This probably happens to most Catholic girls at least once in their life. I just held off for many, many years, waiting for the right one. I am in love with a priest. Not just any priest, of course—heaven forbid (use of that specific phrase is not lost on me) it should be an ordinary priest, some average Father Joe at the local parish who leads the youth group. Nope, I’m in love with a priest who is a Trappist monk who would have had his 100th birthday this year, had he lived. He died in 1968 from an accidental electrocution. His priestly name was Father Louis, but his given name was Thomas Merton.
I readMerton’s autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, which he wrote when he was in his early 30s. It is the account of his boyhood in France, his education in England and the United States, his eventual conversion to Roman Catholicism, and his growing longing to become a priest and live a monastic life.
I loved him as a boy who didn’t feel that he fit in with other French students, who mourned the death of his mother, and missed his artist father who was frequently away. I loved his intellectual brashness when he was a young man studying at Cambridge and Columbia. He smoked cigarettes, drank too much alcohol, haunted bookstores, and had long existential conversations with his friends. For a while he thought he was a communist. Over time he became more entranced with the mystical elements of faith, which led him to a deep exploration of the ancient Christian writers. Although I find his deep intellectual discussion of Catholicism a bit tedious, nonetheless I appreciate his dedication. In the end, his connection with God seems to be much more mystical than intellectual, and I love that aspect of him as well.
We would have had such interesting conversations. We could have dug in the garden and talked about how serenity brings us closer to God. We could have walked down the country lanes, saying nothing, just smiling knowing we were together in God’s presence. We could have sat on the porch, drinking coffee while the sun rose over the mountain.