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The Company of Women by Mary Gordon {Excerpt}

The Company of Women by Mary Gordon {Excerpt}

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Published by OpenRoadMedia
Felicitas Maria Taylor was brought up in a cocoon, raised by five devoutly religious women. The death of her father while she was still a baby has caused her to seek out the extreme in men, and that is what she finds in Father Cyprian, a priest whom Felicitas visits during summers in upstate New York. The charismatic Cyprian fosters the young girl’s gifts and intelligence, but, no lover of worldly things, he demands a severe loyalty.When Felicitas comes of age and begins her studies at Columbia, everything seems poised to change. At the university, she falls under the spell of another domineering man—a professor surrounded by young activist acolytes—and this time, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

The Company of Women is a story of dangerous attachments and challenged faith—and of finding an endurable future.
Felicitas Maria Taylor was brought up in a cocoon, raised by five devoutly religious women. The death of her father while she was still a baby has caused her to seek out the extreme in men, and that is what she finds in Father Cyprian, a priest whom Felicitas visits during summers in upstate New York. The charismatic Cyprian fosters the young girl’s gifts and intelligence, but, no lover of worldly things, he demands a severe loyalty.When Felicitas comes of age and begins her studies at Columbia, everything seems poised to change. At the university, she falls under the spell of another domineering man—a professor surrounded by young activist acolytes—and this time, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

The Company of Women is a story of dangerous attachments and challenged faith—and of finding an endurable future.

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Published by: OpenRoadMedia on Jul 25, 2013
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09/29/2013

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!
 
Mary Gordon
 
THE COMPANY OF WOMEN 
!
I
FELICITAS MARIA TAYLOR WAS
called after the one virgin martyr whosename contained some hope for ordinary human happiness. This joke wasmade for the first time at Felicitas’ baptism in May of 1949 by one of her three godmothers. There were three because Felicitas’ mother could notdecide among her friends. So great an honor did Charlotte Taylor consider it that she could not bear to deprive any of the three women she deeplyloved of the privilege of being godmother to her child. The pastor would permit only one female sponsor’s name on the baptismal certificate, soCharlotte made the women draw straws. Clare, who drew the longeststraw, signed her name to the certificate. But Father Cyprian Leonard, who performed the actual ceremony, allowed Elizabeth and Mary Rose andClare to stand together at the font with Charlotte’s brother Jack and makethe responses. Which was Cyp all over, Charlotte said.It was because of Father Cyprian that Charlotte, Clare, Elizabeth andMary Rose had met, in 1932, when he had inaugurated the first of hisseries of weekend retreats for working women. One Friday evening amonth, these women came from their jobs to the silent convent of Our Lady of Sorrows to pray in silence, to be served by silent nuns and tolisten to the sermons and confessional advice of Father Cyprian. Charlottetook the train from Brooklyn, where she worked as a secretary in theinsurance firm of Tom O’Brien; Elizabeth, who had been genteelly raisedin New Orleans, but whose husband had lost all his money because of drink, walked from whatever elementary school she was, at the time,teaching at: she could not bear buses or trains. Clare took a taxi fromMadison Avenue and Fifty-seventh Street, where she now managed what
 
Mary Gordon
 
THE COMPANY OF WOMEN 
!
had been her father’s store, one of the finest leather-goods establishmentsin New York City. Mary Rose took the Broadway bus; she was an usher ata movie theater on Broadway and Forty-third Street. And Muriel Fisher,who looked after her mother and took in typing, came down fromWorcester, Massachusetts. She had met Father Cyprian when he preacheda mission in her parish. She was never one of them.They attended Father Cyprian’s retreat every month from 1932 untilthe war, when Father Cyprian became a chaplain. After the war, the retreatmovement seemed to fade. But the women saw one another often, evenafter Charlotte’s marriage to Frank Taylor in June 1946, and they never lost touch with Father Cyprian. When he left the Paracletists and became asecular priest, they could, for four years, only write to him—out west or up in Canada. But in 1959, he settled in the western New York town of Orano, where he had been born. He lived in a furnished room and filled infor priests who were sick or on vacation. Then in June 1963, he bought the piece of land where his parents’ home had been and began to build hisown house on it.Every summer since 1959, for the first three weeks of August,Charlotte, who had been widowed six months after her child’s birth, took Felicitas and traveled to Orano with Elizabeth and Clare and Mary Rose.They stayed in a motel and visited Father Cyprian. Muriel, who had beenon her own since her mother died in 1957, spent the warm part of theyear—May through November—in Orano. She had a room in a touristhouse where the landlady remembered Father Cyprian as a boy.Each time she went to mass, Felicitas heard her name read during the partof the canon where the prayers of virgin martyrs were invoked: Felicitas,Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Cecilia, Anastasia. She was glad she had not beencalled Perpetua—it suggested a doggy patience; Agatha meant inevitable

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