Book excerpt

A Christmas Wedding

Family Saga

Andrew M. Greeley


I "What about the Buddhists, Father Danielou?" Rosemarie asked.The short French Jesuit in the black turtleneck sweater blinked through his thick glasses like a cheerful rabbit and then sped off in a whirlwind of barely intelligible English.I was in my final year at the University of Chicago.Rosemarie Helen Clancy, my quasi--foster sister, was in her second year. She expected me to listen to a lecture by this intense and slightly mysterious young priest. My attention wavered. I stole another look at our hostess, attentive and professional in her light gray sweater and dark blue skirt. Looking at Rosemarie, as I had told John Raven, was a proximate occasion of sin. He had dismissed this observation with a laugh. I thereupon added that I had reached such an advanced stage of carnality that I could not prevent my imagination from taking off her clothes."Good for you," he had said, "so long as you do it respectfully.""My life would be in danger if I did it any other way."So, more than a little bored by the French Jesuit, I permitted myself to undress her mentally, albeit respectfully-whatever that meant. To honor respect I forced my lascivious imagination to appreciate her fully clothed before it embarked on its exploration."She has the look of the little people about her, poor sweet little thing," my mother had once said. "Even if there are no little people. She's the sort of faerie sprite you might see dancing over the bog of a spring night under a quarter moon.""She is indeed," my father had agreed, as he usually did."When has either of you been out dancing on the bog of a spring night under a quarter moon?" I had demanded."Why must you always be so literal, Chucky darling?" my mom asked, exasperated as she always was when the issue was my (feigned) indifference to Rosemarie.The image was apt, however. Rosemarie combined fragility, delicacy, and beauty in a fashion that might be appropriate for a faerie sprite--so long as that sprite was tough enough to play a mean and wicked game of tennis."Maybe what you mean," I said, with the sigh of one much put-upon, "is that, in her better moments, Rosemarie appears light and graceful, delicate and strong, not unlike Peter Pan's Wendy perhaps.""Isn't that what I said, dear?"She was slim and slender, maybe five feet six inches tall (dangerously close to my generously estimated five eight), with trim and elegant breasts that caught every male eye (my own obviously included) and shapely legs that the said male eye noticed immediately after her breasts. Her long black hair framed a pale face that tended to flush red in moments of excitement or enthusiasm or anger. That face compelled your attention if your hormones let you get that far; it was the kind of face that might have emerged from the Pre-Raphaelites if any of them had painted from an Irish model. The flush was usually accompanied by the flashing of her blue eyes that signaled danger. A sprite surely, but one with a fierce temper and deep passions and also one whose fragility could break your heart. You wanted to kiss and caress her and at the same time protect her.As the Jesuit droned on I pursued my exploration of the faerie sprite, slowly and with appreciation and, I hope in retrospect, some measure of reverence. First the sweater, then the blouse under it, button by button, then the skirt, zipped down in the back, then the slip, and then, with infinite gentleness, the bra. I paused at the girdle and its attached nylons. It would not be respectful, I told myself, to go any farther in a Catholic student meeting. Maybe tonight in my dreams.Nonetheless, I paused to admire my work and then noticed that she was frowning at me. My glazed eyes might have suggested that I was not paying any attention to the speaker. Did she know what my imagination had been doing? Since she never protested my wantonness, she either did not know or did not mind.I tried once again to focus on Père Danielou.There were lines of fatigue around Rosemarie's eyes, the result of a hangover, which in turn had been the result of another one of her wild drinking bouts the night before. The second one that I knew about since she'd been a student at the University.She had seemed relaxed and peaceful as she filled up the glasses and passed the potato chips to her guests; whatever demons had possessed her the night before had been temporarily exorcised."I'm sorry," she had whispered in my ear earlier in the evening as we left Calvert House, the University Catholic center, to walk through the blizzard to her apartment on Kenwood just south of Fifty-fifth Street. "I goofed up again. Thank you for dragging me home."A kid who was in my econ class had phoned me the night before. "O'Malley? I knew you lived in Oak Park. Hey, that woman with the gorgeous teats you study with in Harper? Well, I was in Knight's bar until a few minutes ago. She's drinking a lot. Shouting and arguing with people. That's not safe for a woman in that bar, know what I mean?""Thanks, Howard, I'll be right out."There were no expressways in Chicago in those days, so the ride from Oak Park to Hyde Park required forty-five minutes.Rosemarie, sound asleep and smelling like a brewery, was behind the