his own gift from God
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Fleabag (TV)
Fleabag/Priest (Fleabag)
Priest (Fleabag)
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Epistolary, POV Priest (Fleabag), Pining, Religion, Catholicism, Character Study
Unsent Letters 2024
Published: 2024-04-04 Words: 1,872 Chapters: 1/1

his own gift from God


But if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry, since it is better to be married than to be burnt up.
1 Corinthians 7:9

Priest writes a sermon and thinks about Fleabag and what it means for them.

his own gift from God

[letter posted to Fleabag's café]

Dear F—,

I hope it's not too pushy to write to you. I can imagine you don't want to hear from me again. It seemed to me when we parted ways that you didn't want to stay in contact, and since you didn't write in the meantime ... I hope you've been doing well. I hope you found something to live for, even if it wasn't me. I hope you found Sorry, it's not my place to talk to you like that. Please ignore my ramblings.

I'm writing you à propos of something else. Your sister invited me to her daughter's baptism. While I don't love that she converted, I'm kind of touched that she invited me anyway. I always love doing baptisms, even though I don’t know what to do with babies, but I'm sure I'm going to love it as a witness rather than active participant. It's the act of welcoming a child into one's community, you know? And not just the people; it's the act of telling a child that they are loved, not only by their parents, but also by Him, and nothing can take that away.

Anyway. What I've been meaning to ask you: Would you mind if I came to the baptism? If you don't want to see me, I'll stay out of your way. That would be fair. I don't want to make this harder for you than it has to be. Just say the word.



Dear F—,

it was good to see you too. And talking to you. You know, you're a really good conversationalist. I never was, but talking to you, I don't feel as awkward as usual. At all, really. And you have given me much to think about. I still don't know that I'm playing a role – I'm me, and most of the time I'm wearing my soutane, and if that gets heavy, it's still not a role I can just shrug off, if you know what I mean. It is important to me to get it right.

You have nothing to apologise for. I'm so grateful I have met you, you have no idea. Not just yesterday, I mean. I'm glad you seem to be shedding the roles that don't fit you. You were radiant, yesterday. It suits you. I'll stop talking now.


[torn paper in the bin next to Priest's desk]

Dear F—,

I'm writing a sermon for next Sunday and it's something on which I'd I'm stuck. I don’t suppose you can help me, and I don’t need you to, I just want to kind of ramble about this at someone who at least can understand why I’m stuck. And based on our mutual experiences, that’s you.

The bible passages for next Sunday are … well. The story how Jesus finds his disciples and begins preaching. A story about God’s mercy. A psalm about how all strength comes from God. And fucking 1 Corinthians 7. Not all of it, but of course I read the rest of it in preparation and … whoever put those passages together did that to physically torment me, personally. When I think about all these passages together, I always come back to you.

Let’s start with the beginning – of the Galilean Ministry, which is what this weeks Gospel is about, so I feel I should put that front an center in my sermon. It’s a story in which Jesus starts teaching, and calls his first disciples to follow him. I know how to make it relatable and a teaching moment for my parish, but for me personally, the story has a different meaning. The call of the disciples is the one I heard when I found my way to God. It sounds so tacky when I say it like this, and I’m not sure I’ve ever said those words to someone who wasn’t a priest himself, but it’s how I feel about it. I wouldn’t have given you up for anything less. But just as Simon and Andrew left their old life behind to follow Jesus when He called them, I, too, became what He needed me to be: someone who in turn helps others get closer to God. Someone who inspires others to follow Him, too. What good am I when I can’t do that?

So I rely on His strength to keep me upright. I keep coming back to this week’s psalm:

My soul, be at rest in God alone,
from whom comes my hope.

God alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not fall.

My deliverance and honor are with God,
my strong rock;
my refuge is with God.

I could end the sermon here, and tell my parish just that: follow Jesus’ footsteps, and trust in God. Perhaps it wouldn't make too bad a sermon. But those two aren't the only lectures of the day, and it bugs me no end to ignore the others just because I don't want to think about it. Sure, not every Mass has all lectures, and I know some people say I'm closer to an Anglican than a Catholic, the way my sermons tend to take their time, but that's actually something I think they do right. Holy Communion may be the most important part of Mass, but how are you supposed to know its significance when you don't know ... well, who God is? So. Paul.

