St. Jean-Baptiste

She used to date priests. Not ordained priests, but those who decided after months of dating they had a vocation to the priesthood. Thomas joined the Nobertines, the order of our campus priest, who was very pleased with the decision. Sean joined a Benedictine Abbey in Oklahoma. Andrew, the Jesuits, but he always was dangerously liberal at our school. Her name was Mary Katharine St. Jean-Baptiste, also known as the priest-maker. I dated Mary Kate as well. Of course, that was before I became a Diocesan priest in the parish where we grew up together, where we had our first communion.

I heard she was in a convent. Later her sister said she been asked to leave and had been a “spoken word artist” in San Francisco. She was getting in trouble, her sister said. She was stealing things, little things, not that it mattered because a theft was a theft: toothpaste, nail clippers, lipstick. She’d been caught stealing a box of condoms. She was in love with a married man, her sister said. What should she say to Mary Kate? her sister asked me. This man’s wife refuses to have children, and so he’s going to get an annulment and they are going to get married. They’re going off to Mexico. He’s being transferred there for business.          I didn’t hear about her a while. Her sister said Mary Kate had gone to Mexico but not with the man, only to learn Spanish. But no one had heard from her in a long time. She was reported missing. She’d been in Durango, a dangerous town with drug violence. In this town she was looking for a woman who had visions of the Virgin Mary. If you prayed to Mary with this woman, the Virgin Mary would grant that prayer, whatever it was.
    I saw her. It was 2am and I was walking down my hallway to the bathroom. She was standing there, wearing a wedding dress. It’s our wedding day, she said. She walked down the hallway and downstairs. I followed her. She went out the front door and across the yard to the church. I unlocked the door and there she was, walking down the aisle. She kneeled up front and disappeared in a mist. That week I began to lose everything. My stapler, pens, notebooks, my collars, my cell phone, the homily I had printed out and put in my pocket, I’m sure of it. Everything was misplaced, gone. I tried to accept this as my just punishment. I had asked her to marry me. I said a mass for her intention. I baptized her sister’s daughter. They named the daughter after her. There was little hope she was alive, her sister said.
    I was laicized. I moved to Mexico, far from the violence. Sometimes I think about her when I take my kids to the beach, when I go to mass with them, when I say Hail Mary, which is rare, because I don’t believe in that anymore.