"Happy families are all alike," said Tolstoy, and the O'Malley's are one of the happiest, if slightly crazy, families in current fiction. A Christmas Wedding continues the saga of Chucky, the youngest son who wants to live the quiet life of an accountant and raise a nice Catholic family. Fate, of course, has other plans for Chucky, in the person of the beautiful Rosemarie, his off-again on-again nemesis from the time he saved her life when he was a young man.
Thrown out of Notre Dame on trumped up charges, Chucky ends up going to the University of Chicago. The only problem: his lifelong enemy Rosemarie is a fellow student. They decide to be "just friends," and while they battle with each other, "just friends" turns into something neither of them expected.
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About the Author
Priest, sociologist, author, and journalist, Father Andrew M. Greeley (1928-2013) was the author of over 50 bestselling novels and more than 100 works of nonfiction. His novels include the Bishop Blackie Ryan series, including The Archbishop in Andalusia; the Nuala Anne McGrail series, including Irish Tweed; the O’Malley Family Saga, including A Midwinter’s Tale; and standalones such as Home for Christmas and The Cardinal Sins.
A leading spokesperson for generations of Catholics, Father Greeley unflinchingly urged his beloved Church to become more responsive to believers’ evolving concerns. He chronicled his service to the Church in two autobiographies, Confessions of a Parish Priest and Furthermore!
Priest, sociologist, author and journalist, Father Andrew M. Greeley built an international assemblage of devout fans over a career spanning five decades. His books include the Bishop Blackie Ryan novels, including The Archbishop in Andalusia, the Nuala Anne McGrail novels, including Irish Tweed, and The Cardinal Virtues. He was the author of over 50 best-selling novels and more than 100 works of non-fiction, and his writing has been translated into 12 languages.
Father Greeley was a Professor of Sociology at the University of Arizona and a Research Associate with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago. In addition to scholarly studies and popular fiction, for many years he penned a weekly column appearing in the Chicago Sun-Times and other newspapers. He was also a frequent contributor to The New York Times, the National Catholic Reporter, America and Commonweal, and was interviewed regularly on national radio and television. He authored hundreds of articles on sociological topics, ranging from school desegregation to elder sex to politics and the environment.
Throughout his priesthood, Father Greeley unflinchingly urged his beloved Church to become more responsive to evolving concerns of Catholics everywhere. His clear writing style, consistent themes and celebrity stature made him a leading spokesperson for generations of Catholics. He chronicled his service to the Church in two autobiographies, Confessions of a Parish Priest and Furthermore!
In 1986, Father Greeley established a $1 million Catholic Inner-City School Fund, providing scholarships and financial support to schools in the Chicago Archdiocese with a minority student body of more than 50 percent. In 1984, he contributed a $1 million endowment to establish a chair in Roman Catholic Studies at the University of Chicago. He also funded an annual lecture series, “The Church in Society,” at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein, Illinois, from which he received his S.T.L. in 1954.
Father Greeley received many honors and awards, including honorary degrees from the National University of Ireland at Galway, the University of Arizona and Bard College. A Chicago native, he earned his M.A. in 1961 and his Ph.D. in 1962 from the University of Chicago.
Father Greeley was a penetrating student of popular culture, deeply engaged with the world around him, and a lifelong Chicago sports fan, cheering for the Bulls, Bears and the Cubs. Born in 1928, he died in May 2013 at the age of 85.
Read an Excerpt
A Christmas Wedding
By Andrew M. Greeley
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2000 Andrew M. Greeley Enterprises, Ltd.
All rights reserved.
"What about the Buddhists, Father Danielou?" Rosemarie asked.
The short French Jesuit in the black turtleneck sweater blinked through his thick glasses like a cheerful rabbit and then sped off in a whirlwind of barely intelligible English.
I was in my final year at the University of Chicago. Rosemarie Helen Clancy, my quasi-foster sister, was in her second year. She expected me to listen to a lecture by this intense and slightly mysterious young priest. My attention wavered. I stole another look at our hostess, attentive and professional in her light gray sweater and dark blue skirt. Looking at Rosemarie, as I had told John Raven, was a proximate occasion of sin. He had dismissed this observation with a laugh. I thereupon added that I had reached such an advanced stage of carnality that I could not prevent my imagination from taking off her clothes.
