Bird’s Nest In Your Hair

Chapter Two

When Diana arrived at the church offices, which were in the same building as the conference room that was used by the catechumens every Sunday, she was nervous at the thought of running into Martha. Naturally Martha was the first person she saw. She felt bad about not feeling able to tell her about the decision she’d made, but since she felt more comfortable explaining her situation to the Father Adamowicz she resolved to stick to her plan of talking to him first.

As it turned out, Martha and the secretary were already engrossed in a conversation, and after saying hello Diana simply took a seat and waited for her appointment. The two were speaking in hushed tones about something that they obviously weren’t as free to discuss in front of Diana.

“And I’d never heard him use language like that before – not that the circumstances weren’t unusual, but it was strange to hear!”

“So what did he say?”

‘‘‘Hell yes we’re going to press charges!’, and then something about a former seminarian. That part I didn’t understand.’’ Then she leaned in a little further and whispered something that was mostly inaudible to Diana. She did hear something about “the F word,” but then they began whispering even more quietly before falling completely silent.

“Will he actually press charges?” asked Martha. “That would make it public.”

“Now he’s not so sure. The keys he used were his own, of course, so it really can’t be called trespassing, and now Father isn’t so sure he wants to turn the whole thing into a spectacle. We certainly don’t need that.”

“Well, I can understand why.” At this point their whispers were barely audible again, but Diana couldn’t help but strain to listen.

“And of course this isn’t the first problem he’s had with him. . .”

“Oh, you mean that business with the sacramental wine? That was nothing.”

“No, but we should have gotten rid of him then.”

“Well that’s certainly true.” By this time the secretary was reaching for the phone as a way of drawing the conversation to a close and informed Father Adamowicz that his appointment had arrived. Diana hadn’t even realized she’d been noticed. After hanging up, the secretary acknowledged Diana.

“Father says he can see you now. Do you know where his office is?”

“End of the hall?”

“That’s right. You’ll see his name on the door.”

Diana walked passed the conference room on her way down the hallway, and was grateful for the distance because it gave her some more time to put her thoughts together. The door was slightly ajar when she arrived, so that when she knocked she opened it a little more.

“Come on in!”

When she opened the door all the way she saw that Father Adamowicz was standing up behind the desk with a pair of glasses in his hands, polishing them with a tissue folded around the lens. The large, metal frames were of a style worn by computer programmers twenty years earlier.

“Diana, hello!” he said, motioning with the glasses towards two chairs on the other side of the room.

Diana nodded in response. “Thanks for seeing me.”

“Part of the job description, really, but I’m glad to be here,” he said. Obviously he’d been through this before, and Diana found herself relaxing a little. He held the glasses about half a foot from his face and checked for smudges and dust. He made his way out from behind the desk and walked towards a closet behind a couch and two sitting chairs on the other side of the room. It was a big office.

“We could do this over at the church, if you prefer, but here in the office is just fine as well. Still a sacrament,” he said, reaching into a closet to pull out a long, wide band of cloth.

“This is fine, but I think I need to say something before we get started,” said Diana.

The priest left the stole on its hanger and turned around, waiting for the rest.

“I don’t think I’m ready to be baptized.”

Of all the ways she had thought about beginning, this wasn’t one of them. She had planned on being unequivocal, but she had also planned on working her way around to it a little more carefully. She felt that if she’d explained herself while leading up to the subject, he’d be more understanding. Father Adamowicz put his glasses back on, as if they might help his hearing.

“Please, take a seat,” motioning with his hand again. They both sat down, and when she found it hard to begin again he began by asking her a question.

“I take it this isn’t just nervousness about confession?” He didn’t seem very surprised, which was just what she’d been hoping for. He’d also put back the cloth, which put her at ease as well. The white square center of his collar was signal enough for the time being.

Of course there were advantages to being straightforward. He knew exactly where she stood, and for the first time in quite a while, she did too.

“No, no, I’m glad I’m here, actually, because I want to explain, and I thought you would be the best person to explain it to.”

“Well, take your time. That’s what I’m here for.”

“Okay. I don’t think I’ll take long.” She took a deep breath before beginning. “The situation is this: I’ve been memorizing the creed, which I really like in some ways, but is also bringing up some problems I think I have.”

“Problems?” he asked, his bushy eyebrows beetling up above the upper rims of his glasses like a pair of caterpillars trying to clear a high jump bar.

