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Coming of Age Happy Christian

“Tatterdemalion. Ragamuffin. Slubberdegullion.”

David’s great-aunt knew a dozen ways to call him slovenly and unkempt, but he paid her little mind. Since the Catholic Mass she dragged him to each day was tedious, he found crawling under the pews much more fun than listening to Latin. 

As usual, his great-aunt pulled him up by the collar of his shirt and sat him firmly on the pew. A twinkle in her eyes belied her stern expression.

“Behave,” she whispered.

And he would. For a bit.

She fretted over his crisp white shirt, now sullied by dirt, dust, and wads of Wrigley’s Doublemint Gum. His suit pants had caught on an errant nail from the parquet flooring, tearing a hole all the way down to his knee. Chastened, David sat still until his legs decided to kick at the small shelf with the books he couldn’t read affixed to the pew in front of him. 

His great-aunt sighed.

When Father Lawrence finally bowed before the altar, David knew the end was near. He couldn’t wait to run to the parish hall where punch and shortbread cookies awaited. 

“Ite, missa est!” Go, you are dismissed, Father Lawrence declared, a warm, welcoming smile spreading across his face. David could not help but smile back as the priest continued. “I send you forth to extend God’s call to the whole world.”

David quit fidgeting and fully considered the priest, now walking by him in the closing processional. Father Lawrence’s liturgical vestments were made from vibrant green damask with gold embroidery, embodying the epitome of virtue and goodness. Underneath all of Father Lawrence’s finery was a simple alb, a full-length, long-sleeved, white linen tunic secured about his waist by a cord. 

He looked like an angel. 

Father Lawrence tousled David’s hair as he walked by. 


🜋 🜋 🜋


“I want to be a priest,” he told his great-aunt on their walk home. 

“You’re too young to know what you want,” she said at the time, but she was wrong. David knew exactly what he wanted.

While the boys his age threw baseballs, basketballs, and footballs, David could be found helping Father Lawrence visit the sick and the elderly. By the end of high school, he had learned the hymnal by heart. While his friends stole each other’s girlfriends and found dark lanes to park their cars, David studied the texts of the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours. While his peers applied to colleges offering majors in substance abuse and partying, David looked for schools specializing in Theology, Divinity & Religious Studies.

At college, David bypassed $2 Jello-shot nights, choosing instead to volunteer with the campus ministry. While other college students flew to beaches for Spring Break, he found retreats and respite with others seeking God on their own terms. 

After his undergraduate program concluded, David needed Father Lawrence’s recommendation to apply to a seminary. Earning his Master of Divinity was the next laborious step in his preparation for the priesthood. 

At their appointed time, David sat nervously in Father Lawrences’s office at the parish house. So much was riding on this interview, David thought. Without Father Lawrence’s approval, his childhood dream would vanish like a puff of incense smoke from a censer. He couldn’t imagine serving the rest of his life as simply a lay minister. Although he’d be able to distribute communion, serve Mass, teach religious education, and carry on with the works of charity, he’d had his heart set on being a priest in his own parish. 

Father Lawrence entered the room, uncharacteristically solemn, carrying a large paper bag. As he placed the bag by his desk, he took the chair across from David.

“Thank you for meeting with me, Father,” David smiled. The priest did not smile back. Instead, he folded his hands and bowed his head, lips mumbling something in Latin. 

David was at a loss.

In time, the old priest’s head lifted.

“David, the decision to enter a seminary to become a priest is not one to be taken lightly. I am going to ask you a series of questions.”

“Yes, Father.”

“Are you of sufficient mental and physical health to undertake this responsibility?”

“Yes, Father.”

“Do you understand the Catholic doctrines as expressed in scripture, tradition, and interpretation?

“Yes, Father.”

“Do you have a love of learning?

“Yes, Father.”

“Are you prepared for a life of prayer, of simplicity, of being in solidarity with the poor, of obedience?”

“Yes, Father.”

“Finally, son,” he cleared his throat. “Are you prepared to live a life of celibacy?”

