I’m re-posting this picture edit I made because I’ve been musing on Patrick’s bravery in following his heart. Sister Bernadette / Shelagh’s anguish is more obvious because she is going against everything that has been her purpose and her vocation for at least ten years; everything that she thought was important to her has to be reconsidered in the light of a newly-found love. For Patrick the decision is seemingly less fraught; after all, he has known love and marriage before.
But when you consider it, he is making an equally brave choice. How could he ever have expected to fall in love with a nun, one of the Order which he has worked alongside so respectfully for so long? He knows how ‘wrong’ it seems, he knows how ‘wrong’ it might be perceived to be by many but yet he also knows how right it feels because he has an inkling that she feels the same way. To act on those feelings is a different matter though. The kiss to the palm is the first overt outward expression he gives them, and they are immediately subsumed by feelings of guilt. Perhaps not regret though.
He HAS to step back then. He knows she isn’t rejecting him out of hand but he knows the decision is now hers alone, because of the implications it will have for her personally, professionally and vocationally. At the same time he has to maintain a professional and detached persona, not letting on to anyone the torment he is going through. He has no faith to turn to for guidance, no confidante who senses something is awry (aside from Timothy who he could never burden with this). His only outlet is to write to the one person who understands, and I have no doubt he maintained a coded and dignified distance in the letters he sent to the Sanatorium, not wishing to place undue pressure or influence on her. To wait, unanswered but still hopeful for all those months, to maintain a detached air of concern for a colleague while all the time his heart is being torn in two - and all the time knowing that it could be completely severed by a decision which he has given her 100% autonomy in - well, it doesn’t get much braver than that.
He is also a man who is a respected pillar of the community who might face untold scorn and gossip and opprobrium in the future. Despite all this he waits and waits and then, when she is finally ready to find her way back to him, he rushes to action and finds her, rescues her, checks and comforts her and affirms his complete certainty on the road now taken. He follows up by offering her a permanent place in his heart, his home, his family. His bravery is rewarded, his risk made worthwhile, his prize: their ultimate happiness.
Wow, an intense and enormously insightful examination! I completely agree. Plus the fact that his integrity meant he would in no way try to persuade or influence her. He had to just stand back and hope she would make a decision that could bring them together. In kind, her integrity meant she couldn’t read his letters until after she’d made her decision, so it was made based on her own self and feelings, not because she had a safe place to land. Luckily, it turned out she did - his arms!