“Yes. Well, I think so.” He looked at her as if he was ready for anything, so she continued.

“For now, leaving aside the beginning – which sounds really, really beautiful, I have to say – when we get to the point where we say, ‘He was born of the Virgin Mary,’ I start to stutter.”

“Stutter?” He said, more affirmatively than skeptically.

“Well, not exactly stutter, but it’s a bit of a problem for me. I want you to understand that I mean no disrespect when I say this . . . but the problem is that, umm – I just don’t believe she was an actual virgin.” At this point Diana had raised her hands just above her knees, palms faced forward, as if to emphasize that she was trying to proceed with caution.

Now that the proverbial cat was out of its famous bag, she was able to continue with somewhat less anxiety. “I can say with a clear conscience that I don’t really know that she’s not a virgin, or wasn’t a virgin, since there’s really no way of proving it one way or the other. But I have the feeling that isn’t really good enough.”

“I see.”

“I worked for a little while as a biologist, and that’s what I studied in school, you see, and it’s just that . . . I suppose that really doesn’t matter, actually . . .”

“But that certainly does inform your point of view,” said Father Adamowicz, helpfully.

“Yes, that’s it exactly,” said Diana. “But there’s more.”

“More?” said Father Adamowicz.

“Again, I mean absolutely no disrespect when I say this, because I really want to believe, even if I know that I really don’t. But when we get to that part about the resurrection, I just . . .” She stopped to take a breath, and then didn’t continue. A brief pause ensued.

“You, stutter, as it were,” filled in Father Adamowicz.

“Exactly,” said Diana, relieved.

Father Adamowicz didn’t fill in any more.

“Anyway, I really do stumble over these parts, and stumbling there makes me stumble over the whole thing, and then I really don’t know what to think. Now when it comes to talking about. . . about the really big picture, when I tell myself that I really do believe, I feel like I’m trying to convince myself.”

“But not entirely succeeding,” said Father Adamowicz.

“Yes, right,” said Diana.

“Hmm. Perhaps you’ve heard the prayer? ‘Lord, I believe, help me in my unbelief.’ From Mark’s gospel?”

“Yes, I’ve thought of that, although I didn’t know it was from the bible. The thing is that I can’t really even claim the first part. About believing.”

“I see.”

“So you see it’s kind of a problem. I guess I’m not ready to say ‘no’ forever, but at the same time I’m really not comfortable about going through with the baptism this Easter.”

“Well, yes, I can understand that.” Then he paused for a moment before continuing. “You said earlier that you can say all this with a clear conscience?” he asked, again more helpfully than skeptically.

“Yes,” said Diana.

“Well, that’s important. I’m glad you’ve been able to do that.” He paused for a moment, waiting for her to speak. When she didn’t, he asked, “You’re taking this very seriously, aren’t you?”

“I wouldn’t know how else to take it,” said Diana.

“Yes, of course,” said Father Adamowicz, eyebrows rising again, then falling. “I don’t mean for this to sound funny, or appear to be joking in any way, but other than that, how has the rest of the experience been for you?”

“The catechumenate?” asked Diana.

“Yes, that, and church on the whole. How do you feel when you’re in church? Have you been able to talk about some of these things with the others?”

“Well, pretty good, I guess. But actually, no, I haven’t felt much like talking about it. Not really. Church is okay, except that I’ve been pretty preoccupied with this problem, and trying to decide what to do.”

“I see,” he said, scratching his chin.

“I like keeping the diary,” said Diana.

“The diary?” asked Adamowicz.

“Yes. . . Martha had us start keeping a diary for Lent, and I think it’s helped me clarify a few things for myself.” She thought it was interesting that Adamowicz didn’t know about this part of the RCIA, but she didn’t say anything about it. Did he disapprove of the idea?

“I see. What kind of things, if I may ask?” he asked.

Diana drew in a deep breath. “Well. . . I guess I used to think of God as a kind of author – The Author, I guess, of the book of life.”

Adamowicz nodded, but didn’t say anything.

“But now I guess I think of it a little differently. I feel a little strange saying this to you, but what I really think, I think what I’ve really always thought, is that we are all the authors of our own lives.”

Diana was encouraged by another nod from the priest, and continued, now a little more boldly. “The bible may or may not be inspired by God – I mean that maybe it was… or what I mean is, what if – what if it was actually inspired by the idea of God, and not really God Himself…”

Here she paused, somewhat alarmed at what she heard herself saying, but still feeling an urgent need to say it. Father Adamowicz didn’t seem alarmed, seemed rather calm, actually, and so she continued again.