bar. Her clothes were disheveled."I didn't know what to do with her," the soft-spoken bartender told me. "A guy said he was going to call her boyfriend, a tough little redhead, he said. That you?""My twin brother."He paused and then laughed. "She's a real looker. You shouldn't let her come in this place alone.""Ever try to argue with an Irishwoman?"He laughed again.I woke her up, found her coat, pushed her arms into it, and dragged her back to her apartment. I helped her to remove her dress, dumped her into bed, and pulled the blanket over her."Chucky, you're an asshole," she murmured as I turned out the lights."At least you know who it was that took off your dress.""A real asshole." Her voice was slurred. "Why didn't you leave me in the bar?""That's a very good question."When she thanked me the following night, she was properly contrite. I'm sure she didn't remember the use of language that was strictly forbidden in the O'Malley house."I'm glad I was there," I said fervently. If I hadn't found her in the bar on Fifty-fifth, she might have been there all night or collapsed in the snow on the way home. Rosemarie needed a keeper all right, only it shouldn't be me."You didn't take my slip off this time." She nudged my arm.It was the first reference she had ever made to the incident at Lake Geneva when I had pulled her in her prom dress out of the water."Dress and shoes seemed to be enough for the occasion. I'll admit that the possibility of a more thorough investigation did occur to me.""You're wonderful, Chucky." This time she squeezed my arm. "Simply wonderful.""Why, Rosemarie?""Why do I do things like last night?""Yes.""I'm not sure. I become discouraged and I don't care…but I won't do it again. I promise."I didn't quite believe her, but I didn't know what to say.So the next night I tried to focus my imagination away from the delightful difficulties of trying to unzip and remove a dress from an inebriated young woman and to concentrate on Father Jean Danielou, of the Institut Catholique de Paris, and the question of the relationship between Jesus and Buddha. On the whole, the former images were much more appealing.Jesus and Buddha, the priest seemed to be saying, were both allies and enemies. The reconciliation between the two could never be pursued so long as the Catholic tradition was tied to the Thomistic paradigm. But in the study of ancient Church fathers, there could be found much material for conversation with Buddhists. The New Theology, La Théologie Nouvelle, which had emerged in Europe since the war, would make possible conversation not only with Buddhism but with all the world religions and the non-religions like Marxism too.He referred to one of his papers, "La Theologie Nouvelle, où vat elle?"I remembered one of the members of the Greenwood Community telling me earlier in the evening that Père Danielou's brother René Danielou was a convert from Catholicism to Buddhism. All this was very heady stuff for a reject of the University of Notre Dame who had left the Catholic Church--to hear him tell it anyway.Ironically, Père Danielou was teaching at Notre Dame--where I had never heard of him. (My buddy, Christopher Kurtz, insisted that he had mentioned him often but that I did not listen because I was prejudiced against anyone without an Irish name.)Catholic intellectual ferment had exploded at the University of Chicago after the war, as the first generation of post war Catholic graduate students had appeared-indeed the first generation of Catholics to seek academic careers in substantial numbers. The Church was not ready for an intelligentsia where there had hitherto been none. But the Catholic chaplains at the University were clever enough to give the young intellectuals and would-be intellectuals enough room to do what would later be called "their own thing."And occasionally to invite one of their heroes to lecture.Père Danielou didn't look like a hero, but he wasn't gratuitously rude and insulting to Americans, as a matter of principle, as some of the French "religious sociologists" of that era were--men profoundly shocked and affronted by the religious devotion of American Catholics. "Sacrilege!" one had exploded after describing the hordes of men receiving Communion at Holy Souls parish just south of the University on Holy Name Sunday. In the presence of such men, I shut up and indulged myself in snide thoughts, which Rosemarie had briskly dismissed: "Irish Catholic anti-intellectualism, Charles. You know better than that.""But I am an Irish Catholic anti-intellectual!""No, you're not! You're the smartest one in the group. You just have to pretend that you're a dumb accountant."I hung around the intellectuals and their arrogant French friends because Rosemarie did, and because I thought their pretensions were funny. I also objected-though to myself--that they seemed immune to her beauty.Père Danielou, however, even smiled at Rosemarie, having noticed, unlike the religious sociologists, that she was a) a woman, and b) a beautiful woman. He could not, I figured, be all bad.Our concerns in the gatherings, either at the apartment of the Greenwood Community (on Greenwood, of course) or at Rosemarie's apartment, were vague, intense, disorganized, and, from the viewpoint of