This article is from the May, 2016 issue of Chicago’s ‘Irish American News’.
Forgive those who trespass against us…That’s a big one, isn’t it? That’s a really big one. I’m not getting that at all. I’m trying; but I’m just not having much success.
It’s exactly a year since I returned to the Catholic Church after 35 years of, if not quite playing for the other side, then definitely on the sidelines as the world’s ugliest cheerleader.
So: how have I been getting on?
Well, one thing that has been reinforced for me is that a lot of people who call themselves Christians aren’t very…well, Christian. And of course I’m going to have to include myself there for a lot of the time. Again, though, I’m trying. But that ‘forgive those who trespass’ business…. I’ve had grudges against people that I’ve held for forty years, which I don’t think that anyone is likely to call healthy. But those grudges would feel abandoned and awful lonely if I got rid of them now. So that one’s on the long finger.
What I really do love is morning weekday Mass. As I said last year, it’s just a great way to start off the day, if you can manage it. And we are so lucky here in Oranmore, County Galway in having a priest in Father Diarmuid Hogan who actually makes that Mass interesting. It’s never the same one twice: there are reflections on what is happening in the Parish; what has happened on that day in history; and even on what is happening in his own life.
And in amongst his gentle good humour, although he has probably celebrated the Sacraments many thousands of times, he imbues it with this profound feeling of Mystery at what we as a small community are witnessing as he breaks the bread.
Would it sound pretentious if I used the phrase ‘we are bearing witness to’? Possibly; but that’s how it feels. It feels important: hugely important. When he says the words ‘entered willingly into His Passion’ it’s shivers down the spine for me every time. Obviously, I love words and I respect their power; and rarely have I heard five words that have moved me so enormously with their complex simplicity.
‘Entered willingly into His Passion’. Willingly. I can’t get my head around that.
And talking of words of Power: I wonder when the Mystery of Faith was changed. I remember it from childhood as: ‘Christ has died; Christ has risen; Christ will come again’. When did that disappear from usage? Again, it seems to me a simple, straightforward statement that says everything.
And of course I really can’t reconcile the Old Testament with the New. I wouldn’t be at all interested in paying much heed to the cranky and often downright cruel side-taking God of the Old. I don’t get that at all. And in the New, possibly my own view of Jesus is coloured by my – need? – to see Him as a revolutionary figure of great force and determination. After all, this was a man – and the whole point seems to be that he WAS a man in all ways – who took on both the mightiest empire that ever existed up until that time AND organised religion into the bargain.
Certainly, this isn’t the wishy-washy cardboard figure that I was taught about at school. And again, the words — those parables, that Sermon on the Mount! I think it’s fair to say that the Christ that I have become interested in is more of a vivid warrior-poet-priest than that slightly anemic do-gooder that was brought to somewhat less-than-solid life in those classrooms of yesteryear.
Another thing that I have a problem with is going to Mass on a Sunday. This should in theory be the very best day to go, when the village comes together. Instead, I just find it a nightmare of spoiled children who have never heard the word ‘no’ from their parents. I just don’t get it. I can only stare in complete bafflement at parents who beam approvingly whilst their sprogs show no manners of any kind.
Oh yeah, here we go — cue the ‘were you never a child yourself’ brigade. Cue the witless ‘ah sure, they’re only children’ enablers. Yeah, I was – and it would never have even occurred to my brothers or I to behave so disrespectfully in front of adults. Not because we were physically disciplined – we never were – but because we had learned by example; and that’s something that is sadly missing in this politically correct ‘let the little darlings do what they want’ world.
So… I quickly discovered that Sunday wasn’t for me. When you leave Mass muttering darkly to yourself about the possible benefits of sterilization then you know that you probably have a long way to go.
I’m also finding it hard to let go of my unholy feelings of glee when someone I can’t stand comes a cropper. Witness those two beauties from the Labour Party this week, Joan Banshee Burton and the Minister for Water Privatization Alan Kelly, a man with a face so smug that you would never tire of slapping it. Can you imagine the conversation between them over who would stand as party leader?
“Joan, even my own party colleagues hate me and won’t second me.”
“Oh Alan, I’m in the same boat. (Although hopefully this one won’t sink on me.) I’ll tell you what: I’ll second you if you’ll second me.”
“Great idea, Joan. Let’s do that.”
Heaven help us, with these two surviving the election even as barely as they did, we really do deserve all that we get. It’s been described as ‘farcical’ but when did a little thing like sheer mortifying embarrassment ever stop our lot?
Nah; there’s no point in being hard on myself for that one. I’d like to think that the Christ himself would have had a laugh at the discomfort of these two power-hungry vultures.
So: there you go. One year on and I’m enjoying my return to the Church, although not much better of a person, perhaps. I’m trying; not very successfully, but I’m trying.
And finally… my jaw is so used to hitting the floor every time a politician opens his lying mouth that it is probably as strong as Conor McGregors’ at this stage; but would-be Taoiseach Micheál Martin really took the biscuit yesterday. With his dudgeon turned to High he thundered:
“The future of Irish Water is not the single most important issue facing our country – but it is important and the election represented a decisive rejection of current policies.
“The post-election lobbying campaign by this state company is unprecedented in our history.
“It is a total waste of public money and of the legitimate balance of powers between parliament and state companies.
“Once Dáil committees are established we will be seeking an investigation into the cost and nature of this campaign.”
Another investigation. Jesus wept. But the most startling thing about this is that six months ago myself and fellow water-charge protesters were being called troublemaking pariahs. At the rate things are going, in another week we’ll be getting called heroes.
Politicians – don’t you just love them?