“But I am absolutely certain – and I mean one hundred percent positive – that I am the author of my diary, even if that’s all I really know. That and the simple fact that I have to make my own choices.”

Here she stopped, and when she didn’t say anything more Father Adamowicz did step in. “Yes, very interesting. Decisions are certainly best made in perfect freedom. I guess it becomes a question of where that freedom begins…” He left off in the middle of his sentence, or perhaps he just ended so quietly it didn’t seem as if he’d finished. He seemed to be pondering something and remained silent for a moment.

“What do you think I should do?” asked Diana.

“Well . . .” Father Adamowicz started to speak and then stopped himself.

Diana waited hopefully, then spoke again, this time more tentatively. “It’s just that I feel so confused about all this, and I’m not really sure what I believe . .”

“Well, it seems to me you should do what I think you’ve decided to do already,” offered Adamowicz. “At least it sounds as if you’ve made a difficult decision.”

“Yes, I guess so,” said Diana. “Is that okay?”

“Oh, well, yes. Certainly. It’s a free country, after all.” He smiled when he said this, in a way that seemed to Diana almost conspiratorial. She smiled back.

“It may strike you as odd, or perhaps unexpected, but it would be absurd for me to try and argue you into believing.”

Again he waited for her to say something, and when she didn’t he continued. “Although,” he said, beginning to grin a little again, “I usually try to leave my materialist minded friends with a question, which if you’ll permit me, I’ll ask you now.”

Was that really a gleam in his eye? Diana found that she couldn’t help but like the man, although she couldn’t quite get a purchase on his sense of humor. Which was strange for her, since she felt she usually held the high ground when it came to kidding around. And she’d never really thought of herself as a materialist, but nodded anyway and somewhat tentatively said “Sure . . .”

“You mentioned that your background is in biology, and I’ll confess that my own training was in physics.”

“And theology, of course”, said Diana.

“And theology, yes,” said Adamowicz, chuckling. “Anyway, one of the big questions going around while I was at school was about the nature of light. I suppose it still is. Is darkness the absence of light, or do you sometimes think it might be the other way around?”

He smiled as he asked, and she found herself smiling back automatically. “Well, I’m not a physicist, Father …”

When he didn’t say anything else, she pondered the question for a few seconds and then asked, “Can’t both of them be the absence of the other?” She considered the question a little longer, and then asked one of her own. “Does it have something to do with whether it’s ultimately a wave or a particle? I remember something about that from school.”

“Maybe,” said the priest. “But nothing absolute has been determined, so far as I know.” The gleam had gone out of his eye; it was clear to Diana that he was now asking the question of himself as much as asking her. Could Father Adamowicz be agreeing with her in some roundabout way? She wondered whether he was trying to explain his own lack of faith to her.

He absentmindedly continued folding and unfolding his glasses as he looked past Diana, so she took it as her turn to speak. “It seems like some kind of dualism, actually. Not that I know much about theology, but isn’t that a version of gnosticism?”

“Gnosticism? Yes, well, that is interesting. It certainly is.” He scrunched up his eyebrows again and appeared lost in thought for a moment. Diana remained silent, pondering this turn in the conversation. When she didn’t say anything, he spoke up again.

“I guess I’ll only add that we’ll always be here. I’m sure that Martha would like to hear from you again, and while I mention that, let me also say that I’d certainly be happy to see you again as well.”

“Thank you, Father.”

He patted his knees with his hands and leaned forward on them as a gesture indicating conclusion, and Diana stood up with him to leave.

“I guess that’s all then?”

“Yes, well . . . come back anytime, Diana,” he said, reaching for the door.

“I will, Father,” she said, wondering why she had.

“Mm hmm. Take care now.”

It was only after she’d left that she realized that she hadn’t told him about the voice she’d heard in church, which she had intended to tell him as a way of beginning her explanation. Nor had she mentioned her father’s suicide, which she was prepared to do if she found herself becoming distressed – although it was an issue she realized she felt somewhat vulnerable about, as if he would use it in an debate while trying to convince her to stay. Only then, standing outside his door in the empty hallway, did she understand how far-fetched an idea this really was. On the drive home, for the most part she felt relieved. She was also puzzled, all the more so because she had expected to leave feeling distraught. What she actually felt was peace. More peace than she’d had in a long, long time.

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