later years, shallow. We had written to Cardinal Stritch asking for Mass on Saturday afternoon so that "workers" could attend. The workers' cause was our cause, whoever the workers might be--in this case policemen, firemen, hospital workers, public transportation employees. The Cardinal had replied, somewhat haughtily, that since the time of Pliny the Younger mass had taken place in the morning. The response, my angry friends had sputtered, was both inaccurate and irrelevant.We worried about evolution: not whether it had occurred, but how the Church's teaching on original sin could be reconciled with the conviction of archaeologists that the race could not have descended from a single pair.We damned Thomism on the grounds that Aristotelian philosophy was not compatible with modern science.We were furious that Monsignor Fulton Sheen had denounced Freud. I kind of liked the good Monsignor, who had preached at St. Ursula's once.We feared that many young people would be lost to the Church unless Catholic scripture teaching was modified to take into account what Bultmann had taught about the process of "demythologizing." I didn't know from either Bultmann or "demythologizing" but they both sounded dreadful.We quoted the great men like Tillich and Barth as though they were personal friends, though I doubt that any of us had read them--or Bultmann either, for that matter.We were all profoundly concerned, so concerned in fact, that we forgot to comb our hair or do the dishes or take out the garbage. We were all vehemently anticlerical but most of us went to Mass every week and some every day.(I didn't go at all. Our hostess, on the other hand, still not sure about God, was to be found in the Calvert House chapel every morning. Still, as she told me with her contagious laugh, "to whom it may concern.")We denied the importance of authority and did our best to win the local priests, the Cardinal, and the Vatican to our point of view.We were all committed Catholics; we had made the decision that our Catholic heritage was compatible with our intellectual concerns. (I exclude myself from "we" because I was still furious at the Catholic Church. Some of the most wide-eyed of the intellectual radicals urged me to forget about my hurt feelings and "join the team.")There were lots of ironies in the fire.Driving back and forth between Oak Park and Hyde Park every day in my 1942 Ford, I would never have stumbled on this group of intense young intellectuals if it had not been for Rosemarie, who during our first quarter at Chicago had dragged me off to the Calvert House lectures.The lectures were a brief respite from study. I had never studied so hard in all my life and never been so pushed to the limits of my capabilities. I was also working part-time downtown in the accounting office of O'Hanlon and O'Halloran at the Conway Building across from City Hall."Have you ever just not done anything?" Rosemarie demanded. She was offended by my midafternoon rush to the Loop on the Illinois Central (a ten-minute trip from Fifty-ninth Street)."I wouldn't know how.""You ought to."There were many other "ought tos." I ought to work more with my camera. I ought to go to church again, because I would do that eventually anyway. I ought to join her at her voice lessons. I ought to rent an apartment instead of commuting in my "funny little car" or, on days I worked, riding on the L and the I.C.I paid no attention. Indeed, if Rosemarie said I ought to do something, her suggestion in itself seemed enough reason not to do it.How did she become involved with the young Catholic intellectuals? It was a most improbable alliance. She was a well-groomed, flawlessly dressed rich girl among a group who resented wealth and tried to affect a Bohemian style of life.She'd met them at the Calvert Club and simply hung around. Her good looks probably would not have made much difference to the Greenwood Group, and they would have been reluctant to use her apartment and her money, but she was also very smart, so bright in fact that many people on the fringes of the group thought she was a graduate student in "the humanities."You couldn't quite figure out where she stood politically, or religiously, or intellectually by her questions, but you could tell that she had a first-class mind."Père Danielou, what do you think the Church in Europe might learn from the Church in America?"It was a heretical question. We were to learn from Europe, especially from France, instead of vice versa.The Jesuit smiled gently. "A number of important things. But what, mademoiselle, would you suggest we might learn?""Enthusiasm, maybe, and pragmatism, and closeness between priests and people?""Excellent," he applauded her. "And your wonderful openness and hope for the future."Rosemarie blushed happily. Some of the others in the room beamed. They thought she was special, obviously, and were proud of her.Just like my mother."She is such a darling, sweet little thing, Chucky. You're a perfect match. She's so simple and you're so complicated."Me, complicated? Nonsense!There was a final question for Père Danielou: What will happen if Rome condemns La Théologie Nouvelle?"We must have the integrity to continue to do our work no matter what happens," he said with a grim