It was Christmas Day and Father Morelli was giving the Mass. His sermon was on The Mystery and Goodness of God and the scripture verse he used was Genesis 3:15. “God fulfilled this promise and that is why we celebrate Him as God. It was His desire for us to become a part of His family and this is only possible through His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Salvation comes through Jesus Christ and this why we celebrate His birth at Christmas.”
The sanctuary was completely full. It usually was at Christmas and Easter. Father Morelli’s parents were there with his cousin Fabrizio, his parents and younger siblings. Mrs. Morelli had called Father Morelli two nights ago and told him they were all going to be there. Usually, they went to their respective churches for the Christmas service but this year they decided that they would come when they heard that he was going to give the sermon.
His family arrived early so that they could hug and talk to him. He was relieved to see his mother wearing a chapel veil. It covered her dyed hair which looked neater than usual. She hugged him tightly and then, pulled his head down so that she could kiss him on the forehead. She was wearing a navy blue dress with elbow length sleeves.
His father was wearing a nice grey suit. It looked new. The two of them shook hands. His uncle, aunt, Fabrizio and his brothers greeted him and then, it was time for them to find seats. Father Morelli was a bit nervous but he tried not to let it show. He said a quick prayer before the service began. He was glad to see his family but it made the absence of Genet even more acute. He knew that if they were still seeing each other, she would have been there, probably sitting next to Fabrizio.
Genet. He missed her like crazy. Not a day or moment or second went by when he didn’t think about her and wish that he could be with her. Did she think about him too? Did she miss him as much as he missed her? Did she lay awake in bed like him, remembering their lovemaking, yearning for him as he yearned for her?
He drew himself up sharply. In his mind, he prayed, “I rebuke distraction in the name of Jesus, clear my mind of wandering thoughts and allow me to focus on Your divine message. Amen.” He pushed all thoughts of Genet out of his mind and focused on what was happening around him. He had a sermon to preach and he couldn’t allow himself to be distracted.
Thankfully, the service went very well and afterwards, the parishioners thanked him for the message. They found it very comforting. “Thanks for reminding us of why we celebrate Christmas,” one woman said to him.
His family all complimented him on his sermon but he kept telling them that they should give the glory to God who gave him the message to share. “Thanks for coming,” he said.
“We wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” his father said. “Your grandmother would have loved to be here. God rest her soul.”
“Don’t forget that you’re coming for dinner at our house,” his aunt Emilia. “It looks like you could do with some home cooked food.”
“I agree with your aunt,” his mother said. “You’re looking a bit skinny. Haven’t you been eating well?”
Before Father Morelli could answer, his father said, “Let him be.”
His uncle Lorenzo said, “Let’s go. We’ll see you later, Bobby.”
“Don’t be late for dinner,” Mrs. Morelli said to her son. “I made your favorite dessert.”
“I won’t be late, Mama.”
“Are you coming, Fabrizio?” Aunt Emilia asked him.
“No. I want to stay and talk to Roberto.”
“All right. We’ll see you both later,” she replied.
After they left, Fabrizio said to his cousin, “That was a good message.”
“Thank you.” Father Morelli wondered what he wanted to talk to him about. He would have preferred to go and have his lunch because he was hungry.
“Were you nervous standing up there?”
“I couldn’t tell. From where I was sitting, you looked very calm.”
“I’m relieved to hear that.”
“Do you like being a priest?”
“What made you decide to become one?”
“It’s what God called me to be.”
“Are you sure about that?”
“I could never be a priest.”
“I can’t imagine you being one.”
Fabrizio smiled. “It would be tough for me to be around women, especially the very attractive ones. And I can’t see myself wearing one of those.”
“Cassocks are very comfortable. And as far as being around attractive women, one just has to exercise self-control.”
“I think it would be harder to do that with some women. Take Genet for instance, if I were a priest, it would be hard for me to be around her and not be tempted to…” His voice trailed off when he saw the expression on his cousin’s face. “What’s the matter, Roberto?”
“Genet and I had lunch on Thursday. She told me that you and she had a falling out.”
“She told you that?”
“Yes after I pressed her about it. She said that it was because of a disagreement. I can’t imagine why two people who have known each other for as long as you two have would allow one disagreement between you to wreck your friendship. It’s none of my business but I hate to see Genet hurting.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Father Morelli muttered.
“You can tell her that when you see her later.”
Father Morelli stared at him. “Later?”
“Yes. She didn’t have any plans for this evening so, I invited her to have dinner with the family.
Father Morelli’s heart was pounding. The thought of seeing Genet thrilled and terrified him at the same time. How was he going to act when he saw her? Cordial? Reserved? Nervous? Indifferent? No, that wasn’t possible. He could never be indifferent towards her. “It’s good that she won’t be spending Christmas alone.”
“I hope that you and she will patch things up between you.”
“When I see her, I will, of course, talk to her but as far as renewing our friendship, I can’t do that.”
“Why not?” Fabrizio demanded.
“I’d rather not say.”
“Aren’t priests allowed to have friends?”
“They are, yes but not many of them feel comfortable having women as friends.”
“I guess I can understand that, especially when there’s a chance that an attraction can develop between them which could affect their friendship.”
“Yes. That’s why it’s best not to tempt fate.”
“Is that why you have stopped seeing Genet, Roberto? You don’t want to tempt fate?”
Father Morelli didn’t answer.
“Even if you don’t want to admit it to me or to Genet, don’t you think that you should at least admit it to yourself?”
Father Morelli stiffened. “Admit what?”
“That you’re in love with Genet. You were probably in love with her before you became a priest.”
“I don’t think so. And, do you want to know something? Genet is in love with you too.”
“She said that?”
“She admitted it, yes but doesn’t think she stands a chance because of the Holy Mother Church.”
“I’ve given my life to the Church,” Father Morelli said quietly.
“It’s ironic, isn’t it? That she wants to be with you who are married to the church instead of me who is available.” Fabrizio shook his head. “Well, I’ve said what I had to say. I’ll see you later. Ciao.” He turned and walked away.
Father Morelli watched him go before he walked over to the first pew and he sank heavily onto its hard surface. Fabrizio was right. He was in love with Genet. He had been for a long time. Knowing that she was in love with him too offered him very little comfort. It didn’t change the fact that he was a priest. His life was here–in this parish. wasn’t it?
Sources: Simplicity Humility Trust; Religion & Politics; Wikipedia