Dare to Tell – Day 7 –
I walked alone along a beach north of Dublin, experiencing feelings of emptiness and disorientation. I imagined it must be similar in intensity to the emotional turmoil which divorcing couples must deal with on the day when the court decides that they are no longer legally married.
It was a day in June 1971, I had returned to St. Mary’s Marino, the Mother House of the Christian Brothers, and signed the document of dispensation.
It was hard to believe, just like that, I was no longer a priest.
The monastery had been my life since I had finished Grammar School and as a result, like any other priest, brother or nun who ‘returns to the world’, I was ill-prepared for the demands of autonomy.
By virtue of the vow of poverty, as monks we did not have money at our disposal. But neither did we have to concern ourselves about the price of food, clothing and lodging.
The vow of obedience removed the burden of making plans about our future as our Superiors made the decisions for us.
Our vow of chastity created a safety zone when interaction with the fairer sex was unavoidable.
Here I was, 33 years of age, with no life experience, no self-direction and no money to set off on a course for a future for which there was absolutely no design.
Back in Ireland there is an expression, ‘you can take a man out of the bog but you cannot take the bog out of the man.’
About ten years after severing my connection with the monastery, I was driving with a co-worker from the High School where I taught. She almost apologetically asked the question which had been on her mind for a long time. She wanted to know about my past, where I had been and what I had done. She was not at all surprised when I let her into the ‘secret’.
When I asked her what signs had given rise to her suspicions that I was once a priest, she said she just always felt that I was different.