little smile, "otherwise nothing will ever change in the Church."In 1950 the Vatican condemned the New Theology. Although no names were mentioned, Père Danielou and several others were transferred and forced out of the classroom. Later the New Theologians were rehabilitated and became influential at the Second Vatican Council. Danielou, however, learned the lesson of ecclesiastical politics and managed to ally himself with the conservatives in the Church. He ended up a cardinal, though a conservative, not to say reactionary one. He died outside a disorderly house, and rumors said he had actually been inside. His friends argued that he preached to the poor unfortunate prostitutes of Paris. Yet I could not forget that cold winter night in 1950 when he had smiled at Rosemarie.About eleven-thirty, the session ended. The French Jesuit was escorted back to Calvert House, and the members of the Greenwood Community trudged off in the falling snow toward their apartment building.No one offered to help Rosemarie clean up. As usual, I stayed after the others to help remove the glasses and the empty bags of potato chips, and to vacuum the carpet. Her apartment was small and frequently chaotic, but it was expensively furnished and carpeted. I knew that if I didn't designate myself as the clean-up brigade, Rosemarie would let the job go till the morning and possibly the morning after that."Chucky," she would say to me, "unlike you, I can sleep at night if the apartment is a mess. I'll clean it up eventually.""I learned my housekeeping habits from the good April."We would both laugh because my mother was, to put it mildly, relaxed in her approach to housekeeping.We were perhaps potential lovers, though both of us would vigorously deny it. We were friends, a much more relaxed and, I told myself, safer alliance. Rosemarie dated others, often Ed Murray, my old-time football rival from Mount Carmel, and I of course dated no one.Sometimes Rosemarie dragged me back to her apartment for hamburgers or sandwiches and an occasional fruit salad. "You'll die if you eat that University food or Jimmy's hamburgers all the time.""It's no worse than what they fed us at the Dome.""And look what happen to you there, storing beer under the bed, of all things."I had been thrown out on that charge, though I didn't drink beer or anything else, and had been framed.Sometimes we were very serious, even personal. She more than I."Daddy put all that property and money in Mommy's name so that if he was ever in trouble at the Exchange they wouldn't be able to take it away from him.""Unable to meet his margin calls.""Whatever. Anyway, she hated him so much before she died that she made a will and left it all to me in such a way that he couldn't touch any of the property. Or the bank accounts. He's furious. Mr. O'Laughlin,Daddy's lawyer, is after me all the time about it."Since shortly before the Flood, I think, Joe O'Laughlin had enjoyed the reputation of being the most dishonest lawyer on the West Side, a perfect legal adviser for Jim Clancy."Will you sign it all over to him, then?" We were talking in whispers since we were in a library reading room. I couldn't remember how we had entered this strange conversation."I'm not sure. What do you think I ought to do? Mommy wanted me to have it all.""Was it hers to give? I mean, he really owned all those buildings, didn't he? It was just a legal fiction.""Was it, Chuck?" she tapped a pencil against her lips. "Dad used her money to begin his investments at the Exchange after his mother died. She said that was the only reason he married her."Small wonder that the young woman was a little crazy."Do you hate your father?"She stared up at the ceiling of Harper Library. "He's so lonely and unhappy.""You don't live at home because of the fight over your mother's will?""It's not a fight exactly. I mean, we're not enemies because of it. I think he did love her and didn't know how to express it. Wouldn't that be terrible?"I agreed that it would. And hoped that she would change the subject. I did, however, manage to touch her hand sympathetically."Stop distracting me," she said, grinning, "and get back to your Pascal."I hated Jim Clancy. When I was a kid, he took me out in a sailboat on Lake Geneva and deliberately got me seasick. Then, after I had vomited over the side of the boat at the Clancy pier, he shoved a chocolate ice-cream bar at my face. I vomited again, unfortunately missing him."He has always liked his little practical jokes," my mom sighed, "poor man. First one, then, your guard is down, another.""Once, at Twin Lakes," my father added, "he set off the fire alarm. Then when the firemen had gone back to Walworth, he threw stink bombs into two of the washrooms and started real fires.""Very funny," I commented.I had hated him because he was rich. Now I had another reason to hate him.I returned to the agonized, contorted, ecstatic reflections of that great, God-haunted man. Out of the corner of my eye I noted that Rosemarie was still staring at the ceiling. Still wrestling with a puzzle, I thought.And I don't want to know what it is.I was troubled by the mystery surrounding her mother's death when I was away in the Army, in Europe. My parents and sisters, normally immune to secrecy, refused