I was a hard worker. I just thought that they were much better than me. They were holier and wiser. This made me very silent when we were eating.
There were student priests. They seemed different to the priests there. It was like as if they thought they were living saints. They would walk around with their heads high in the air, sorta like telling the world how important they were. When I tried speaking to them, they would speak down to me as if I was some child or ignorant person. I also noticed they had the same attitude when they were with the old people. They would speak down to them and nearly command the old people on what to do. This was when they bothered to work with the old people. It was not often that I have seen them. I just figured that they were busy studying or something like that.
One of the priest students was an old man. He used to be married and since his wife died, he got permission to study to be a priest. He was a huge influence on me. He was so humble and gentle. I considered him to be a gentleman. He did not say much but when he did he spoke in a quiet and calm voice. I could see that he had a huge heart when he worked with the old people. I could also see how dedicated he was as a Catholic. It was obvious that his faith was very important to him. At the same time, he did not flaunt his faith. In many ways, this old man was like Saint Francis of Assisi. I wanted to be friends with him. It seemed as if he had no time or wish to be friends with me.
There was a mass every day as the old people's home had its chapel. I went to mass every day. This was a special time of the day and listening to the Gospel as well as praying helped me through the day. It was as if I was letting God into my life and allowing him to use me as his instrument when I was with the old people. The chapel was a safe place I could go to when things were hard and when I needed time to think. I never boasted about going to the chapel. I thought it was something between God and me.
There was a voluntary girl my age that worked in the kitchen. We started to speak a lot with each other. I was not attracted to her or anything like that. I considered her a good friend. She was my age and she was nice to talk to. We would meet every day and sit in the garden and speak with each other. She admitted once that she fancied me but could understand that I wanted to be a priest. She would respect that. In a way, I felt good that a girl liked me. It also reminded me of what happened at the White Fathers. I was afraid that the priests there would suspect we had a secret relationship. If they did they never said anything
Maggie told me that she wanted to have a serious talk with me. She was afraid she would hurt my feelings but had to say what was on her mind. She wanted to tell me that she thought I was too good for the priesthood. I should find myself a girl, get married, study to be a nurse or something and dedicate my life this way to helping people in some way. I did not take what she said so seriously, as I knew she was very critical of the Catholic clergy. She thought they were idiots that thought they were so important. I must correct myself… I did take this somewhat serious as it reminded me that my grandmother once said something similar years before
In a way I could understand Maggie, the priests sometimes shocked me. There was a woman that was dying and we all knew she had a few days left. I sat beside her bedside and talked to her and prayed. She did not speak back. She was drifting in and out of sleep. Her breathing was becoming heavier and stranger as each hour went by. The other priests told me that I should leave her be and get some rest. I refused. I felt that she should not die alone. She had no family and I took it upon myself to keep her company. When she did die, the priests were mad at me. They asked if I wanted to be a priest, that I should remember obedience. I was told to leave the dying woman alone and I went against my superior's demands.
This made me think that my reputation as a rebel could be once again relevant. It made me think if they spoke with the White Fathers. If they did, I was sure that the White Fathers had nothing good to say. It also made me think of the vow of obedience. How could I be obedient when I disagreed with someone? Why could they not see that it was not Christian and compassionate to let an old woman die alone?
I soon found out what the priests thought of me. I was called into the office and the superior said the same that I heard before. He did not think that I was ready yet for the priesthood. I did not have what it took to be a priest. He thought I was very shy and did not have good contact with the other priests. They thought that I needed to experience the outside world and get more confidence and be less shy. I broke down in tears. This was another rejection from the Catholic Church. I begged and begged him to give me a chance. There was no hope left. They did not want me, but they could possibly accept me in their order after I had been in the layman's world for 4 years.
I left the old people's home. I think the worse thing about leaving was that Maggie was so sad about it. We had a good cry as we developed a special friendship, even though we were from different generations. I was a bit disappointed that the priests and the students did not say goodbye. I was happy though that the old people and the lay staff said goodbye and thanked me for my time there.
I moved to England and got a job working with handicapped people. I loved this job! I worked hard and was liked by the staff and the residents. I was still disappointed that a religious order once again rejected me. I thought that I would live like any other person my age. I would work and help people while working on improving myself. I would do what the priest wanted. I would do this for four years and then join the Camillians.
I was sometimes told that I only wanted to join the priesthood as it would be a secure life where I did not have to worry about things such as work or money. My time with the handicapped proved this wrong. I was respected and liked at my work and my boss even talked about a possible promotion. I lived in a small room and I was good at keeping track of my finances. This was proof to me that what some people thought was wrong. I did not need the priesthood to be happy. This did not mean that I was drawn to the priesthood. It was still my dream.
I met a girl from Denmark. After 6 months of knowing each other, we fell in love. This was not just a woman that I fancied. It was true love. This gave me a choice. Should I respect this love and have a future with her or should I sacrifice it for the priesthood? When I spoke with my mother, she suggested that I remembered the priesthood and my dreams. I honestly do not know if love blinded me. I decided to continue the relationship with this woman and we ended up getting married. A major reason that I chose to get married over the priesthood was a simple fact that she did not reject me. I was rejected so many times by religious orders that I did not want to be rejected once again. I figured if the Church did not want me, that it was their loss. I decided to continue my life with someone that loved me, accepted me and wanted me.
Decades later, I joined a virtual game called Second Life. I now roleplay as a priest on this platform that has daily prayers at a small Church. Second Life is a roleplay for many and I do roleplay as a priest. This being said, the prayers are real and the community of people that come to the prayers are genuine. In a way, my dream has come true.
Writing this story has made me think about being called to God. The big question was if God was calling me to the priesthood. Is a vocation determined by a call from God or is it our desire to serve God? Would it be best if I just joined the Franciscans, as looking back this was probably the order that suited me the best? Were the priests right by rejecting me? Was I not good enough to be a priest?
Whatever the answer to these questions is, I think that God must know that I have triedns 220.127.116.11da2