My family and I lived in Papineauville in the province of Quebec for several years. During most of that time we were fortunate enough to stay in a huge century-old rectory. It was built to last if not for an eternity, at least as close to it as possible. With seven bedrooms, two rooms for offices, a huge dining room, and two complete bathrooms it could accommodate several priests at a time when even the smallest parish could boast of having two or more clerics.
When we lived in the rectory, however, those days were long gone. The ”quiet revolution” of the sixties and beyond had no doubt been a bloodless revolution. It nonetheless had left a large number of casualties in its wake. Many priests had left the priesthood or simply retired and had never been replaced. The rectory we called home had become a vast monument to a vanished era. Our one and only priest in the area lived in an adjoining village and on weekends he celebrated Mass in three parishes. We therefore rented the rectory and shared it with Sister Lise, the parish administrator. She was a cheerful, plump, and red-cheeked woman who loved little children. They, in turn, adored her. I suspect that she may have evoked in their minds the image of a diminutive Santa.
For our children this maze of large rooms, numerous hallways, winding staircases, and a seemingly endless assortment of nooks and crannies was an enchanted playground. My youngest daughter, Marie-Claude, was only three at the time. There was but one door separating our section of the rectory from the parish office space. This door was never locked. For Marie-Claude this was obviously an open invitation to visit sister Lise whenever she felt like it.
I still recall vividly the outcome of one of her friendly morning visits. Sister Lise was no longer three years old, but on this occasion she seemed to have contracted Marie-Claude’s total disregard for artificial divisions. She barely knocked on the door that lead into our dining room, opened it herself without waiting for our reply, and walked briskly into the kitchen area where my wife and I were finishing a leisurely breakfast. The lights in her eyes danced more brightly than usual as she came towards us and exclaimed without preamble: “Do you know what your daughter just said to me? She said that God loves us forever. I asked her how she knew this, and her reply was that she knew it because Mom and Dad loved each other and that their love was going to last forever.”
Marie-Claude has always expressed her convictions with the earnestness that I can still recognize in her even today. I can imagine her proclaiming this momentous piece of truth to sister Lise as if it were as clear as could be, at least for anyone who is three years old and can therefore understand such things without any difficulty whatsoever. There are realities that only very small children or very wise and seasoned seekers of the truth can recognize and proclaim without hesitation. One such reality is that "God loves us forever", and that, with God's grace, we are invited to live relationships that reflect that love.
Diane and I have been married for over 31 years. We are not yet there but I trust that we are well on our way towards loving each other “forever.”
©Gilles Côté, 2004