"I don't visit you in Manhattan next weekend," Yuri said. "I must go to Russian Orthodox seminary Upstate."
"A seminary? Whatever for?"
"There is a weekend for sveštenik kandidata, guys who want to be priests."
"What?" I repeated, shocked. "You want to be a priest?" He had been out for less than two years. Had he succumbed to religious fundamentalism? Was he trying to turn "ex-gay"?
"No, of course I don't really want to be a priest." Yuri said. "It is to keep...closet. So I don't tell them I am gay, and I can still go to services."
When I met Yuri, I never expected him to be religious. But when he was a kid in Volgograd, his grandparents took him to Mass nearly every week. He loved the candles, the incense, the droning liturgy in Old Slavonic, and especially the icons, visual images of the Saints, reaching out to him in friendship and love.
When he went to graduate school in America, all the way across the ocean, thousands of miles from what he knew, he looked back with nostalgia on those hours in church. Going to church was an anchor, a memory of home.
The only problem: you absolutely, positively had to be closeted in the Russian Orthodox Church. If anyone found out, you would be kicked out the door -- after the screaming.
Teenage girls flirted with him. Middle-aged ladies tried to fix him up with their daughters. Every guy he tried to cruise asked him to evaluate girls. There were constant questions: "Are you married?" "Are you seeing anyone?" "Why not?"
How else could he signal that he was not interested?
Then the idea came: he could say that he wanted to become a priest!
"Sorry, I am considering a priestly vocation. I can't date."
That stopped the fix-ups altogether, and the other guys stopped asking him to rate girls.
Unfortunately, word got around to the parish priest, who started giving him smiles and gifts and hand-on-shoulder talks. and told him about a weekend for postulants (men thinking of the priesthood) at a seminary nearby. And even offered him a ride up with two of the other pre-seminary boys.
There was no getting out of it -- Yuri was going to go on a postulant weekend.
The rest of the story is too explicit for Boomer Beefcake and Bonding. You can see it on Tales of West Hollywood.