“Yes, Father.”

The old priest looked at David and saw no guile in him. He reached down, took the large paper bag, and handed it to the young man.

“When it is time, I want you to have these.”

David opened the bag, tears springing to his eyes. Carefully cleaned and folded were the vibrant green damask liturgical vestments, gold embroidery glittering under the tissue paper. 

“As you know, green is the standard color worn between Easter and Christmas. It symbolizes hope and life for each new day that God blesses us with. I will heartily recommend you to all the seminaries you wish to apply to, and I would be honored if you wear these vestments of mine on your first day as a priest in the parish that is lucky enough to have you minister.”


🜋 🜋 🜋


On the last day David was a priest, he carefully packed up his things from the parish house. He could have donated the lot—all the colors of the liturgical calendar—to the younger priests, fresh from the seminary. Purple for Lent and Advent. Rose for Laetare Sunday and Gaudete Sunday. Red for Pentecost. Blue for the Marian Feasts. White and gold for Christmas and Easter. Black for funerals. Green for everything else.

Over the years, he’d amassed lovely chasubles and stoles, elegant copes and humeral veils in silk dupioni, satin, and cotton sateen. It would have been a shame to leave all of those things behind. There was already so much he would miss. 

But Christine suggested he bring them home. As usual, he found wisdom in her advice. 

He hadn’t meant to fall in love at thirty, especially as a priest counseling a young grieving widow with three young sons. Conflicted by his feelings, he counseled with Father Lawrence. When told of David’s change of heart, the old priest simply roared with laughter, embracing David in an all-forgiving hug. He assured the soon-to-be-ex-priest that God loved him and had great use for his skills in serving His flock.

Christine’s children were a handful to keep reverent on the pew, the youngest of whom loved to wriggle out of her arms and under it. 

Smiling, David reached for his youngest stepson, whispering “Tatterdemalion. Ragamuffin. Slubberdegullion.”

“What are those?” the scamp asked, as David sat him down by his side on the pew. Mass was going particularly slowly on this Sunday.

“Those are silly words,” David replied, tousling the boy’s hair. “They mean nothing.”

“So why do the priests wear dresses anyway?”

Suppressing a laugh, David replied, “Those are his vestments, and they are very comfortable. They have to be. Preparing the Lord’s Supper is a lot of work.”

“I want to wear a vestment—just like Father Taylor does,” the little boy decided.

“Well, I can arrange that when we get home. What color would you like?”

“Green,” the boy said emphatically. “It’s my favorite color.”

“Coincidentally," David smiled, "green is my favorite color, too.”


May 08, 2022 21:07

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59 comments

K. Antonio
22:14 May 08, 2022

AHHHH! Those last lines were adorable. I actually thought this entire story was so cute and clever. The clothes you chose were so unexpected. I'm not much of a church-goer anymore, but the first scene really brought back memories of my childhood. My grandma used to take me to church, I volunteered at church for years and loved it, and I met many wonderful people because of church (though, my religious beliefs now have changed quite a bit). I really liked how the story flows from one point in time to another. We get a sense of environment...

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A.G. Scott
00:45 May 09, 2022

the titles of y'all's most recent stories are almost anagrams

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Deidra Lovegren
01:42 May 09, 2022

OMG THAT IS CRAZY Dermatillomania Tatterdemalion Why do they sound like anime monsters?

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A.G. Scott
01:46 May 09, 2022

One sounds like a spell you have to use to vanquish the other LOL

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Deidra Lovegren
01:50 May 09, 2022

Insert J K Rowling joke here

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22:28 May 15, 2022

I read that whole series it was the best ever lol

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Reading Reedsy
23:45 May 18, 2022

Good job! Expertise in writing I see.

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Deidra Lovegren
01:12 May 19, 2022

A little

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Reading Reedsy
18:37 May 21, 2022

Ahaha little??!!

