Two young men, he was 24 years of age, and I was 20 years of age.
We were both seminarians. We had both had taken the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in a Religious Order in Australia. He was born in New Zealand and I in Australia. Our lives were one of Prayer, Study and Sport. We wore long, black habits which were the uniform for men who had chosen a a life of devotion to St Alphonsus Liguori and Our Lady of Perpetual Succour.
We rose at six in the morning, gathered in the chapel for Meditation, followed by Mass, the Eucharist and finally breakfast. Silence was to continue until we began our first lessons. For the first three years we studied Philosophy, and for those who continued the path, it was another four years of Theology. Some of us continued the rhythms of Religious Life which for the next 4 years were to continue and culminate in Ordination to the Priesthood. We were never encouraged to form any deep friendships.
It was the 1960’s and the Church was undergoing extreme changes as a result of Vatican 2 which was initiated by Pope John XX3, a man of intense compassion and saintliness. As students for the Priesthood we were confused, elated and positive, an amazing time to be a seminarian.
I was introduced to Cosmology, Metaphysics and Church History at the tender age of 19…however it was a challenge…The men, ordained priests of the religious order to whom I belonged were inspiring, intelligent and invigorating…I was to learn ancient greek, hebrew and of course Latin…it was a world so removed from the suburban streets of my youth..
A life that was filled with Gregorian Chant, the Te Deum, the Salve Regina, the incense and lace which became the normality of daily life….
The green shed, a small edifice in the grounds of a large Monastery…it was here that as a callow youth, bespectacled, ill equipped from any understanding of worldliness that I confided in my Elder Brother, the Lad for New Zealand…I cannot recall our interlocution some 50 years later, other than to say that his smile, his intellect, his warmth, these were the kindnesses that I felt. Eros was far from my sentient being, I had lived outside my physical body for almost 20 years..
My only aim in life, at the time, was to be ordained, to become a priest of the Catholic Church, to administer, especially to the poor, to those whose lives needed comfort at some level. I struggled for some years with a life of intense study and discipline..from the age of 14 I was drawn to the iconography of the Catholic Church, surrounded as a young altar boy by the enchantment of the music and liturgy of Saintliness, a transendence from earthly things…I found no solace in the things that others were drawn to, it was a strong desire to remove myself from a world of consumerism and indulgence …Domenic Savio and Gerrard Majella were the youths whose lives attracted me…Young and pious lads who had given their lives to a God whom I was able to speak to..
And now, some 54 years later, I have made contact with the Green Shed Lad, he is a psychoanalyst in New York…and I am a retired teacher in Elwood…
My thanks to those many men who gave me their time, their comfort, their kindness..