So this happened. Yesterday morning She was sitting on her usual end of the couch reading. I interrupted her to clear the weekend schedule, an important task. She likes schedules and lists. This is what keeps our lives functioning on all levels. So I asked a question, and this happened.

“Are you going to Mass on Saturday or Sunday?”

Without looking up from her book, she answered, “No.”

“No what? Which?”

“I’m not going.”

“You’re not going to which?”

She looked up with moist eyes. “I’m not going.”

A pause.

“You’re not going to church?”

“No.”

Another pause.

“At all?

“No.”

That’s what happened. She wasn’t smiling. It was as if she was holding up a fist and, with the other hand, a handprinted sign.

I didn’t push it. I sat back waiting for more. There was no more.

We had already been through the news of the week. For some time we had talked about the Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” stories of 2001-2002 that exposed the priest scandal in that city. Now, she had to hear about the priest scandal erupting in Pennsylvania, particularly about the parish of St. Therese near Wilkes-Barre, where five of the priests served as pastors in a church where members say they “separate their faith from the evil acts of supposedly holy men.”

It was then that she just reached over, touched my hand and shook her head. No more. She had had enough. When the stories came on the nightly news, she left the room.

We’re talking about an old-fashioned Catholic here, the kind her mother and father were. I learned that about her early on, from the afternoon when we agreed that we were in love, and she said I could come and share her small upper East Side apartment.

She allowed me a sleeping bag on the far side of the bedroom near the window. As long as I stayed on that side and didn’t walk in my sleep or anything, we could begin our lives as model/actors together. That’s when I learned about her.

She is a Trinity College girl, in her time a Catholic school for women in Washington, D.C. She was never a candidate for the convent the way Mary O’Hara was; I wasn’t going to go through that again.

In D.C. she dated a lot, boys from Georgetown, Annapolis, Catholic University. I, with a minimum of college, was her least educated date and the poorest.

So I started joining her at Mass, where I saw that she was one of those serious Catholics who close their eyes tightly when chanting the prayers. That’s serious stuff.

Still, I persisted. She’s always known that I have been for some time only a bystander, sharing a pew with her, because as playwright Edward Albee wrote in one of his plays, “Ten feet away from her my loneliness begins.” So I suffered the long sermons, stuffy air and hard wooden pews. She smiled at my indifference toward her church. It’s what we did for love.

In the beginning, she frowned at my whispered asides in church, so I shaped up a bit. I had a nice floor to sleep on near a window in a warm apartment on the upper East Side, and I had won this wonderful girl with tobacco colored hair, who looked at me in such a way that hampered my breathing.

She has mellowed over the years, been more forgiving, but still a Catholic girl, still going to church.

So when, on this humid Maine afternoon 57 years later, this happened, I was stunned.

There were early signs of discontent. She had already decided that she would no longer drop money in the basket for any church selection outside of supporting her parish and the priest.

I have always seen through the sublime insanity of enforced chastity or, for that matter, any rules adopted in 1139 A.D., and I strongly agree with all those who believe that the church will not survive unless it drastically changes its playbook.

It’s 2018, and the breezes of change have become whirlwinds. She and I agree that women must be given a place on the altar. And even if I am a prodigal son dragging my ass toward eternity, holding my begging cup out for forgiveness, I know priests should be allowed to marry.

I can tell you this from experience. Nothing can keep an errant soul on the path of righteousness more than a good woman. And besides, gentlemen, you may get a nice warm spot by a window.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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