to discuss the matter when I asked direct questions, and they avoided any hints when I tried to approach it indirectly."Mrs. Clancy's death mast have been a terrible shock to Rosemarie?""Rosie is a pretty tough young woman," my dad would answer, not even looking up from his copy of the Chicago Sun.There had been, I learned from press clippings, a police investigation and a coroner's report that Mrs. Clancy had died an "accidental" death from an unfortunate fall down the stairs into the basement of the Clancy home at 1105 North Menard.Pushed down the stairs? By her husband? By Rosemarie? Drunk?It was none of my business. Yet I remembered hearing her sob in St. Ursula's late one night. Life in that family would drive anyone to drink.Whatever had happened, she was still admired--no, adored--in the O'Malley family. Yet despite my mother's blunt if clichéd comment about felines and curiosity, I wanted more details. I never asked Rosemarie about the accident. That would have been gratuitously cruel.We joked that we would be incompatible marriage partners. Rosemarie was a morning person. She bounded out of bed with full-steam energy. The eight-thirty class was her favorite of the day. I on the other hand did not join the human race (her words) till ten-fifteen.I flourished at midday, when Rosemarie began to think of a nap. And I crashed early in the evening, when she had acquired her second wind."It wouldn't work, Chuck. Our schedules would be so different that we'd never produce children.""You're absolutely right."But even in my groggy, early-morning daze, she still seemed gorgeous, a potential bed partner who would be attractive at all hours of the day.And if Mom's snapshots of Rosemarie's grandmother were any basis for judgment, at all the times of her life."Rosie has such fine facial bones, Chucky dear, and a naturally splendid figure. If she takes care of herself, she'll be lovely all her life.""Did her grandmother drink too much?""Not at all," Mom replied, ignoring the implication of my question, as she frequently did. "Neither did her mother until after she married."Then the good April added one of her non sequitur comments that only seemed irrelevant. "Most women would die to have a waist that slim.""Skinny, emaciated," I replied.Mom and Dad both chuckled. I had indeed protested too much and thus admitted my interest in Rosemarie's body. I'd have to be more careful."Well, the poor little thing could use five or six more pounds.""More like ten.""And maybe that would slow her down on the tennis court, huh, Chucky?" my father asked, with no respect for his son's mediocre athletic ability."Well," I said, deliberately trying to shock, "she sure has great teats!"The good April, whom I had expected to reprove me for my language, only sighed and said, "I'm surprised you noticed, dear."Would Rosemarie be as attractive in her middle forties as the good April? And as sexually appealing as the good April was to my father?Such questions, I warned myself sternly, were not appropriate. You'll mess up something good if you even think about them. Naturally, I thought about them all the time. In Bamberg I'd had a lover, a young woman I had planned to bring home as my wife. She disappeared after I had saved her and her mother and sister from the Ruskies, who would have raped them to death. I had never found her. I had learned from her, however, the pleasures of sexual love. A least I thought it was love. It was certainly pleasurable. Trudi had been a straightforward young woman, fighting to stay alive. Our affair, if it could be called that, was straightforward, uncomplicated. Rosemarie was much more problematic.What would happen if they ever met? Thank God there wasn't much chance of that ever happening.Rosemarie was a good friend, loyal and helpful. I enjoyed being with her and she seemed to enjoy mothering me. We were not suited to be lovers, I insisted mentally, but we might well be lifelong friends.We even went to an occasional film in the early evening, and during the seasons to the opera and the symphony. We did not hold hands. People do that on dates, you see, but we were two friends watching a movie or an opera together, not a couple on a date.Was I kidding myself? Of course.Did I realize I was kidding myself?To tell the truth, I can't remember. Not that it mattered.We saw Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral and agreed that the last temptation was indeed the greatest treason, to do the right thing for the wrong reason.Neither of us thought that we might ever do that in our lives.And we saw Christopher Fry's The Lady's Not for Burning and argued about whether Rosemarie was like the heroine, I taking the affirmative position and she the negative."I'm not that smart.""You are too.""Or that good.""Better."