"Good for you," he had said, "so long as you do it respectfully."
"My life would be in danger if I did it any other way."
So, more than a little bored by the French Jesuit, I permitted myself to undress her mentally, albeit respectfully — whatever that meant. To honor respect I forced my lascivious imagination to appreciate her fully clothed before it embarked on its exploration.
"She has the look of the little people about her, poor sweet little thing," my mother had once said. "Even if there are no little people. She's the sort of faerie sprite you might see dancing over the bog of a spring night under a quarter moon."
"She is indeed," my father had agreed, as he usually did.
"When has either of you been out dancing on the bog of a spring night under a quarter moon?" I had demanded.
"Why must you always be so literal, Chucky darling?" my mom asked, exasperated as she always was when the issue was my (feigned) indifference to Rosemarie.
The image was apt, however. Rosemarie combined fragility, delicacy, and beauty in a fashion that might be appropriate for a faerie sprite — so long as that sprite was tough enough to play a mean and wicked game of tennis.
"Maybe what you mean," I said, with the sigh of one much put-upon, "is that, in her better moments, Rosemarie appears light and graceful, delicate and strong, not unlike Peter Pan's Wendy perhaps."
"Isn't that what I said, dear?"
She was slim and slender, maybe five feet six inches tall (dangerously close to my generously estimated five eight), with trim and elegant breasts that caught every male eye (my own obviously included) and shapely legs that the said male eye noticed immediately after her breasts. Her long black hair framed a pale face that tended to flush red in moments of excitement or enthusiasm or anger. That face compelled your attention if your hormones let you get that far; it was the kind of face that might have emerged from the Pre-Raphaelites if any of them had painted from an Irish model. The flush was usually accompanied by the flashing of her blue eyes that signaled danger. A sprite surely, but one with a fierce temper and deep passions and also one whose fragility could break your heart. You wanted to kiss and caress her and at the same time protect her.
As the Jesuit droned on I pursued my exploration of the faerie sprite, slowly and with appreciation and, I hope in retrospect, some measure of reverence. First the sweater, then the blouse under it, button by button, then the skirt, zipped down in the back, then the slip, and then, with infinite gentleness, the bra. I paused at the girdle and its attached nylons. It would not be respectful, I told myself, to go any farther in a Catholic student meeting. Maybe tonight in my dreams.
Nonetheless, I paused to admire my work and then noticed that she was frowning at me. My glazed eyes might have suggested that I was not paying any attention to the speaker. Did she know what my imagination had been doing? Since she never protested my wantonness, she either did not know or did not mind.
I tried once again to focus on Père Danielou.
There were lines of fatigue around Rosemarie's eyes, the result of a hangover, which in turn had been the result of another one of her wild drinking bouts the night before. The second one that I knew about since she'd been a student at the University.
She had seemed relaxed and peaceful as she filled up the glasses and passed the potato chips to her guests; whatever demons had possessed her the night before had been temporarily exorcised.
"I'm sorry," she had whispered in my ear earlier in the evening as we left Calvert House, the University Catholic center, to walk through the blizzard to her apartment on Kenwood just south of Fifty-fifth Street. "I goofed up again. Thank you for dragging me home."
A kid who was in my econ class had phoned me the night before. "O'Malley? I knew you lived in Oak Park. Hey, that woman with the gorgeous teats you study with in Harper? Well, I was in Knight's bar until a few minutes ago. She's drinking a lot. Shouting and arguing with people. That's not safe for a woman in that bar, know what I mean?"
"Thanks, Howard, I'll be right out."
There were no expressways in Chicago in those days, so the ride from Oak Park to Hyde Park required forty-five minutes.
Rosemarie, sound asleep and smelling like a brewery, was behind the bar. Her clothes were disheveled.
"I didn't know what to do with her," the soft-spoken bartender told me. "A guy said he was going to call her boyfriend, a tough little redhead, he said. That you?"
"My twin brother."
He paused and then laughed. "She's a real looker. You shouldn't let her come in this place alone."
"Ever try to argue with an Irishwoman?"
He laughed again.
I woke her up, found her coat, pushed her arms into it, and dragged her back to her apartment. I helped her to remove her dress, dumped her into bed, and pulled the blanket over her.
"Chucky, you're an asshole," she murmured as I turned out the lights.
