Magazine article Commonweal

Privileged Childhood

Magazine article Commonweal

Privileged Childhood

Article excerpt

In the summer of 1983 my favorite day was Tuesday, when Fr. Stu would pick me up at my aunt's house and take me golfing and then to lunch. Fr. Stu was from Las Vegas, which may explain why he was the source for my knowledge of how a point spread works. Almost all of our bets that summer were restricted to the golf course. I was his caddy and also his putter. When I sank his ball in one or two putts, I won our bet, whereas a three-putt meant a loss. I usually ended the round with a couple dollars.

I was eleven that summer, and was living with my aunt and uncle for seven weeks while my mom was on an extended vacation. (My father had passed away when I was two.) My summer arrangement was far from ideal. My mother was on a trip to the Holy Land; my brother got to stay home with the house sitters; my sister went to Ireland with our grandmother; and I felt marooned in San Jose. My aunt, probably overwhelmed with financial and parental stresses, seemed unkind to me at the time (although, as an adult, I grew close to her). I saw little of my uncle, who worked long hours as a carpenter. Introverted, isolated, and fatherless, I craved attention and companionship, and golf with Fr. Stu filled that void.

A friend once told me that what students most remember about their elementary-school teachers is not the arithmetic lessons or penmanship instructions, but whether they were loved. The same is true of how children--especially fatherless children--remember the priests from their childhood. Fr. Stu knew my mother, and he was stationed in San Jose the summer she was away. I remember him as a model of charity and decency. Moreover, he seemed to like me and to enjoy the time we spent together. I don't recall his ever making an excuse to miss Tuesday golf.

One justification for the Catholic Church's discipline of priestly celibacy is that it allows priests the liberty to serve anyone who may be in need. …

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