The Vicar of St. Dunstan's Ep. 21byNigel Debonnaire©
The tradition of the silent retreat as laid out by St. Ignatius of Loyola goes back 500 years in Western Christianity. The enforced silence can provide an unique opportunity for free or directed reflection by making space for the Spirit to fill. I would imagine that the forward thinking Church of England would be amenable to borrowing from the Jesuit saint despite the historical rivalry. However, giving up speech doesn't necessarily mean giving up other things. . .
Please welcome two new members to the cast; you could say Vicar Alfred and Mother Mary Rufus (aka Barbara) are getting apprentices, although neither mentor will be as relentless or demanding as The Donald.
Finally, thanks to my anonymous friend in Australia, who gave me the idea for the silent retreat, as well as a couple of others. Please feel free to induct yourself as an honorary Quilting Lady. Vicar Alfred will be round the next time he's Down Under.
He cast a long shadow as he entered my study, this virile young man. Curly red hair covered his head; his long, lean body was well muscled under light chocolate skin. His hands were soft and delicate, with long, thin fingers; his eyes blue and serious. I stood up and crossed the room to greet him: Kieran Hali, the son of Miriam, pastor of St. William's parish not far away. "How's it going, Kieran?" I asked as he came through my door.
"Not bad, Father, not bad."
"What brings you to St. Dunstan's today?"
"I'd like to chat with you about something I've been thinking about a lot lately." Keiran was the only child of an Irish father and a Nigerian mother. I'd seen him many times in my time at St. Dunstan's as he grew up in his mother's Vicarage, and at many joint service projects the area Youth groups undertook. "I don't know how my Mum is going to take it, and I need some advice."
"Sit, Kieran, sit. Anything I can do to help you?"
"Yes," he said, settling uncomfortably in his chair. I came out from behind my desk and sat across from him. His lanky frame was uncomfortable in the chair: he was almost 6' 8" in American standard and he consciously tried not to loom over me as he faced me. The music of his voice was pure British in deep, resonant tones, well spoken and deliberate. "I've been wrestling with something the past few months, and I wanted your advice."
"I'm flattered, Kieran. Please, tell me what's on your mind. Everything all right at school?"
"Yes, Father. But I'm thinking about changing my major."
"To what?" "Theology."
I crossed my legs as I regarded him. His face showed him to be a little timid in putting forward his idea, but there was a determination in his voice. "So you want to leave pre-Law for Theology? Is this an academic interest, or is there something more?"
He nodded his head. "I think God is calling me to be an Anglican Priest."
"Like your mother."
"Well, yes and no."
"Yes and no?"
"Well, I'm different than her."
"Of course." The leaves were rustling dryly on the trees outside: mid-October was turning green to various colors and putting a slight chill in the air, although fall in England was a bit more gentle than on the Plains of Kansas. Kieran was a bit nervous as he looked at me. "How did this come about?" I asked.
"Oh, many things, Father. I took an Ethics class in the first Semester that got me thinking about things, and I've been volunteering at the Thornbridge Soup Kitchen three times a week.. You've probably noticed that I've snuck into some of your liturgies at St. Dunstan's?"
"Yes, Kieran, I did, but I didn't think much of it. I assumed you had a good reason not to be at St. Will's and your mother approved of what you were doing."
"Well, Mum generally lets me alone about that, I haven't been ready to talk to her about this. Most of what I hear from her is about how busy she is and what a grind playing all the political games around St. Will's can be. I've gone with her on some home visits to tough areas, and that's been pretty good for both of us, but I haven't told her that. I truly love your preaching, and your sermon on Matthew 25 really touched my heart."
"The parable of the Sheep and the Goats?"
"Yes. Ever since then, I've had this feeling that I'm not cut out to be a Barrister, I'm just a bit too honest for that. I want to serve God, Father, to help people in need, to preach the Word, to administer the Sacraments."
His eyes were blazing and his voice was earnest. I remembered that fire when I was his age, and I approved. If he wants to try it, why not? "Sure, lad. You'll have to keep from telling Mary Sterns you think you're too honest to be a Barrister, but I think it's a great idea if that's how you feel. Might as well give it a try now. How much do you know about what you're getting into?"
