A few days after Aidan’s unexpected call, I had my answer.
“Yes, we can get back together,” I told him over the phone.
Aidan was ecstatic. He said so many sweet things. And I tried to be happy again, too.
Ignoring the Warning
Soon afterwards, we had another conversation. As we discussed where we saw our relationship going, the issue of the priesthood resurfaced.
“I haven’t stopped discerning the priesthood, Mary,” Aidan said. “I just feel like I won’t know for sure unless we keep dating.”
Uh-oh. A terrible dread settled over me. What have I done?
After I hung up with him, my sense of dread grew even stronger. The sensation tripled once I told my friends about our conversation. Everything inside of me screamed, Go no further!
But the more my heart warned me against dating Aidan, the more I rejected my own feelings as nonsense.
Be rational, not emotional, Mary, I told myself. There’s no reason why Aidan and I still can’t work things out. We just need a little more time.
That night, the Lord was warning me. But I couldn’t yet recognize the sound of His Voice, speaking within my own heart.
One Morning in Maine
In November, Aidan flew to Michigan to meet my family. Then in December, I flew to Maine to visit Aidan and his father. My plane landed as the sun set over the Atlantic, casting red and gold rays across a sparkling sea. The snow-covered pines, the rocky coastline, the quaint East Coast homes: Maine was a lovely wintry dream.
After an outing by the sea, I went to the guest bathroom to wash up. I pulled on a pearly white, rainbow-threaded sweater I’d found at Forever 21, on Times Square. Knowing that Aidan was waiting outside, I conditioned my long hair and styled it all soft and silky. The pleasant heat from my recent shower curled the edges of my hair.
Aidan knocked softly on the door, calling my name.
Wisps of steam curled out of the room as I opened the door.
“Aidan.” I beamed up at him.
The look he gave me then! As if he was seeing me for the very first time. As if for one moment he wasn’t thinking about discernment or the priesthood or his career or anything else, but just…me.
“You are beautiful, Mary.”
Then he leaned in and kissed me.
In that moment, at least, Aidan loved me. In that moment, he made me feel like a woman worthy of being loved and cherished.
I seized that memory and held it close to my heart. I wasn’t the type to forget a kindness, when it was given to me.
No Future for Us
In January, I visited my best friend in Seattle, who had recently gotten married. I loved witnessing her new life as a married woman. It was beautiful and intimate: just the life I’d hoped and imagined for myself. Unlike Aidan, who vacillated constantly between dating and wanting to be a priest, I wasn’t thinking of the convent at that time. Instead, seeing my best friend’s happiness made me want to be married, too.
But the more I talked to Aidan each evening, the less certain he seemed about our relationship. He just couldn’t let the idea of the priesthood go.
Finally, in early February, he revealed his concerns.
“My heart won’t be at peace unless I go to the seminary.” His voice sounded pained. “When I imagine the concrete steps I’d need to take towards us getting married, like one of us moving closer to the other…it feels like a mistake.”
The old dread I’d felt in October returned a hundredfold. This time, I had neither logical arguments nor hopeful optimism to keep it at bay. This time, it just felt like the truth.
I can’t keep dating Aidan if he sees no future for us.
Lord, Give Me the Grace
The next weekend, I went to the Cathedral in Lexington, Kentucky, with my friend Therese. She showed me their little adoration chapel, hidden in a room upstairs. I’d come to the Cathedral once before, with Aidan. Now I took my concerns directly to the Lord.
How can I keep dating him if he still wants to be a priest? If he doesn’t see any future for us? I clutched my rosary in a death grip, leaned as close to the tabernacle as my kneeler would allow.
The Lord gazed back at me silently from His place of repose. He gave me no sign; He didn’t need to.
I knew what I had to do. I had done it before, in September.
This time will be harder.
I closed my eyes, drew in a long, slow breath. In, then out.
O Lord, please give me the words to say. Please Lord, give me the grace.
God is So Close
The next day, I broke up with Aidan for the second time.
We were on the phone three hours. All the tears I should have shed with him earlier, when he left for New York in August, when he kept talking to me about the priesthood, when he told me he saw no future for us, came rushing out now. That night, I let it all go.
And in the midst of that deep feeling, in that moment when I finally stopped running from the truth I’d known in my heart all along…I felt God’s presence.
“God is so close to us right now,” I told Aidan. I rubbed my eyes on my sweater sleeve. “He’s so close.”
God was close to us, to me, in our suffering. I’d been walking through darkness while I tried to make things work with Aidan. When I finally let him go, I entered into the Truth, and back into the center of God’s plans for me.
I spent the next few days trying to hide my red eyes and used tissue boxes from everyone at work. But my friend, the Colonel’s assistant, noticed anyway.
“Things will get better,” he promised, trying to comfort me.
I wasn’t so certain. My life in Kentucky, which had started off so promising, was a mess. My responsibilities at Blue Grass Army Depot had doubled, forcing me to work extra hours in the office and at home. When I searched for new job prospects, they all seemed to be located even farther from Michigan. I’d just broken up with Aidan. My family was still hundreds of miles away. Even my new friends on High Street were leaving Richmond for other opportunities.
What am I doing with my life now, anyway?
Was it worth being this lonely and miserable, just to keep a "real" job?
O Lord, please help me.
The Email Message
A few days after the break-up, my Dad sent me an email. Inside was a digital brochure for a retreat in Nashville, Tennessee.
The brochure showed a group of white-habited sisters singing in a beautiful, peach-colored chapel. A second image showed a group of young women talking and praying with the sisters. Everyone looked happy, serene.
Jesu Caritas Retreat – March 2012
Hosted by the Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia
For single women, ages 18-30.
“That’s me. Young, female, and single.” I sighed. Then I glanced at the top of the brochure.
There, in large, stylized letters was the title of the retreat:
“Behold, I Make All Things New.”
They were words from the Scriptures, but I felt as if they’d been written just for me.
A tiny glimmer of hope returned to my heart. Maybe there was a way out of the ugly hole I’d dug for myself. Maybe God could still do something about my Kentucky mess.
“Behold, I make all things new,” I repeated. Then I visited the Sisters' website and signed up for the retreat.
Thank you so much for reading! Join me next week to hear about my first encounter with the Sisters of Saint Cecilia!
About the Author:
Mary Rose Kreger lives in the metro Detroit area with her family, where she writes fantasy tales for teens, and blogs about her spiritual journey: before, during, and after the convent. Mary also shares faith-based poems and fantasy quotes on her Instagram account, @faithandfantasy1.