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20:06 May 18, 2022

I loved this story. My brother wanted to be a priest when he was a kid. David is so earnest in his desire to become a priest. He dismisses all college fun and dances for the study of the divinity. Father Lawrence is such a great character and so patient and supportive. I loved it when Father Lawrence laughed when David decided to leave the priesthood and get married! This story stays with you!

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Deidra Lovegren
01:14 May 19, 2022

“This story stays with you” — that is the BEST compliment I’ve ever received. 🥹❤️

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03:12 May 19, 2022

It's so true. Thank you for writing this story!

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Carly Jane Eddy
17:56 May 15, 2022

I thoroughly enjoyed this, my parents called me a ragamuffin when I was a kid! The child's view point of attending church is spot on. The imagery was simple but just enough to create the right tone. I like the flow between different time periods and how it came full circle in the end-- the recycling of family sentiments and bonding with his new found family. Heartwarming and well written, who doesn't like a sweet story?!

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Deidra Lovegren
18:12 May 15, 2022

I myself was a ragamuffin and much preferred crawling under the pews. I'm sure I embarrassed my parents (and probably still do.) Thanks for the kudos. Sweet was what I was going for. I really envy those people who devote their lives to serving others. Just an amazing choice. So many religious leaders get trashed (and deservedly so) but there are so many who are otherworldly good and decent and kind. This my was my tribute to "those who serve."

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16:49 May 15, 2022

I was so curious how you'd develop the garment prompt into a story and you didn't disappoint. A priest's vestment was quite unexpected. I've learned quite a bit about "liturgical vestments" and the various colors worn at certain events/holidays. You've done quite some research, obviously, but it's naturally woven into the fabric of the story, without overwhelming the reader with too much technical information. I love Father Lawrence and how wisely and lovingly he reacted to the young priest's decision to marry the widow. No lectures, no su...

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Deidra Lovegren
18:16 May 15, 2022

I appreciate your kind words. I had a lot of help from Catholic readers. I'm not Catholic, but I admire the faith. The beauty and pageantry of mass has always awed me. (I have attended more than a few weddings and funerals in Catholic churches and copied people who seem to know when to stand and kneel) -- I didn't know the colors meant anything until I researched them. Huh. Go figure! As one commenter said, the Marian festivals and the blues are very ornate and lovely. Highly recommend a google search on those. Good ol' Mary getting the best...

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16:04 May 15, 2022

Your stories are literately my favorites! They're always so interesting and keep me intrigued!! .....read mine? "Getting To Know You" and "Dear Txunmay" Ty!!

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Deidra Lovegren
18:18 May 15, 2022

Of course :)

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Rebecca Miles
05:49 May 15, 2022

So much lyricism in this story; the language for the very particular clothes associated with Catholicism was like a beautiful sermon. For me, I was expecting an even stronger link from the narrator to the vestements. I am a sucker for the emotional so I would have loved a passage where he tries on those beautiful emerald robes for the first time when he is ordained- I know, in your skilled hands, I would have found it really moving.

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Deidra Lovegren
15:23 May 15, 2022

You are so right. I should have dug deep into my emotional reserves for this. I may circle back around and revisit this. Something noble about giving one's life to a larger purpose than oneself.... :)

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Alex Sultan
03:59 May 13, 2022

This was pretty cool, Deidra. It's nice to see you switch up your style, and your research does show! This was a wholesome story. I know very little about Catholicism and priests and what not, so I did learn a few things. I thought it was well done.

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Michał Przywara
21:05 May 12, 2022

Heh, not what I was expecting from a Deidra Original, but the mark of a skilled writer is flexibility. So that said, yeah, it's a sweet story. It's also a neat take on the prompt, since vestments are a little obscure outside the biz. It's sweet without being cloying. You get that cyclical childhood connection between generations, which is a powerful theme simply because it's so real. You get that on two levels. There's David's childhood and that of his stepchild, but you also have Lawrence passing on his vestments to a new priest. The artic...