"Oh, I know about the politics and the tectonic plates of power that grind against one another on every level. I know the hours it takes, how your life is taken up. It's also so powerful, it's like having a front row seat seeing the Holy Ghost working in people's lives. I've been praying the Office; I got a copy of the Book of Common Prayer from the University Bookstore." "Wonderful, Kieran. How much does your family have to do with this inclination?"
"I don't understand."
"Your mother is an Anglican priest. Your father is a Catholic priest. It looks like you're going into the family business."
A sudden gentle smile creased his face. "Yeah, I can see where you'd say that. I grew up in Vicarages, so you could say I'm a legacy. Only met my father once, a couple of years ago. He was in the retirement house for the Holy Ghost Fathers in Dublin, bent over with age but still pretty lively although fading a bit. I made my way there and introduced myself; he was very cordial but a bit distant. We talked about small things for a while, then he wanted to know exactly when and where I was born. He didn't dispute that he was my father one bit. He was worried that I'd want something from him, some money or recognition, but when I assured him I didn't, he relaxed a bit. Never indicated whether he was happy with me directly, but when I left, there was a small smile on his face. He passed a year later, and left me his old Rosary. Now that I think of it, it seems like, passing the torch."
I nodded, and thought about what to do. "I'm glad that the Lord is leading you this direction. So how can I help you?"
"Well, the diocese has an intern program for candidates for priesthood where they live in a parish while they go to school. I've got a brochure and talked with the Vocation Office."
"Frankie Crookshank. Good fellow, nice guy."
"Staying with my Mum would be a bit of spiritual incest, but I don't want to be too far away from her. St. Edmund's is the nearest parish, but Father Arthur is someone that I'm--I'm--uncomfortable with. Father George is the other near neighbor, but I've always admired you and the way you work the parish here, my Mum had always admired you so much, so I was wondering. . ."
"If you could do your internship here? Gosh, let me think about that. I'm flattered, Kieran, I truly am. There's a lot of things going on here that would give you a good cross section of what Church is all about, you could even spend some time in our sister parish in Alice Springs. You should get to Africa, too. We do have the physical space for you, but I'll have to think about it. When are you planning to talk to your mother?"
"Well, you're going off for a retreat in a couple of days, you Vicars of the area."
"Yes, three deaneries at St. George's Convent. An Ignatian retreat, we won't be able to talk for five days."
"Should I tell her before she goes or after?"
"Gosh, it could go either way. I'm sure you're bursting with the news, aren't you?" He nodded his head eagerly. "Well, go ahead and talk to her and tell her that I'm open to discussing it. I need to chat with a few folks here to see what they think about it; wouldn't want to do this without their support."
"Understood, wouldn't have it any other way."
"All right, I think we have a course of action. Full speed ahead, and I should be able to get back to you a week after the retreat."
He stood up and held out his hand. "Thanks, Father Alfred, I couldn't have asked for any more."
"God bless you, my son. May the Lord complete the good work He has begun in you."
I saw him to the door, and went to the kitchen where Agnes was fixing lunch. She was dressed in only a red thong; the nipples of her pert breasts were standing up with a silver chain running between the small, pierced rings she wore. Her red hair was tied back in a pony tail, and she was sweating a little in the heat of the kitchen. I gave her a peck on the cheek and a fondle as I stood behind her at the stove. "Someday, someone is going to walk in on you."
She wiggled her hips back into me. "Someone already has. What's up?"
"I was just talking with Kieran Hali. Do you know him?"
"Yes, Kieran and I are old mates. He's been like a little brother to me, we've known each other for ages."
"Kieran was just here and is interested in the priesthood."
"I wondered when he'd follow through on that. Been thinking about it for years."
"And he was interested in being an intern here. What would you think of that?"
She turned and gave me a big kiss. "It'd be lovely, Al. He's such a good kid, and we get along famously."
"We might have to be a little more discreet around him."
A frown creased her face momentarily. "Yeah, I can see that, but it's OK by me, O Great Shagmaster Deluxe. We've fucked in almost every room of the house, so we can throttle back. It'll be fun carrying on behind his back; maybe we could get away with it and he'd never know, even though he's living under the same roof." She giggled a moment with her hand to her face.
"Nice to see that you're in favor of the idea."
