Faith, and a teenager's challenge

The story begins on a bright afternoon many years ago, one I remember as though I’d seen it, writes American author Jennifer Haigh in her novel, Faith, extracted in Commonweal magazine.

Imagine the trees tinged with red, a sky so clear it seems contrived, the high blue heaven of tourist brochures. It is the first resplendent day of a New England fall, and Ma’s new husband - my father, Ted -is driving from Grantham to Brighton, his hand on her thigh.

They are dressed for a wedding or a funeral: she in Sunday hat and gloves, he grudgingly coaxed into a suit. In the back seat is a battered footlocker from his Navy days, packed with the few possessions a junior seminarian is allowed. Squeezed in beside it is Art, 14 years old, staring out at a scene that will shape the rest of his life: the headquarters of the Boston Archdiocese and its famous seminary, St John’s.

The decision to come here had been his alone. From the age of ten he’d served as an altar boy. Two mornings a week he’d met Fr Cronin in the vestry at St Dymphna’s, helped him into his alb and chasuble. At the altar Art genuflected, lit candles, carried cruets.

At the consecration he rang the bells. The sound never failed to send him soaring, a feeling that was nearly indescribable: a sweet exhilaration, a spreading warmth. In those moments he’d sensed a transformation occurring, before him and inside him. Bread and wine into the Body and Blood. An ordinary boy into something else.

In the confessional Fr Cronin posed the question. Have you ever considered it? They discussed at some length what a vocation felt like, how you could ever be sure. Certainty will come later, the priest promised. And one Sunday after Mass, he invited Ma to the rectory for a chat.

FULL STORY Outside Gravity (Commonweal)

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