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Ace Quinnton
16:30 May 10, 2022

As someone who has family with several beliefs, this is interesting. My birth father is Catholic, my mother is born Jewish but converted to modern Christianity. My stepfather was on and off before he met my mom, but now full Christain. While I am an agnostic theism. It's so fascinating whenever you learn about other religions that are different from yours.

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Deidra Lovegren
17:03 May 10, 2022

Part of the reason I wrote this. I had no idea about liturgical vestments, but they have always intrigued me. (Thanks again to Guadalupe for her corrections!!) I would love to write other stories about other religions, just for the excuse to research them. Endlessly fascinating.

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Ace Quinnton
17:08 May 10, 2022

It's also fascinating because you get to look at other's cultural perspective. (Because in certain areas, there are certain beliefs. Whether they are traditional or modern, it's all so interesting to me.)

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Mike Panasitti
13:39 May 10, 2022

Deidre, I don't know what to say about this one other than it's apparent you did some research on Catholic ceremonial garb. Perhaps you could have spiced it up a bit by making David's new wife a stripper whose three children were sired by three different baby daddies - all of varying races. A truly dedicated Catholic he would've proved to be then!

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Deidra Lovegren
13:51 May 10, 2022

See, Mike? This is why we can't have nice things. I was trying desperately to write a NON-snarky, genuinely sweet story here -- but since we're both in the gutter now, let's go: - - - - Of course Christine is fallen woman, the Mary Magdalene trope. And she prefers "Exotic Dancer" rather than stripper. And why do you think Father Lawrence was laughing so hard? Every priest in the parish knows Christine had a man-of-the-cloth kink. David is the only one naïve enough to fall for her schtick. (Maybe he should have had a Jello shot or two in co...

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03:41 May 15, 2022

Don't drop into the snarky Deidra. Got enough of the gritty-and-depressing=realism trope from your story where the character receives a book as a gift. I like 'nice.' Keep it up.

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Mike Panasitti
15:55 May 11, 2022

I strive to be nice, Lady Lovegren. I believe, however, that snarky humor in a story can exorcise latent nastiness in a reader. Perhaps a dose of salubrious literature can open a "pressure valve" for the bottled up Id. Or is that wishful thinking?

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Deidra Lovegren
16:14 May 11, 2022

Fine. I will dedicate next week's story to you and provide you a cathartic experience. Pray tell, what topic shall I unleash my Juvenalian satire on? Apparently not religious clothing.

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Mike Panasitti
17:13 May 11, 2022

Juvenalian satire aside, try your hand depicting a disillusioned singer's decision to go underground. Catholic religious clothing is out of the question, but don't rule out the appearance of a yarmulke. ; )

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Deidra Lovegren
00:36 May 12, 2022

A Klezmer in a group of klezmorim. You got it.

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Shea West
04:50 May 10, 2022

Deidra, My grandmother, a teacher for most of her life happened to have a 5-6 year run at a Catholic school when I was young. I recall, albeit being a heathen myself, being quite fascinated with the nuns she taught amongst and the few times she'd dragged us along to Christmas mass for the school. Fascinated by the colors and performance of it all, in my nicest dress, and best behavior. I always wondered how the priests wore such beautiful pieces of clothing when simplicity was meant to be part of their world, but your story taught me a ...

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Deidra Lovegren
11:09 May 10, 2022

I live for your comments :) My husband is Episcopalian. When I'd go with him to church, I always think the clergy look like chess pieces. Especially on the high holy days (but that may be Jewish...I've been to a lot of different services. All more similar than different. No surprise there.) I do remember crawling under the pews at church when I was little. The minister droning on and on seemed to have nothing to do with me. Kinda still feel the same on some level. But, I stand in wonder at people who are so devoted to their faith. Enviou...

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Shea West
12:13 May 10, 2022

I feel those sentiments... I've been to many different services myself, and none of them ever stuck 🤣 The droning was hard for me as well, and the music. I always had this feeling/fear that the clergy would know about me all too quick once I passed through the doors. That we didn't have a holy life, or pray, or tithe as we had none to tithe with.