"At least you know who it was that took off your dress."
"A real asshole." Her voice was slurred. "Why didn't you leave me in the bar?"
"That's a very good question."
When she thanked me the following night, she was properly contrite. I'm sure she didn't remember the use of language that was strictly forbidden in the O'Malley house.
"I'm glad I was there," I said fervently. If I hadn't found her in the bar on Fifty-fifth, she might have been there all night or collapsed in the snow on the way home. Rosemarie needed a keeper all right, only it shouldn't be me.
"You didn't take my slip off this time." She nudged my arm.
It was the first reference she had ever made to the incident at Lake Geneva when I had pulled her in her prom dress out of the water.
"Dress and shoes seemed to be enough for the occasion. I'll admit that the possibility of a more thorough investigation did occur to me."
"You're wonderful, Chucky." This time she squeezed my arm. "Simply wonderful."
"Why do I do things like last night?"
"I'm not sure. I become discouraged and I don't care ... but I won't do it again. I promise."
I didn't quite believe her, but I didn't know what to say.
So the next night I tried to focus my imagination away from the delightful difficulties of trying to unzip and remove a dress from an inebriated young woman and to concentrate on Father Jean Danielou, of the Institut Catholique de Paris, and the question of the relationship between Jesus and Buddha. On the whole, the former images were much more appealing.
Jesus and Buddha, the priest seemed to be saying, were both allies and enemies. The reconciliation between the two could never be pursued so long as the Catholic tradition was tied to the Thomistic paradigm. But in the study of ancient Church fathers, there could be found much material for conversation with Buddhists. The New Theology, La Théologie Nouvelle, which had emerged in Europe since the war, would make possible conversation not only with Buddhism but with all the world religions and the non-religions like Marxism too.
He referred to one of his papers, "La Theologie Nouvelle, où vat elle?"
I remembered one of the members of the Greenwood Community telling me earlier in the evening that Père Danielou's brother René Danielou was a convert from Catholicism to Buddhism. All this was very heady stuff for a reject of the University of Notre Dame who had left the Catholic Church — to hear him tell it anyway.
Ironically, Père Danielou was teaching at Notre Dame — where I had never heard of him. (My buddy, Christopher Kurtz, insisted that he had mentioned him often but that I did not listen because I was prejudiced against anyone without an Irish name.)
Catholic intellectual ferment had exploded at the University of Chicago after the war, as the first generation of post war Catholic graduate students had appeared — indeed the first generation of Catholics to seek academic careers in substantial numbers. The Church was not ready for an intelligentsia where there had hitherto been none. But the Catholic chaplains at the University were clever enough to give the young intellectuals and would-be intellectuals enough room to do what would later be called "their own thing."
And occasionally to invite one of their heroes to lecture.
Père Danielou didn't look like a hero, but he wasn't gratuitously rude and insulting to Americans, as a matter of principle, as some of the French "religious sociologists" of that era were — men profoundly shocked and affronted by the religious devotion of American Catholics. "Sacrilege!" one had exploded after describing the hordes of men receiving Communion at Holy Souls parish just south of the University on Holy Name Sunday. In the presence of such men, I shut up and indulged myself in snide thoughts, which Rosemarie had briskly dismissed: "Irish Catholic anti-intellectualism, Charles. You know better than that."
"But I am an Irish Catholic anti-intellectual!"
"No, you're not! You're the smartest one in the group. You just have to pretend that you're a dumb accountant."
I hung around the intellectuals and their arrogant French friends because Rosemarie did, and because I thought their pretensions were funny. I also objected — though to myself — that they seemed immune to her beauty.
Père Danielou, however, even smiled at Rosemarie, having noticed, unlike the religious sociologists, that she was a) a woman, and b) a beautiful woman. He could not, I figured, be all bad.
Our concerns in the gatherings, either at the apartment of the Greenwood Community (on Greenwood, of course) or at Rosemarie's apartment, were vague, intense, disorganized, and, from the viewpoint of later years, shallow. We had written to Cardinal Stritch asking for Mass on Saturday afternoon so that "workers" could attend. The workers' cause was our cause, whoever the workers might be — in this case policemen, firemen, hospital workers, public transportation employees. The Cardinal had replied, somewhat haughtily, that since the time of Pliny the Younger mass had taken place in the morning. The response, my angry friends had sputtered, was both inaccurate and irrelevant.
