Father Morelli was in the loft reading the apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians. It was in preparation for his sermon on Sunday. He was going to address the question, Does one have to be circumcised in order to be a full Christian? Although circumcision wasn’t practiced among Italy’s Roman Catholic majority, he himself was circumcised when he five because in some Italian hospitals, doctors refused to perform circumcisions until the boys were 4 or older.
He would never forget the infant who died after his parents circumcised him at home because they couldn’t afford the high hospital costs for the procedure. When his mother heard the story on the News, she said, “That could have been you if your uncle Sal hadn’t talked your father out of doing it himself. He waited until you were older to have the procedure done by a doctor.”
“Why did you and he have me circumcised?”
“For your father it was for a matter of his family tradition and for me, it was for personal hygiene. I wasn’t there when it was done because I couldn’t bear to watch but your father was there.”
“I don’t remember being circumcised.”
He later learned that the Catholic Church had remained neutral about biblical male circumcision, neither requiring it, nor forbidding it. It didn’t prohibit circumcision providing it is not performed as a condition of becoming a Catholic or to be saved. He thought of using that fact in his sermon to illustrate that according to Paul, a person didn’t have to be physically circumcised in order to be a full Christian. Circumcision didn’t profit anyone. A person could be circumcised but eternally lost. The key verse in Galatians 5 was, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.” Yes, he would work his sermon around that verse.
Smiling, he closed the Bible and made his way down the stairs. He went into the sanctuary and was about to go into one of the pews to pray when he saw the door open and a young woman walked in. She walked towards him and as she drew closer, he recognized her. It was Carla. This was the first time he had seen her since the day he went to her place to let her know that he had joined the priesthood.
She came close to him and then stopped. “Hello, Father Morelli.”
“Hello, Carla. How are you?”
“I’m fine, thank you.”
“And your parents?”
“They’re doing well too. You’re looking well.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever get used to seeing you dressed as priest and calling you Father.”
“A few of my friends and family still haven’t gotten used to it.”
“I came to say goodbye. I’m moving to Milan.”
“Yes. I got a job as Junior Designer for Giovane e Alla Moda.”
“Thank you. I’m sorry that I waited until now to come and see you.”
“I understand why you haven’t. It was a great shock for you when I showed up wearing this.”
“Even though we hadn’t been seeing much of each other, I continued to hope that you would ask me to marry you one day.”
“Carla, I’m sorry that things didn’t turn out the way you hoped. I didn’t mean to string you along or to hurt you. It was while I was dating you that I felt the calling to the priesthood very strongly and that’s why I wasn’t seeing much of you after a while.”
“I guess I should be grateful that the church is the reason why we broke up and not another woman.”
“By the way, my mother and I had lunch at your family’s restaurant yesterday. I took the opportunity to say goodbye to your parents.”
“I’m sure they were happy to see you.”
“Yes, they were. Your cousin Fabrizio was there too.”
“Was he alone?”
“No. He was with someone and he introduced her to my mother and me. I think her name was Genet or something like that.”
Father Morelli’s grip tightened on his Bible but his expression was impassive. “So, when do you leave for Milan?”
“On Sunday afternoon. My family is throwing a farewell party for me Saturday evening. I’d like you to come if you can.”
“Thanks for inviting me. I would be delighted to come.”
She smiled. “Good. Well, I have to go. I’ll see you on Saturday.”
“Yes. Ciao, Carla.”
“Ciao, Father Morelli.” After blessing herself, she turned and walked out of the sanctuary.
Father Morelli stood there, facing the door which she had just walked through but his mind was elsewhere. When she mentioned seeing Fabrizio and Genet together at his parents’ restaurant, a very strong emotion had overcome him. Jealousy.