"He's very naive; I don't think he's ever had a date. Very shy around the girls, although they talk about him all the time behind his back."
"Oh, how so?"
"Well, he's a nice boy and very bright, not like some of the Lords Muck, posers and wankers most of the lads are. Gets embarrassed easily. Must be very sheltered growing up with Vicar Miriam."
"Well, we can see he gets educated in many different ways."
"Yeah, I can really get to work matchmaking for him now. He needs a woman, desperately."
I laughed and swatted her shapely backside. "I see we're going to take care of him better than he can imagine. I hope you don't corrupt him too badly."
"No more than I've corrupted him already," she sassed back. "Since you'll be preoccupied this afternoon and evening, tied up all day on the Lord's Day tomorrow, and leaving Monday to be quiet all week, how about a little mid-morning shag, right here and now?"
"Why can't we go back to your flat?"
"I have to keep an eye on the pots and pans. Why don't you go lock the door, while I work some more on a couple of things for here?"
It took a moment to lock the front and side doors. On returning to the kitchen, I noticed Agnes was rubbing baby oil on a long, freshly peeled carrot. Putting it on the cutting board, she gestured for me to open my fly, before which she knelt to prepare me. At the end of the long, thin kitchen, I saw a full length mirror leaning against the wall. It showed me the back of her sweet form, a perfect cello shape, and the luster of her red hair as it bobbed back and forth making me glad I was a man. When I was fully erect, she stood up and pointed to the olive oil on the counter: "Why don't you lube up my arse? I'd like you to put the carrot back there while you fill my love canal."
I used my right hand to lubricate her bottom, working in a lot of oil with two fingers. Her hips wiggled in delight as I invaded her backside. The carrot was around eight inches long: it widened to a half inch right away, swelled to an inch wide and the uppermost part was three inches wide. She had oiled up to the last swelling of the carrot, leaving it dry for handling. I teased her vertical smile several times before slowly working it in up to the bulb at the top. Reaching around with my left hand, I then massaged her bud and found her ready for penetration.
It was heaven, sliding into her tightly gripping wetness, that squeezed and caressed my John Thomas as I thrust into her. I looked at the mirror: she had braced herself at the counter bent over, the dimples of her back prominent, and she had taken the chain between her breasts in her teeth. The chain didn't provide much pressure, but it pulled her tits up beautifully, and I reached up to caress them. Before long, she squealed as her first orgasm hit her. I slowed down a little to let her catch her breath, then accelerated until my plume of love surged deep into her sweetness, coinciding with a second culmination of her pleasure. We stayed conjoined for several moments before she turned to rest her head on my chest. I worked the vegetable from its tight confinement and threw it in the bin.
She turned around and looked up at me at last. "Let me throw a robe on and we'll have lunch."
The rest of the day was spent in homily preparation, and a quick call to Mary alerted her about the possible new resident. She thought the Vestry would go for it, but they would need some more information from the Vocation Office about the financial obligation before they could definitely approve it. A call from Reverend Miriam Hali came after Tea: she was a little uncertain about her son getting a dog collar of his own, but liked the idea of him spending his internship with me, and was grateful I would consider it.
Sunday went fairly normally, and Monday morning I threw a few things in my bag to take to St. George's convent for the retreat. The weather moderated greatly due to a freak high pressure system: St. Martin's summer was returning to the British Isles, so I threw in my warm weather casual clothes as well as a set of clerics. Normally, we wouldn't need them for a retreat, but Archdeacon Tommy Hughes was going to be there and sometimes he could be anal about breaking out formal dress for a Eucharist or Evensong.
I took my car to the walled grounds of St. George's in case of an emergency. The entryway to the Covent was humming with activity as I signed in and got my room assignment. Sr. Mary Justin, a stately woman in her 40's with blue eyes, gold rimmed glasses and a round face, beamed as she saw me: "Welcome, Alfred, it's good to have you here for a full week."
"Thanks, Sister. Where've you got me this time."
"Oh, the room at the end of the corridor, right next to the back stairwell." A broad wink accompanied her instruction. "Two floors up, last one on the right." A young novice came up: she was short with electric brown eyes, dark eyebrows, and a squarish face. She wore a brown tunic with a white wimple and veil without a coif or underveil; a sister in Simple Vows for this community. Sr. Mary Justin turned and made a few hidden gestures, to which the novice replied OK, I'll wait for the next one in sign language.
