“All things are interesting, in that sense. If you’re paying attention. That’s just the reality of the incarnation.” (p. 62)
Fr. Zeke is my favorite character. His struggle sums up the all of the ‘wars’ that take place throughout the story. Interestingly, Tim Farrington originally named the book "Careers of Faith". And, while I'm glad that title didn't stick, it makes clear what the book is about. Maybe too clear, and thus the title change. The book is about vocation. About embracing your 'war'. And letting it go. Fr. Zeke Germaine seems to be just that, distilled. No question. Warring with himself, his past, his suffering, his desires and his vocation to love.
(from just after he was wounded in the war, pg. 148. Italics are mine.)
"He was terrified but strangely calm, as he often was under intense fire. Combat was the world, and he was in the world but not of it. There was even an exhilaration to the experience; he'd never felt so free, so true and so real. The blazing adrenaline made him simple as a flame, all radiance and quiet heat, a lit place where everything was clear and all he could see, in perfect focus, was the next man in front of him in need of care and comfort. He didn't think much about dying himself. Death came, in such a place, or it didn't. That was in God's hands."
These two scenes captivated me: The Pastoral Care meeting at Priscilla Starkey's parlor and the Bingo game at St. Jude's. Fr. Zeke travels between the base reality of the present: who should receive which leftover altar flowers and who's cheating at bingo, to the deep love of a priest acting "in personal Christi" and loving his flock. Remembering the death of a good man, Mr. Condotti and his compassion for hard-of-hearing old Mrs. Malewich in her wheelchair who just wants to win one durn bingo game. And, interestingly, Mrs. Starkey is the instigator in both scenes, as dull and uninspired as her weak coffee. What beautiful, delicate contrast. How real. Hasn't every priest been here? And, do they pray the words of St. Peter, too?
Baby Anna and Fr. Zeke share a birthday. This really didn't stand out at me until reading the book again, this third time through. Is it stretching too much to think there is some connection there, with the birth and death of this little innocent baby and Fr. Zeke's ability to find "what it takes to make a human being into a priest"? In a way, it is because of Anna that Fr. Zeke finds freedom from his feelings for Liz. Our last view of him is at the front door of Lizzie's house, saying good-bye, no longer full of craving and dread. " 'I might come by on Saturday,' he said. 'The lawn could use mowing'... Germaine smiled. He still wanted to kiss her. He probably always would. The only difference now was that he knew it would never happen. Something had changed between them, in that hospital room. He was, forever, the man who had given last rites to her daughter. And soon enough he would be the man who had sent the pictures of her dead baby to her husband. And he thought, So this is what it takes to make a human being into a priest. 'Okay, then,' he said. 'I'll see you Saturday.' "
One last Fr. Zeke moment. Liz and Fr. Zeke start talking about the weather (p. 104):
Fr. Zeke: “ ‘I’m ready for some real fall, to tell you the truth. I don’t do well in the heat.'
'That must have made Vietnam tough for you.'
'That, and all those young men dying.'
So much for talking about the weather, Liz thought. Conversation with Germaine was like hiking on a glacier; things had a way of falling through the covering of small talk into dauntingly deep crevasses."