It was lunchtime. All the children at St. Johns were playing in the school yard. As usual, sixth-graders were hogging the basketball courts while the rest of us tried to grab the ball for a shot at the bullies ring of school supremacy. Usually, when a fight broke out the nuns would run out of their convent and try to make peace by threatening after school punishment. By that time lunch was over and nothing was ever resolved. That is until the day the taxi cab showed up in front of the Rectory at the end of the school yard.
A tall, slender and very black man emerged from the back seat of the cab. He appeared to be about 30 years old and really tall. He wore creased black slacks, a white shirt and a baseball cap. After he unloaded his suit case, duffle bag and personal belongings from the cab, he headed toward the rectory. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought he was a priest.
Suddenly, the familiar schoolyard cry “fight-fight” broke out at the basketball end of the yard. The black man ran across the yard and the rest of us ran with him. He broke up the fight, started shooting baskets with all of us and gave everyone a chance to be part of the game. I never saw a priest do that. Finally, the nuns exited their sanctuary and introduced themselves to the new priest in the parish. It looked as if Father Jones found his place in the center of the ghetto part of town.
Father Jones was truly a man of the cloth. Every morning, before daily mass, he would bring a cupcake and hot chocolate for the alter boys. Every afternoon he made his rounds at the neighborhood missions, handing out sandwiches provided by parishioners and coffee money collected from a special Sunday collection plate.
He helped organize city junior basketball leagues that included St Johns, Sacred Heart, and St. Peters. He worked with, not against, the Salvation Army to help needy children and families. Almost every day, he brought a St. Johns student home from school to meet the parents and witness the living conditions of the family. Except for his Sunday Sermon, he never talked about God, preached about Christ or attempted to convert anyone in the belief of the Catholic Church. Instead, He lived the words and the true meaning of the beatitudes of Christ.
Somewhere within a two-year period, he met a single mother of one of the students, married her and had to give up his priesthood. Christ lost one of his best disciples because of a self-imposed Catholic discipline of celibacy and forbidding marriage.
Will Pope Francis, wearing the shoes of the fisherman, rewrite the disciplines of the church allowing nuns and priest to marry and have children? Since St. Peter the fisherman deserted his wife, family and children to follow Christ and live a life of self-denial, I don’t think the Pope will break the sacred rock of the church, allowing a man to serve two masters: One, a normal married life chosen by Father Jones. The other, the abnormal life of celibacy and self-depravation chosen by the Pope.
David Farside is a Sparks resident and political activist.