I caught her eyes and signed: Hello, who are you?
I'm Sister Mary Francis Xavier came the reply.
"You know Sign, Alfred?" Sister Mary Justin asked
"Yes, my older sister Penny is deaf, so I grew up signing. Haven't had a chance to use it much here, except for the yearly celebration at the Deaf Academy." I turned to the younger nun: How long have you been here? You've been hiding yourself.
A little over two years. Our paths haven't crossed. It's good to talk with someone else. Her face creased in a broad smile as she formed the words with her lips as she signed.
Does everyone here sign? I asked her.
"Yes, Alfred, almost all of us here sign except for a couple of the oldest sisters in the Infirmary," the older nun interjected. "Sister Mary Athanasius has been deaf most of her life as well, and several of us have been teachers of the deaf over the years." Sister Mary Athanasius was around 50 and a lovely woman in her own right, as her superior reported: her nickname was Jeannie and she was another user of Plato's Cave. "So you'll have no secrets from us with her, Father." The young nun smirked as she read the older woman's lips, and her eyes shot impishly back and forth between us, her eyebrows wiggling with delight.
Only Miriam signs in my group I told them, so if you want to tell me something you don't what my lot to know, go right ahead. Sister Mary Francis Xavier giggled in an odd tone as I took my leave of them, carrying my bags toward the stairs.
It was a spare room, with two single trundle beds, a wooden desk and chair, and a wardrobe. On the desk was a folder with several pages from my fearless leaders regarding the retreat and a small lamp. The schedule was simple: the sections would run from noon the first day to noon the last day, each day focused on a week's worth of material from Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises. Nothing in the material told us what the sessions would be like, but I knew what form they would probably take since I did my Master's Thesis on Ignatius. From the time after our first session to after our last session on Friday, our voices were to remain silent at all times except during our daily meeting our private spiritual director, and the daily Eucharist we would celebrate in the Chapel just before lunch. After lunch on Friday, there would be a brief conference where Bishop Horace would tell us what was new down at the Chancery. There were rumors that he'd announce his retirement then, but others denied it, saying he would wait until the next general meeting of the entire Diocese in two years' time. A lot of money was riding both directions.
We gathered for the noon meal in a large meeting room in the main building. My deanery gathered pretty much intact: Edwina Hall of St. Augustine's, a thin, tall brunette in her 40's with sparkling blue eyes; Roberta Okoye of St, Barnabas, a short, skinny Nigerian also around 40's with a few flecks on white in her short black hair; Beatrice Williams of St. Paul's, a medium height, pleasingly plump woman not yet 30, whose dark brown skin, dark brown eyes and dark hair betrayed her Indian ancestry; Miriam Hali of St. Will's, another young thin woman just turned 40 from Nigeria; Pamela Andrews of St. Helen's, and George Staton, the Vicar of St. Alban's, my mentor and great friend. "Where's Artie?" Beatrice asked, "he's been keeping his smiling face hidden a lot lately. I covered a funeral for him a week ago; got the call midnight the night before. He was frantic."
Pamela looked at the back of the room. "Found the little shit," she fumed. "He's in the back with the Sisterhood, clowning and laughing at everybody." The Sisterhood was a group of 30 and 20 something gay priests who bonded as a private subgroup within our Diocese. "Look at him with the napkin over his face: he's doing her Highness the Bishop in some obscure story he hasn't bothered to tell us. What a pompous twit!" Pamela and Beatrice were opposites: Pam despised Arthur as much as she could while still being civil with him, and Bea thought he was delightful and spent as much time as she could around him without moving in.
"Ah, let the lad have his fun," Roberta said, dismissing him with a wave of her hand. "He may actually grow up some day. We don't have much time to catch up with each other before we have to take the phone off the hook. What's going on?" We spent several minutes circulating gossip and filling each other in on what was happening in our parishes. Most of it was speculation about the future.
One topic that stayed off the radar was Kieran's interest in the priesthood. I happened to be sitting by Miriam, so I whispered in her ear: "Do you want to tell them the good news?"