She studied the priest with a cautious intensity. She analyzed everything about his facial features as they sat closely together; examining his sharp eyes, the lines on his face, his prominent nose and chin, and the few streaks of grey on the sides of his slicked back hair. She even took time to notice his perfectly pressed black outfit and the white collar around his neck.
Celeste wished that she could read his mind, praying that he wouldn’t be mad at her, or judge her in any particularly harsh way.
“Tell me more about your transgressions against the teachings that God had bestowed upon us,” Father James said calmly, with that booming deep voice of his.
She hung her head. As a devout Catholic, this had given her so much shame and self-loathing. Worse, she had enjoyed it. As a young woman nearing her 20’s, were these feelings normal? This internal struggle. She had no idea. There was no one else to turn to, except for Father James. Surely he must know, right?
Thankfully they were alone in his private chamber, on the upstairs floor of the church. The building was an old structure, but large enough to accommodate everyone in the area. In their tight knit religious community, this church represented the strong moral values which they had all cherished. Due to a recent passing, Father James was now the moral authority of the town, a position he took with the utmost pride and prestige.
Celeste looked him in the eyes. “It was with a classmate from my university studies.”
“You gave him your purity?”
There was a look in Father James’ eyes that was piercing and deep. As if it could penetrate Celeste’s soul and condemn her to eternal damnation, with just that very look. She gulped, hard.
“Not all of my purity,” she said, hoping it would make things better. “Only part of it.”
Celeste gulped hard again. “My mouth.”
Once again, the priest gave a sharp glare without intending to. That was just the natural reaction he so often gave. It was because he cared, Celeste liked to think, and that was part of the reason she had to confide her transgressions to him, a man of God.
She nervously twirled her fingers together. “I let him touch me. Down below.”
“Through your dress, undergarments, or bare skin?”
This was pure torture.
“I let him touch my bare skin,” she admitted.
Father James leaned in closer. “Did he force himself?”
“No. No, he didn’t. It was consensual.”
The stoic priest turned away and rubbed his chin while he thought. There was something pressing on his mind, and Celeste wondered what it was. Surely this has happened before. Surely this man has heard about sexual transgressions throughout his years. So what was the dilemma?
Celeste expected this to go differently. She wanted to confess her sins of the flesh, receive her penance, be told that she was still a good girl, and maybe even cry a few tears if it came to that.
“Those on the choir must be pure,” he finally stated in a firm manner. “And purity must be absolute for those performing Mass on the birthday of our Lord and Savior.”
How badly Celeste wanted to weep. It was like a stab in the gut. She had been with the church choir since her teens. She had always loved to sing and perform. It brought her joy, along with joy to her family. Plus all her friends were involved with the choir too, so they always had a good time during rehearsals and performing together.
Christ’s Mass was different though. It was the most prestigious event given the importance of its date. Everyone in town would attend this event, wearing their best clothes, and would celebrate afterwards. Those in the choir would also dress in special gowns and have their hair fixed with extra attention.