(Storm clouds gathering). "Don't say dumb things, Chucky, when you don't know what you're talking about."We listened in awe to Fry's A Sleep of Prisoners on tape and agreed that we thanked God that our time was now, when the enterprise was exploration into God.We didn't know what that meant.There were no romantic exchanges between me and Rosemarie at that point. In fact, we avoided touching as though it would transmit an infectious disease. Both of us were satisfied with our friendship and did not want to risk endangering it with romance.At least that's how I reasoned, though it's clear from the way I write about her today that she had become an obsession, a delightful and mysterious obsession. I had no idea how Rosemarie viewed the matter. Could not a man and a woman spend a couple of hours every day with each other, take care of each other, listen to each other's hopes and ideas, and occasionally sit next to each other in a theater without having to worry about love or sex?The answer obviously is no. Not at our stage in life anyway. And not with a woman as spectacularly attractive as Rosemarie."Do you go to bed with her?" one of my classmates asked as we left the library and Rosemarie slipped away in the direction of her next class."Oh, no, we're just friends. We were practically raised together.""I'd say she was a distracting friend.""After awhile you hardly notice."Lie."Thank you for the help," she said when we had put away the last glass on the night of the session with Père Danielou. "You make a great kitchen maid.""Faithful servant."She hesitated, made a face, and then said, "Chucky, you shouldn't look at me that way during talks.""What way?" I asked, feigning innocence."Ogling me, like you did during poor Père Danielou's talk."When an Irishwoman uses the adjective "poor," it invariably serves as a warning that the person in question is temporarily immune from criticism."You don't like it when a man ogles you?""It depends on the man." A rose tint appeared on her face."Ah?""I don't mind it from you because you look at me so sweetly, but you shouldn't do it during a lecture.""People notice?""Certainly not! I notice! You should pay attention to great men like Père Danielou."For my own good.Did she know what was the content of my sweet reveries? I almost asked her, and then realized that the ice beneath me was getting very thin. "As your faithful servant, I hear and obey.""A little mouthy, but basically all right…Charles C. O'Malley, look at that snow! Eight inches already. I'm not going to let you drive home in that funny little car. You can stay in my guest room."Gulp."It's not that bad.""It is too." She reached for the phone. "I absolutely forbid you to go out in it.""But I have to--"She waved me to silence. "April? Rosemarie. Sorry to call so late but I am not going to let your older son drive all the way back to the West Side in this weather.…I'm glad you agree. You know how much he likes to play the hero.…Oh, I'll lock him in the guest room. And, anyway, you know how he is. He doesn't go in for that sort of thing."Triumphantly she handed the phone to me."Rosemarie is perfectly right, dear," Mom said, trying to sound severe. "You can't drive home tonight. You stay there till the streets are cleaned.""Yes, ma'am.""And be good.""Mom! You know me. I wouldn't even think of not being good.""That's what I'm afraid of, dear."Rosemarie promptly ushered me to the guest room, pointed to the bathroom, and waved good night. I inspected the room. Very neat. Nothing out of place. I took off my khaki sweatshirt and hung it up neatly. I folded my fatigue trousers so that the creases were perfectly in line and hung them up too. Then, in my old but serviceable GI shorts, I knelt down for my nightly prayers, a custom I had begun in Germany when there was no one else in the room and then resumed after my expulsion from Notre Dame to reassure the Deity that my problem was not with Him, but with the Catholic Church and especially the Congregation of the Holy Cross.I am sorry, I informed Him, if I took excessive delight in imagining Rosemarie without her clothes. I tried to be respectful. She even thinks that I ogle her sweetly. I wonder what she means by that and what she thinks I'm doing. However, I hold You partially to blame because You made her so attractive and me so horny. You know that I would never do anything to hurt her. I am in somewhat unusual circumstances tonight, compromising, one might say. Like a lot of bad movie plots. If You ask me, and You rarely do, I think the good April went along a little too easily with this situation. Besides, I'm too tired tonight for romance. If it is all the same with You, however, I'd just as soon fall asleep instantly so my imagination won't run wild. I could do without the dreams too.God apparently heard my final prayer. Clad in my shorts, and having dispossessed one of Rosemarie's teddy bears, I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. If she did indeed lock the door, I thought in the last few seconds of consciousness, she did it very quietly.