We worried about evolution: not whether it had occurred, but how the Church's teaching on original sin could be reconciled with the conviction of archaeologists that the race could not have descended from a single pair.
We damned Thomism on the grounds that Aristotelian philosophy was not compatible with modern science.
We were furious that Monsignor Fulton Sheen had denounced Freud. I kind of liked the good Monsignor, who had preached at St. Ursula's once.
We feared that many young people would be lost to the Church unless Catholic scripture teaching was modified to take into account what Bultmann had taught about the process of "demythologizing." I didn't know from either Bultmann or "demythologizing" but they both sounded dreadful.
We quoted the great men like Tillich and Barth as though they were personal friends, though I doubt that any of us had read them — or Bultmann either, for that matter.
We were all profoundly concerned, so concerned in fact, that we forgot to comb our hair or do the dishes or take out the garbage. We were all vehemently anticlerical but most of us went to Mass every week and some every day.
(I didn't go at all. Our hostess, on the other hand, still not sure about God, was to be found in the Calvert House chapel every morning. Still, as she told me with her contagious laugh, "to whom it may concern.")
We denied the importance of authority and did our best to win the local priests, the Cardinal, and the Vatican to our point of view.
We were all committed Catholics; we had made the decision that our Catholic heritage was compatible with our intellectual concerns. (I exclude myself from "we" because I was still furious at the Catholic Church. Some of the most wide-eyed of the intellectual radicals urged me to forget about my hurt feelings and "join the team.")
There were lots of ironies in the fire.
Driving back and forth between Oak Park and Hyde Park every day in my 1942 Ford, I would never have stumbled on this group of intense young intellectuals if it had not been for Rosemarie, who during our first quarter at Chicago had dragged me off to the Calvert House lectures.
The lectures were a brief respite from study. I had never studied so hard in all my life and never been so pushed to the limits of my capabilities. I was also working part-time downtown in the accounting office of O'Hanlon and O'Halloran at the Conway Building across from City Hall.
"Have you ever just not done anything?" Rosemarie demanded. She was offended by my midafternoon rush to the Loop on the Illinois Central (a ten-minute trip from Fifty-ninth Street).
"I wouldn't know how."
"You ought to."
There were many other "ought tos." I ought to work more with my camera. I ought to go to church again, because I would do that eventually anyway. I ought to join her at her voice lessons. I ought to rent an apartment instead of commuting in my "funny little car" or, on days I worked, riding on the L and the I.C.
I paid no attention. Indeed, if Rosemarie said I ought to do something, her suggestion in itself seemed enough reason not to do it.
How did she become involved with the young Catholic intellectuals? It was a most improbable alliance. She was a well-groomed, flawlessly dressed rich girl among a group who resented wealth and tried to affect a Bohemian style of life.
She'd met them at the Calvert Club and simply hung around. Her good looks probably would not have made much difference to the Greenwood Group, and they would have been reluctant to use her apartment and her money, but she was also very smart, so bright in fact that many people on the fringes of the group thought she was a graduate student in "the humanities."
You couldn't quite figure out where she stood politically, or religiously, or intellectually by her questions, but you could tell that she had a first-class mind.
"Père Danielou, what do you think the Church in Europe might learn from the Church in America?"
It was a heretical question. We were to learn from Europe, especially from France, instead of vice versa.
The Jesuit smiled gently. "A number of important things. But what, mademoiselle, would you suggest we might learn?"
"Enthusiasm, maybe, and pragmatism, and closeness between priests and people?"
"Excellent," he applauded her. "And your wonderful openness and hope for the future."
Rosemarie blushed happily. Some of the others in the room beamed. They thought she was special, obviously, and were proud of her.
Just like my mother.
"She is such a darling, sweet little thing, Chucky. You're a perfect match. She's so simple and you're so complicated."
Me, complicated? Nonsense!
There was a final question for Père Danielou: What will happen if Rome condemns La Théologie Nouvelle?
"We must have the integrity to continue to do our work no matter what happens," he said with a grim little smile, "otherwise nothing will ever change in the Church."
Excerpted from A Christmas Wedding by Andrew M. Greeley. Copyright © 2000 Andrew M. Greeley Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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