Serra House Seminary; 1992
The waiting room of the local Catholic seminary was a little chilly for four o’clock in the afternoon. As I was waiting, I could hear seminarians down the hall discussing the day’s events with a quick declaration of:
“I’m freezing my ass off in here!”
Not something I expected to hear in a place I thought was supposed to be silent or filled with chants of prayer and singing. From where I sat I had a view of the outdoor patio which lay motionless in the ever increasing, enveloping tightness of the night sky.
I wanted to be here; I insisted my mom drive me across town during the middle of rush hour traffic so that I could visit the seminary. But as much as I wanted this experience, I still felt the all too familiar pangs of anxiety within my stomach.
As I waited, I thought about the last two years since that night of the N.E.T retreat. My life had definitely changed since then: I became an obedient son, purchased a gold crucifix to wear around my neck, joined the Christian club at school and volunteered at every parish event. I did everything necessary, I believed a baptism by Spirit required. I had become so focused on achieving high standards in my new life in Christ – the seminary was the next step in my impulsive evolutionary process.
At eighteen, I’m not quite sure what I expected to find in the seminary on those first few visits but one thing I did know: I wanted to become a Roman Catholic priest.
The head rector had already passed by once to greet me but was a bit put off by the fact that I had arrived an hour earlier than scheduled. I could have sworn he said four but then again, he was a priest so who was I to argue? He didn’t know what to do with me since most of the seminarians were still at school and he was busy handling the business of the day so I just sat until dinner was ready.
Before we sat down to eat, Fr. Tony said, “please have a seat where ever you like and please, feel free to ask the seminarians any questions you might have.”
The dining room was very simple with only a large square tan wooden table in the middle that sat twelve. The walls were bare with only an eggshell color to cover them. As everyone sat down to eat, I felt invisible. The seminarians were occupied either vying for the opportunity to speak louder than the other or finish their salad so as to get on with the main course. I tried my best to hone in on one of the many conversations that were being had but it was hard to try to talk and eat at the same time.
I was comfortable yet a little nervous as I focused on eating one leaf at a time all the while I tried to insert a forced laugh or “is that right” statement in between pauses. After a couple of bites, and finally winning a spot in an engaging conversation with a seminarian from Vietnam, I started to feel my body take over. The all too familiar process and subsequent fight that followed completely distracted me from where I was and could only be avoided by excusing myself from the dining room table. This overpowering feeling had happened before in restaurants and the dining room tables of people I barely knew – I was going to throw up.
“Could you please tell me where the bathroom is?!” I hurriedly asked my startled companion.
Once I made it inside the bathroom, my mouth stopped its unrelenting production of saliva. I was safe. After a couple of minutes in complete stillness, and after the storm had passed, I was able to regain control and start to move around a little. The little bits of salad I had eaten before the attack ensured that I wasn’t going to throw up but I knew that going back, I wouldn’t be able to take another bite.
As I made my way back, my friend from Vietnam was already on to a new conversation No one else seemed to notice that I was gone. The one person who did was Fr. Tony, he asked if I was okay as I sat down. Yes, was my cautious response as I carefully sat down trying to control everything around me.
“The spaghetti has been served so please feel free to help
yourself.” I slowly started to pick at my salad and engage Father in a conversation. I felt that if I distracted him, he wouldn’t notice I wasn’t eating.
After dinner, we went on a tour of the house. I was a bit more relaxed after dinner and was able to think more clearly. It was then that I started to feel like this was something I could be a part of; that is until Fr. Tony started the informal interview.
“Are you currently dating anyone right now Eddie?” Fr. Tony asked as he looked pensively at me and waited for an answer.
“Yeah, I’ve had a couple of girlfriends in school,” was my short response as I anxiously awaited for his approval.
“But are you currently dating someone right now?” he proceeded. “No” I quickly replied. I wanted him to get off the subject so that I wouldn’t have to face the answer. He shook his head lightly and went on to say: “The reason I ask is because your hand gestures seem a bit feminine?”
There’s that question again, I anxiously thought to myself.
“I use my hands a lot when talking and sometimes I get excited,” was my last second, unrehearsed reply.