The reason why we’re celibate, by the way, lies in 1 Corinthians 7; it’s so that we can dedicate ourself to God without earthly distractions. It's the first time in ages I've read that particular passage. As a young convert who studied theology, I always felt a kinship to Paul. Unlike him, I didn't actually persecute Christians, but I did some things that hurt people and I didn't care. Now, when I happen to hurt people, I care about it. I hope I'm not hurting you, writing to you like that. But I feel you have an outside view on the whole thing that could be quite interesting. Anyway. Here's Paul, a new convert, who feels it's his mandate to help others find God. And he's writing all these letters to the people he converted.

In this week’s passage, he’s talking about how ‘the world in its present form is passing away.’ That’s because in his times, they believed that the end of times and the Realm of God was near, that’s the context in which he said we shouldn’t cling too much to earthly pleasures; that’s why he recommends celibacy, and if one can’t be celibate, they should marry. Yeah, I know. I don’t necessarily agree with him as a general moral prerogative either, don’t worry. The thing is, in light of that, I keep coming back to what we both shared together. On the surface, it’s something Paul would condemn, that’s sure. But I can’t bring myself to believe that.

We priests are God's servants, better to let ourselves be led by God, with fewer obligations that bind us to a secular life. Marriage is a commitment, and a sacrament, and not to be undertaken lightly; it's two people binding each other together, striving together to get closer to God, to help actualise each other's faith; it's the elevation of one person's faith through the other, it's God's eternal love brought to earth. Marriage is holy, as is celibacy in the name of God, and ... the thing is, I've always felt close to Paul, but that was under different circumstances, before I knew you, because for all I feel drawn to you, and I know that the You I met at first isn't the person you are, it's a mask you wore and a coat you shed, but then I got to know you, perhaps not all of you, but a real part of you, and that night, I felt what it means to 'make love.' My love for God is solid and steady and something I rely on as I believe He relies on me, but …

I made a promise to God, and I broke it. But then, Jonah in Ninive comes to my help: if even the worst imaginable place, a cesspit of sin, can be spared if they repent, then I as a person, a child of God, can be forgiven for my sins. When we follow Him, God forgives us and is merciful, isn't that wonderfully good news? That's the thing that made me fall in love with God. Nothing is ever lost, salvation is possible for everyone. And God loves every single one of His creations and is willing to save them, whether other people think they deserve it or not, whether we understand it or not. Christianity, especially Catholicism, doesn’t require perfection. God loves us and is willing to forgive our transgressions.

Sorry, I lost my train of thought, there's this pesky little bird picking at my window and I don't know what He's telling me. Anyway, I always knew the reason for our celibacy, but in preparation for the sermon, I read again what Paul actually wrote about it: I should still like everyone to be as I am myself; but everyone has his own gift from God, one this kind and the next something different. So for Paul, the ability to stay celibate is a gift from God that some people have and some don't. I fancied myself the former, but thinking about what almost happened at your niece's baptism, I'm forced to confront the hard truth that either God is testing me like he tested Job, or the Devil is tempting me (which I don't believe, not in this case, not by showing me love, for all love is the work of God), or, and I'm more and more willing to consider this, I'm just not made up of the same stuff as Paul. I find myself wondering more and more if I just misunderstood God's plan for me. Maybe I'm not His servant in the way I thought I was.

For he writes: But if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry, since it is better to be married than to be burnt up. Didn't I burn up in all those long months we spent apart? When I was keeping away from your café and you were keeping away from my church, when I was hoping that I would be able to forget you and when I was relieved that I didn't, when the thoughts of our moments together, all those times we talked and the ones when the only sound from your mouth was– when those things were the light of my day, the one thing keeping me upright and giving me the strength to do His work among the people of my parish. When I basked in the comfort of having felt a love like ours, as close to God's love on Earth as anyone can get. I probably shouldn't talk to you like that, not after rejecting you two times. I'm probably never going to send this letter.

This is why I can't include 1 Cor 7 in my sermon.


Hey F—,

I'd like to talk. Can we meet?



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