“JESUS AND BLUEBERRY COBBLER” by Sean Towey
In this quietly beautiful narrative essay, Sean Towey weaves together the strands of an aspiring Jesuit’s life before and after entering the seminary. In the before, there’s the narrator’s quest “to get laid one last time before committing [him]self to a life of never getting laid again,” and his sad, turbulent courtship with his coworker, Tamara. In the after, there are the differently sad, differently turbulent communal meals of priests-in-training.
Towey’s narrator shifts back and forth between a singular voice—an I that is the narrator as an individual, in the before time—and a plural one—a we of aspiring clergymen who move through their world as a collective force of prayer, hunger, sensation, and longing. The singular, profane I is selfish and immoral, bribing a child with ice cream to keep them from ratting on him at work; treating Tamara’s live-in boyfriend as “an obstacle to overcome, something to sweeten [their] first carnal pleasures.” And the communal, sacred we isn’t much better; the Jesuits drink and fight, and even waterboard one another.
What saves them, though, is thanks. And not the performative prayer of thanks that, as Towey writes, “every single Catholic has memorized but no one actually understands” (“BlessusOLordandthesethygiftswhichweareabouttoreceivefromthybountythroughChristourLordAmen”), but the one prayer that each member of the we knows: “thank you.”
There’s no direct reference to the workplace in “Jesus and Blueberry Cobbler” (though, I suppose, one could argue that the seminary is an office, and I never thought about it before, but the pope is kind of the CEO of the The Church, and praying is kind of like filing a request or complaint with HR). But, as workers, thinkers, and creators, it is just as useful for us as it is for Jesuits in training to remind ourselves every now and again, as Towey does, that “we have a long way to go, but we are grateful.”
Thanks for reading, y’all.