Probably seems like an odd title for a Christmas post. Except this is a different Christmas, at least for me. This Christmas is the last I will spend with one of my dearest friends. Today he oversaw what will likely be his last mass as a priest. As of midnight tonight, he is technically on sabbatical.
A sabbatical from which he will likely not return. He’s lost his faith or at least his faith in the church. Driven away by politics which have less to do with faith and more to do with petty people trying to protect their fiefdoms. I know some of the people who have driven him away, would have gone so far as to call a few of them friends. Knowing all of the details, I now struggle with calling them friends. I know I will find it hard to be polite to them, to socialize with them.
Tonight as we finally chased the last of the guests from the house we talked about it over a delicious bottle of wine. He is at peace with it all, happy to start the next phase of his life. I am less peaceful about it. I am resentful, angry, annoyed, pissed, lost.
I should back up a bit and tell you about Patrick. I’ve known him for 24 years. This is the third time he’s been my priest in those years. We became fast friends the first moment we met. My charming, tall, dark, blue-eyed Irishman with the musical accent which has never softened. I have often wondered if in another time and place we might have been destined to be together. However, this isn’t one of those stories. We’ve never been anything but friends, now more brother and sister.
It’s been lovely having him here the past 7 years. It seems he’s been here for all of the milestones in my life. He’s heard my confessions, talked me through my own crises of faith, prayed with me and for me when I’ve needed it most. Laughed with and at me as only someone who truly knows you can. I like to to believe I have done much the same for him. That this hasn’t been a one-sided relationship, that I have given as much as I have gotten. He sustains me in a way others don’t. I will miss that most of all.
Wednesday I said my last confession to him. Today I attended his last mass. He will spend the night here tonight and late tomorrow afternoon I will take him to the airport. You see, not only is he leaving the church, he’s going home to Ireland, 4,463 miles (give or take) away.
I’ve known for awhile. I haven’t dealt with it yet. I will wait until he’s safely on the plane and then I will start dealing (read crying). Come Sunday when I head to church will be the first hurdle. How will I handle not seeing him? I don’t know. I guess I’ll find out Sunday.
Ireland isn’t so far away and I will see him this summer. The miracle of modern technology means he is never more than a skype call away (time zones be damned). It’s not the same but real friendship doesn’t require proximity. When it’s real it will evolve, deepen despite geography. I look forward to our next chapter, to sustaining the relationship which has come to mean so very much to me. I have faith.