* * *"Are you awake and decent?" I heard her voice from a great distance."Yes to the latter"--I rolled over and buried my head in the pillow--"and no to the former."She propelled herself through the door, a tray laden with bacon, eggs, toast, raspberry jam, and tea in her hands, a newspaper under her arm."My hotel provides these services erratically," she announced briskly. "Guests are advised to take advantage of them while they can."She put the tray on the bed next to me, bustled over to the window, and pulled open the drapes, illuminating the little bedroom with glittering winter sunlight reflected in a thousand icicles, a ballroom in a fairy wonderland.Rosemarie was a tidal wave of fresh energy, a robust, well-scrubbed erotic presence, a clean and healthy promise of coming springtime. You realized that she was also a well calculated and discreet temptation only when you had been lured into her glowingly wholesome trap.In other words, that morning she had designed herself to be an interesting hint of what it might be like to wake up next to her every morning.Much too energetic for my tastes, but it might be pleasurable to be swept up in that energy.She was wearing a tightly belted white satin robe. Her freshly brushed hair hung neatly to her shoulders, her face glowed from a recent shower, and she smelled of soap and inviting scent.A carefully arranged entry."The maid service in this hotel," I observed, rubbing my eyes, "is loud, pushy, and extremely attractive.""Thank you, sir." She bowed. "And a good morning to you too.""The door wasn't locked?""Really, Chucky"--she waved her hand--"I have a lot of more serious worries than defending myself from your amorous intentions.""You don't think you could seduce me?""I didn't say that and you know it. I said I wasn't afraid of your seducing me.""Ah."I would doubtless make a mess of it."Chuck," John Raven had told me, "your tragic flaw with women is that you help them when they're vulnerable. So naturally they fall in love with you. You can't resist a vulnerable woman who is in love with you.""I've resisted a couple of them.""Just barely."Rosemarie waved her hand again. "Not that it wouldn't be interesting to see you try.""High comedy."The wave was becoming a familiar gesture. It was a little flick, upward and outward, of her right hand. It said that I was perhaps an amusing little boy, but wasn't it time, after all, that I began to grow up? However, the implication was always of patient, maternal affection.The wave almost always melted my heart. It offered me warmth and comfort and a secure spot on the desert island she brought with her. Secure, but not necessarily restful."Anyway"--she sat on the edge of my bed--"your wife, whoever she's going to be, poor woman, will have to resign herself to love between eleven and noon, because that is the only time you'll be wide enough awake to have sex on your mind."Her robe slipped away, to reveal to touch of ivory thigh."I suppose you're right." I sighed "I mean you can't make love with raspberry jam on your fingers.""You couldn't anyway.…So what do you think?""About love with raspberry jam?""About last night, silly. And the whole business.""I'm a lot happier here than I was at Notre Dame," I began.She nodded. "That's obvious.""I've studied harder than I thought I possibly could. My head reels sometimes from all the ideas. I've learned more about Catholicism from your friends than I did in sixteen years of Catholic schools. It's exciting. What more can I say?""Better than Notre Dame in everyway?""No." I thought about the rest of my answer. "You and I share some basic values with the guys at Notre Dame that we don't with many of the people here. Notre Dame is less arrogant, and heaven knows it has reason to be less arrogant than this place; and loyalty-what we'd think of as loyalty anyway--is almost invisible here. But universities are about ideas and there are a lot more ideas in a day here than in a semester at NotreDame.""The people last night?" she drew the robe over her thigh."They're not St. Ursula people, Rosemarie. Not that everyone has to be. But they're something new in the Church and I think there will be a lot more of them.""And what they stand for will eventually affect St.Ursula's and everything else in the Church. Our children"--she blushed deeply and tightened the belt on her robe but did not completely cover her delicious thigh--"in separate families, will live differently because of their ideas.""Maybe," I admitted.Which turned out to be an understatement. But then no one, not even someone as perspicacious as Rosemarie, could have anticipated the Vatican Council."And you?" she persisted."Early morning catechism?""Why else did you think I kept you here all night?" Her grim lips indicated that she was not joking. "I wanted to catch you off guard.""With me in my GI shorts and you in that lovely robe?""Shut up"--she poked at my naked ribs with a quick, sharp finger--"and answer my question.""Yes, Mommy." I ducked away from her tickling jab."Well, someone like you needs at least two mommies.""I ask myself sometimes what a would-be accountant and an occasional photographer--""Too occasional, but go on.""--needs with so much heavy thought and so many tantalizing ideas."She rose from the bed and walked over to the sun-filled window. I squinted to watch the satin-covered back. Yes indeed, a perfectly acceptable rear end too. Maybe I would shock the good April with that comment.