O wicked presumption, whence camest thou, to cover the earth with thy malice and deceitfulness? There is a companion who rejoices with his friends in his joys; but in time of trouble, he will be against him.
This is a series of tales about the relationships between women and priests; ordinary women, ordinary priests.
There was the woman who spent every moment she could down at the presbytery. Each day she would work with the housekeeper. Her husband’s dinner would be left for him in the evenings. Her children hardly saw her. Her son was drifting into drug addiction, her daughter was drifting into unsuitable relationships. Words were had between loving husband and wife but nobody could convince the woman that working for the priests was NOT her primary role.
There is the priest who marvels at the efficiency of his female secretary. He can’t believe anyone could be so organised. When he moves parishes, he wants her to continue to work for him, but she can’t. When the job of being parish secretary is advertised, he is determined the job will go to a woman. “Men can’t possibly be any good at this type of thing”, he says.
There was the woman who, when the priest came to visit was so in awe of him that she wouldn’t go to the toilet during his visit. Being of a certain age, she had a weak bladder and caused herself no amount of discomfort, he was a regular visitor and liked to stay for a lengthy cup of tea.
There is the woman who is so protective of “her priest” that nobody can get near the newsletter, the various parish groups, or the priest himself without her knowing about it. People talk, you know.
When the time came for the soul to depart the body, one poor woman was at the centre of a tremendous, unseen battle for her soul. Having spent her life in admiration of priests, having served them dutifully, having spend what little she had providing them with little luxuries, she thought they might like, when, in those last days priests came to provide her with the Sacrament of the Sick, she would send them away with venom and fear in her eyes, unrepentant.
Maybe my quote from Ecclesiasticus is harsh. But the relationship between priest and female parishoner is fraught with presumptions and misconceptions. Indeed, if a woman and a priest really did get to understand each other, they probably would fall in love. And even if that love were truly chaste and noble, people would talk wouldn’t they.
As a married woman, I will not get involved with parish stuff unless my husband is involved too. I think that priests should have male secretaries. As much as I would dearly love the intellectual banter and good humour my husband enjoys when talking with priests, I retreat into the wallpaper. Priests are for the sacraments and I am united to them in love through prayer and silent sacrifice.