Story: I Fell In Love With A Priest, At 14, I met the man who would become my husband. He was a priest. At the time, he was the chaplain of the Savoyard rest home where I regained strength. My mother had sent me there for a few months so that I could restore my health, and for good reason. Like many children in the war, I suffered from anemia.
A woman prays inside the Chiesa del Sacro Cuore del Suffragio, or Church of the Sacred Heart of Suffrage, which houses the Museo dell Anime del Purgatorio, in Rome, July 4, 2013. Three little-visited but fascinating museums in Rome offer an alternative to the must-see spots for visitors who find themselves wondering if the lines at Disney World might have been shorter. (Nadia Shira Cohen/The New York Times) — PHOTO MOVED IN ADVANCE AND NOT FOR USE – ONLINE OR IN PRINT – BEFORE SEPT. 8, 2013.[/caption]
I was the oldest in the establishment. Not attending other children, I felt a little lonely. The chaplain, his name was Philippe, was often in their company. It was not necessarily his role to spend so much time with them, but he seemed to love them a lot and he told them stories. I still remember one of his stories about the Amerindians, the ones he saw in Quebec when he visited his family there. Indian stories in the 50s, it was really not common! We were all hanging on his lips.
My stay went on without anything special happening between Philippe and me. I liked him. His manners, his attitude, his warm side I liked, but I appreciated just as much the other monitors. I met him a second time while I was in the area. But again, nothing special. We talked together, that’s all.
A few years later, I came back to the orders.As a teenager, you often look for meaning in your life, an anchor. I had discovered the Christian faith and then I had come closer and closer to the Catholic religion. At that time, I was bathed in a Marxist environment: my mother was a convinced Communist, my favorite teachers were Marxists, and my family lived in a popular milieu in Paris. I was also a great idealist, a contemplative. I guess it’s a mix of all these things that made me a funny bird: a Marxist Catholic! And it is also this mixture of beliefs that has drawn me to the Christian missionary movement of the worker-priests. In this particular movement, priests worked with the poor. This philosophy suited me perfectly.
At 18, I entered a group that was the female counterpart of worker-priests, that of working-class nuns. Against the will of my mother. And I followed the classic path of a nun. I was postulant, novice, then mistress of novices. I also pronounced my vows of chastity and poverty. We dressed as lay people and, like them, we worked every day, in addition to leading our religious life. I spent many years in the factory and did many jobs on the line. I mounted car batteries, sunk lead, picked up pebbles on Dieppe beach.
During all this time, I corresponded with Philippe. He was my director of conscience. I told him everything, open heart. Of my spiritual life, of course, but also of my daily life, of my questions; I even remember entrusting her with my first girl emotions! For his part, he answered me just as regularly, with his common sense and pragmatism. In my eyes, he was a confidant, a good friend in whom I had total confidence. That’s all.
That said, there must have been something more … that others perceived. For example, the sisters I worked with one day forbade me to write to him. And when I announced our marriage to my mother, she told me she had sensed that our relationship was not only friendly.
I spent seven years in this community, which I finally left with a few other colleagues. It seemed to me that I had gone around the question. The daily brainwashing we were undergoing and the ambient paranoia weighed on me as much as the importance given to virginity. It is this obsession with virginity that broke the camel’s back. I picked up the few belongings I had and slammed the door. Anyway, I felt that I would never be a worker like the others. So, so much to live differently.
I settled with two other girls from the community in a tiny apartment and I continued the higher education I started when I was a nun. Were we to change religious community or break definitively with this environment? And if we broke, what did we intend to do? That’s what we thought about.
It was at this moment that I more assiduously took up my correspondence with Philippe and began to attach myself to him.In fact, things quickly took a different turn. A few months after leaving the religious community, I realized that this kind of life no longer suited me, which was not the case with my roommates. So I restarted, this time alone, in a maid’s room, on the seventh floor of a Parisian building. I remember very well the telephone booth at the bottom of this building. That’s where I called Philippe.
We wrote to each other more and more often, we talked to each other over the phone and, after a few months, I realized how much he meant to me. We saw each other again, and I confessed my passion. Curiously, there was no resistance from him. I imagine that the fact that his best friend, also a priest, left the orders to get married, weighed in the balance. This friend, Denis, was much more complete and idealistic than Philippe. That he abandoned the priesthood must have really destabilized Philip.
We were married civilly in December 1965. I was 26, he was 14 more. Up to this day, we had only seen each other four or five times, but this union was self-evident. We were made for each other. We knew each other very well and when we moved in together, the cohabitation went very naturally.
As Philippe did not really want to stay in France and he had family in Quebec, we came to settle here immediately after our wedding. Over the next few years, we alternated work and studies in turn. Philippe was a teacher and he had a huge success as a teacher. It must be said that he was an excellent pedagogue and that he had a seductive personality. He had countless friends, and our house was permanently black.
A few months after our arrival, we received the famous letter taking him back from his vow of celibacy. We were then able to get married in church, even though I had not been relieved of anything. The church, Philip was holding. It was his community, even though he was angry at her for not allowing him to continue because of his marriage. His friend Denis had become a pastor. He had converted to continue to practice what he was trained for and what he believed in.
Our married life has been an immense happiness … of short duration.Seven years later, Philippe slipped on a plate of ice. We had to operate it. I can still see him during his convalescence break the ice to prevent the babysitter – we had three children – does not fall. Then it was dazzling. Tearing, internal hemorrhage, embolism: in two days he was gone. The doctor was not sure how to tell me the news, especially since I was five months pregnant. The day of his burial, the sun shone on a field of snow dazzling with light. I was in front, alone, with my big belly. Behind me, there was a bus packed with students coming to greet him.
Today, it’s been more than 30 years since Philippe died. But he’s still here, by my side. I never accepted his death. It’s called mourning, it seems. I must have thought that I did not do it. Already, when I was very young, I wondered what he would think or what he would do in this or that situation. I never stopped asking myself these questions, even when I had other companions in my life. Because it was him, the man of my life. I always acted according to his values, trying to be worthy of him. I can not do otherwise.