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Deidra Lovegren
12:20 May 10, 2022

As a teenager, I usually left church feeling abjectly horrible about myself. I know it's their job to teach (preach?) the ideal -- but I usually just wanted to self-immolate or turn into a woodland creature. Or both. Now that's an idea for a story -- the Fiery Armadillo. (See? It writes itself.)

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Shea West
12:37 May 10, 2022

My BFF at the time was Seventh Day Adventist. We'd sit up in the balcony and in order to keep us entertained she'd feed us People magazines, but only if we'd color a couple biblical print outs first🤣

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Deidra Lovegren
12:42 May 10, 2022

I think I would confuse the Spice Girls with the 10 Virgins. Alanis Morissette was one of the 12 disciples, right?

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Michael Regan
18:49 May 09, 2022

I am always amazed at how fast you put these stories together. Most of the time I know how my story will start; sometimes know how it will end; and have no idea how I will bridge the two. Do these come to you well formed or, like me, do you make them up as you go along? In any case another great story.

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Deidra Lovegren
18:53 May 09, 2022

Thanks, Michael. I wanted a gentle story to write on a Spring Sunday afternoon. I'm not Catholic, but I've attended a few masses with my husband's Episcopalian family. The liturgical vestments have always been interesting to me, and I didn't know about the colors until I did a bit of research for this story (and corrected below.) Complicated stuff! No wonder priests need a Masters degree to get it right. :)

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A few critiques: [his childhood dream would vanish in a puff of incense smoke from a censer.] I would swap [in] for {like}. [Christine’s children were a handful on the pew,] I would change [on] to {in}. About the vestment colors, purple is for Lent and Advent, Rose is for the fourth Sunday of Lent (Laetare Sunday) and the third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday). In the final conversation with his stepson, David's character doesn't ring true in my reading of the story. With the way you've described David coming to the priesthood, and his ...

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Deidra Lovegren
01:38 May 09, 2022

Thank you for the catechesis! I am not Catholic, but I have profound respect for its adherents. I've made your insightful suggestions and corrections. Frankly, I love how Mary gets her own color: blue. Blue is my favorite color :)

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Hi Deidra, Earlier, I was focusing on the part about the vestments, so I forgot about something else that caught my eye. Your mention of Mary reminded me of this: [Blue for the Feast of Saint Mary.] Catholics don't commonly call her Saint Mary, though she is a Saint - one of her titles is Queen of all Saints! Catholics commonly refer to Mary either as the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady, or the Blessed Mother. Three of the biggest Marian Feasts Catholics celebrate are The Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, on January ...

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Deidra Lovegren
07:55 May 09, 2022

Excellent — thank you so much for helping me get this right. ❤️ I changed this line: “Blue for the Marian Feasts.”

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Tommy Goround
07:42 May 21, 2022

Clapping. It fun to smile when I see you have a new story.

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Riel Rosehill
17:13 May 17, 2022

Oh this was one of the most adorable stories I've read here... Loved it! That scene with his youngest stepson was just so sweet! 😍

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Deidra Lovegren
00:42 May 18, 2022

I needed to balance my snark with some sweet. Thanks 🙏🏻 for you lovely comment.

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Kaizlees Stories
22:00 May 15, 2022

Can I read my newest story

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Seán Mc Nicholl
22:16 May 12, 2022

Enjoyed this story very much, and as a Catholic I always enjoy positive stories about priests! Loved the reaction of Fr Lawrence when David told him of his change of heart, really showed the empathy of the man. Would love to have had that scene fleshed out a bit more! But was engaged with the story from start to finish!

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Kaizlees Stories
00:11 May 15, 2022

Thsi was such a great story

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Deidra Lovegren
00:41 May 15, 2022

Thank you so much, RS. :) It wasn't my favorite, but fun to research.

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Kaizlees Stories
21:33 May 15, 2022

Go read my first but not last story

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Kaizlees Stories
22:10 May 15, 2022

U should read my story tell me what you 🤔

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