("I've just noticed, April Mae, that Rosemarie has a lovely ass.")"Accountants are members of the human race too, Chuck. They need ideas and vision as much as anyone else. Besides, you're a lot more than just a potential accountant with a camera.""What am I then?"She turned to face me, a living statue bathed in wonderful backlight that turned her long dark hair to black fire. "I'm not sure," she said slowly and carefully, choosing every word, "but I know you're someone with the mark of greatness.""Come on, Rosemarie, that's a romantic daydream.""No it isn't. But hurry up and get dressed or you'll miss your first class."She spun toward me again at the door of the room."You really ought to give yourself more time."Front-lighted now, she was a creature of pure, radiant light, not a faerie sprite over a bog but a seraph from next to the throne of God. I would have to bring along my camera the Kodak C-3 she had given me, and not the Leica that had been Trudi's gift, and open once again my Rosemarie archive."More time?""To think, to reflect, to pray, to play. You have to stop filling every second of your day with obligations."At that moment I could have lost myself forever in the luminosity of the goddess looking down on me."You don't need a degree and a job, Rosemarie. I do. I admire the way you study. I wish I could concentrate on learning too. But…""Why can't you?"I didn't have a quick answer."See!" she proclaimed triumphantly, turned again, and departed from the room in a rustle of satin and a cloud of lightSo our early morning tête-à-tête was finished. Rosemarie had said what she wanted to say. And chosen the circumstances, complete with the halo of backlight, to say it forcefully.She would be a superb lover, I told myself, if she were not crazy. Last night she was wonderful. The night before she was so drunk she could have been raped behind the bar or have frozen to death on the way home. Do you want to spend the rest of your life with someone like that?The answer was obvious.And the proper conclusion was that, regardless of her radiance that morning as a creature of pure light, she was a threat. The friendship could not go on forever.Somehow I would have to end our romance after the spring quarter.Still, when I returned that evening to Oak Park, I informed the good April, when she had asked how the night at Rosie's had been, that I had discovered she had a quite adequate rear end.I expected a reaction of shock at my observation. Instead she replied, "Well, dear, I'm surprised you noticed that too. You're making good progress."In my prayers that night, I asked God, Was that an offer, do You think? Was Rosemarie offering to be my wife, in the long term of course? What do You mean, I should know the answer to that? Have You forgotten what she was like the night before? You think that if I'm not willing to take the risk with her, I should get out of the relationship while I can?Or is it too late already?What do You mean, that's not the question?You're telling me the question is whether I want to get out, whether I've ever wanted to get out?That's not a fair question.Anyway, what can she possibly see in me?No answer to that question? Copyright © 2000 by Andrew M. Greeley Enterprises, Ltd.

Priest, sociologist, author and journalist, Father Andrew M. Greeley built an international assemblage of devout fans over a career spanning five decades. His books include the Bishop Blackie Ryan novels, including The Archbishop in Andalusia, the Nuala Anne McGrail novels, including Irish Tweed, and The Cardinal Virtues. He was the author of over 50 best-selling novels and more than 100 works of non-fiction, and his writing has been translated into 12 languages.

Father Greeley was a Professor of Sociology at the University of Arizona and a Research Associate with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago. In addition to scholarly studies and popular fiction, for many years he penned a weekly column appearing in the Chicago Sun-Times and other newspapers. He was also a frequent contributor to The New York Times, the National Catholic Reporter, America and Commonweal, and was interviewed regularly on national radio and television. He authored hundreds of articles on sociological topics, ranging from school desegregation to elder sex to politics and the environment.

Throughout his priesthood, Father Greeley unflinchingly urged his beloved Church to become more responsive to evolving concerns of Catholics everywhere. His clear writing style, consistent themes and celebrity stature made him a leading spokesperson for generations of Catholics. He chronicled his service to the Church in two autobiographies, Confessions of a Parish Priest and Furthermore!

In 1986, Father Greeley established a $1 million Catholic Inner-City School Fund, providing scholarships and financial support to schools in the Chicago Archdiocese with a minority student body of more than 50 percent. In 1984, he contributed a $1 million endowment to establish a chair in Roman Catholic Studies at the University of Chicago. He also funded an annual lecture series, “The Church in Society,” at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein, Illinois, from which he received his S.T.L. in 1954.

Father Greeley received many honors and awards, including honorary degrees from the National University of Ireland at Galway, the University of Arizona and Bard College. A Chicago native, he earned his M.A. in 1961 and his Ph.D. in 1962 from the University of Chicago.

Father Greeley was a penetrating student of popular culture, deeply engaged with the world around him, and a lifelong Chicago sports fan, cheering for the Bulls, Bears and the Cubs. Born in 1928, he died in May 2013 at the age of 85.