The Passion of Mrs. C.
Joanne Furio

The Passion of Mrs. C.

No! I want to be with him! I want to be with Jesus! Christ, I love you!

As the men attempted to raise her up without using force, Father Adaire tried to approach Mrs. Cardullo, but the suited man placed a hand on the cross in the middle of the priest’s purple vestment.

I want to be with Jesus, the Lord our God!

Father Adaire backed away, shaking his head, toward the crucifix where Jesus hung, his head tipped in Father Adaire’s direction. Now on her feet, Mrs. Cardullo threw back her head and faced the ceiling, where an old-man God with white hair held a globe in his left hand. The men said nothing as they passed Our Lady, who looked down at Mrs. Cardullo with merciful blue eyes as she descended into a half-cry and half-shout.

Love you . . . Jesus . . . Wash your feet . . . .

The men steered Mrs. Cardullo out through the left transept, where an iron table held rows of candles in white and red glass. Her mumbling became fainter as silence permeated the packed church. The tall aluminum fans moved back and forth. All eyes rested upon Father Adaire, who looked slight in the vestments like a boy in his father’s clothing.

Since he was almost done anyway, Father Adaire completed the mass by offering communion. His voice shook at first but gained speed and volume like a Pete Seeger ballad. The lines for Holy Communion seemed suspiciously long considering that one has to be in a holy state and undertake confession before receiving it. Catholics are notorious for their lazy singing, but this mass closed with a full-throated version of “Jesus, Joy of Our Desiring.” I could see that the organist was encouraged.

When my sister and I walked home, I thought about Pat and how embarrassing this incident would be for her on the asphalt playground. My sister did not discuss what had happened, but when we got home she told my mother that a classmate’s mother had gone nuts over Father Adaire and had had to be carried away. My mother put her hand on her chest and said, How awful, and I felt a pang of shame for my friend.

I understood how Mrs. Cardullo could have fallen in love with Father Adaire. He was so handsome and nice. The terrible thing was that she had confused him with Jesus, and that must be a terrible sin. And she had made a big scene. On the other hand, it wasn’t really all that wrong to be in love with our new priest. Everyone was.


On Monday, Pat was not in school. My sister told me that her brother wasn’t, either. I never saw Pat again. I wondered what had happened to her mother—had she been put away? That week, without a word, Father Adaire quietly transferred to another parish. Where, nobody knew. By then, news of Mrs. Cardullo had traveled like the Word of God from the lips of both the holy and the heathen—from the convent to the bars on the avenue, to Mrs. Romano’s 2-A classroom and the high school bathrooms where girls snuck cigarettes and cried over their loss. It took a few months, but Saint Benedict’s once again got used to its steady old Monsignor, with his bald pate, sleep-inducing sermons, and assortment of middle-aged priests. Inspired by the worldly temptations of newness and beauty, they tried their best to change with the times.

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Joanne Furio

holds an MFA from Saint Mary's College of California and has spent decades in print journalism as a writer and editor. Her literary interviews and essays have been published in The Believer, Evening Street Review, and Mary: A Journal of New Writing, as well as on the websites Juked and Panoply.