Bernard O’ Sullivan was a pious and saintly man. When I first knew him, although well into his seventies, he carried out his parochial duties with a determination and a will which might have daunted a far younger man.
His physical appearance belied his gentle nature for he looked, for all the world, like a beached battleship undergoing a refit. In his younger days, he had been a rugby prop forward. His proud boast was that , once he had taken his vows, he never played on a losing side and, if asked why he thought that was, his answer was predictable,
“Sure and don’t you think I have a direct line to the Blessed Saviour.”
Indeed there were those, less charitable, who speculated that, as his love of the oval ball game was so intense, he had become a priest simply to play on a side that never lost. The good father’s answer to that was that it was a double blasphemy – against God AND the game.
He was a late ordination being into his late thirties when he became a carer of souls having first gained a History degree from Trinity, Dublin. He never talked about his reason for abandoning a successful teaching carer for the priesthood and those of us who knew and loved the man never pressed him. He was, to be sure, a good looking chap, in his youth and his old age. There is no doubt that before he embraced celibacy, he must have broken a heart of two.
Although the priesthood required that he gave up all sins of the flesh, he did admit to one vice for, as he would remind you that just because he now wore his collar around the wrong way, he was no less of a human being because of it.
His vice? Oh, yes! Father O’Sullivan was inordinately fond of pancakes and would consume as many as anyone cared to cook for him. He would also cook them himself at the slightest provocation and leave the presbytery kitchen in such a state that the widow Delaney, his housekeeper, threaten to quit so many times it had become a standing joke among the rest of us. If we saw her striding down the road from the presbytery and get on a bus, we knew that Father had been in the kitchen again.
Quite where this liking for batter fried in butter came from no one really knew – least of all Father O’Sullivan. We warned him about cholesterol and things like that but he took not a blind bit of notice , either of us or his doctor. He was fond of saying that ‘if they do me no good, sure , and they’ll do me no harm either’. He was adamant when he stated that pancakes were the one thing he could still enjoy and he would always stop short of committing the sin of gluttony.
The last time I saw him was on his 92nd birthday. He had retired finally at the age of 75 and gone to live with his sister who was ten years his junior.
The week before he died, he was holding forth to a circle of friends, one of whom, asked him the question to which we all knew the answer.
“Tell me, Father, to what do you attribute your long life.”
The old priest looked at the man for a moment and then at the rest of the company. There was a twinkle in his eye as he answered.
“Well, wait and I’ll tell you. A late ordination and lots of pancakes, young man.”
A ripple of laughter ran through the company. Father O’Sullivan, looking mighty pleased with himself, beamed at everybody. He held his hand up.
“Wait, wait, wait now. I want to tell you something.”
Everybody quietened down.
“I was praying to the Almighty the other day.” he began, “and he said to me ‘Bernard, he said, you are no longer a young man, are you. ‘
“No, Lord., you know I’m not.”
“Well, I’ll be calling you home soon because I have watched you for years eating your pancakes and they look so good, I want the recipe.”
The old chap died a week later and I am sure that he and his creator are now sharing pancakes together.
I hope they leave enough for me
A natty little tale of priestly temptation. A repost ’cos I like it.