Being Catholic

The setting is a kitchen. One man is sitting at the table. A second person enters.

(If you imagine each speaker with an Irish accent it does add to the humour)

So there you are then.

It was a long mass.

Father O’Grougin was on fire then.

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Oh yes, inspiring, lots of fire and brimstone.

Don’t know why you put yourself through all that each Sunday.

Well it’s either that or eternal damnation and we know what that’s going to be like.

You really believe all that?

Oh course. You should be worried.

Why?

Cause you’re a sure fire candidate for the fires of hell. You should be concerned about the pain and anguish that awaits you in the next world. The flames of hell licking around your private bits.

I don’t understand why you think like that.

When I was a kid we had a priest come to town and urge everyone to come to the church each Tuesday night for the Parish Mission. He said it was important for each and every one of us to attend and that if we didn’t something terrible would happen.

And did it?

Yes, Mrs Vernon dropped dead putting out the washing.

Mrs Vernon dropped dead putting out her washing? That’s just silly. What’s that got to do with anything?

Lots. Mrs Vernon always sat in the front seat at church. Well we knew she wasn’t there because we were used to seeing her in her bright pink knitted hat. I can still remember the whispers going round the church as people noticed. We knew there must have been something wrong.

She dropped dead at the same time you were all in church for the Mission. Isn’t that just coincidence…?

Yes it could have been.

As it was she was found under her cloths line, face down in a basket of washing, pegs in her hair and everything. If you didn’t know better you might have thought she was an art installation.

Well she was a crafty type in her day. Appropriate I’d say.

Needless to say it scared the life out of us. No one was game to miss mass. We had a good month of it before the Mission priest went away. Our lives centred on getting to church of a Tuesday night. People were coming in all sorts of ill-health, some struggled in on crutches, coughing and wheezing. It was a terrible time. Never before in the congregation’s history had there been so much illness. It was a fearful time; you never knew what disease you might go home with.

It must have been a terrible time.

No! You see the priest was always going on about sacrifices and that Christ fasted for forty days and forty nights and if it was good enough for him then we mere sinful mortals could at least make the effort to get to church each week.

So from out of it all what did you learn?

Very important to get to church. And to get to church on time.

Why was getting there on time important?

Because you didn’t want the priest noticing you coming in late and making mention of your lateness.

You mean he would stop the mass and single you out.

Of yes. He would say something like “Penny Howe you are a bit early for next week’s mass.” It could be very embarrassing. Worse still if he noticed you weren’t there at all.

You mean he ….took the roll.

Yes, he seemed to know if you weren’t there. You’d meet him in the street going about your business and he’d come up to you and say, ‘Anja Partin I didn’t see you at morning mass on Sunday.’

Many was the time people would be simply stopped in their tracks with Father O’Grougin standing in front of them his beady eyes beaming down at you.

I would have told him to mind his own business.

Well you could have and many did, but he had a way of making you feel guilty for your indiscretion. Like saying to you: ‘the poor baby Jesus was all alone on Sunday because no one came to visit him, where were you Anja Partin and was visiting your sick child in the hospital more important than the risk of eternal damnation for neglecting the Lord.’

So people went to church rather than risk the ire of the priest?

Anja Partin never missed another Sunday; in fact she was often there on the church doorstep before the good Father opened the church doors. He was a cranky man.

Any wonder. Poor man was caught up in a religion that was so repressive.  It’s a power thing you know.

A power thing. The Lord Jesus Christ a power thing! Wash your mouth out you heathen.

It is a power thing. You control your congregation, you tell them what to eat and what to buy, you even tell them what shops to spend their money in.

Nonsense.

It’s not. You remember coming from mass one Sunday and telling me you wouldn’t be buying anything from AnElephant’s hardware because old man AnElephant had announced publically that he would not under any circumstances be employing Catholics in his establishment.

That’s different. That was a principle that had to be upheld. And any way no wants to buy anything off an old bigot.

Caused a stir as I remember. He had poor Sister Freya handing out leaflets each Sunday to remind people of their obligations. Mr Alastair was most put out when he was seconded to help pass out what he described as catholic pig headedness, instead of selling the Catholic Weekly and the St Vincent de Paul Christmas Cards.  Plus there were protest letters, people picketed the church and the Holy Water font had cigarette butts floating in it.

All Protestant propaganda.

It divided the community. Neighbours stopped talking, kids at the Public school threw stones at the Catholic kids, there were fights between Catholic and Public kids every afternoon and a kid from the catholic school chucked a brown eye at the public kids one lunch time.

Rumour and scaremongering it was.

I don’t know about that, the kid who threw the brown eye got six of the best, from Sister Zebra, on his bare bum. Taught him a lesson.

You talk such drivel. Joe Owens was a good boy; it was all a beat up to discredit us God fearing Catholics. Another example of Protestant oppression.  The Reverend Father O’ Grougin sorted it out. He and AnElephant met man to man and resolved the whole thing.

I know the real story behind all that.

What real story?

Well AnElephant was upset with Father O’Grougin and knew his business was going to suffer because the Catholics were going to boycott his shop. So he went to see Father O’Grougin  because there were a lot of Catholics in the town. AnElephant was a business man. He didn’t want anything interfering with his business. I know the story because Father’s secretary, you know the lady, rambles and carries on.

Jenny Tacken?

Yes that’s the one, well she told me about setting up the meeting. You see prior to Fathers announcement of the boycott, AnElephant and the good Father had been firm friends. AnElephant was determined to get to the bottom of the problem.

This is all protestant heresy.

Maybe but the fact that Father O’Grougin met Mr AnElephant at the Presbytery door with a bottle of scotch in one hand and two glasses in the other tells you something.

What rubbish you speak. The good Father doesn’t drink. He’s forever telling us about the evils of the drink.

Well he may well be telling you about the evils of drink, but that doesn’t mean he is practicing the same advice on himself.

Bah, you are romanticising the whole affair.

Well all stories are better for a little exaggeration, but this one I have from Jenny Tacken, Father’s secretary and pillar of the church, never been known to say bad word about a living soul. The final outcome was that many hours later AnElephant was seen staggering down the street well and truly inebriated singing Faith of our Fathers.

Not true. Father announced the following Sunday that his nephew was starting work at AnElephant’s and we were all to patronise the store at our earliest convenience. It was a most satisfactory outcome to a problem that should never have occurred.

Exactly an outcome that satisfied everyone.

I don’t know why I talk to you sometimes. You are such a heathen. You never go to mass; you are always pouring cold water on anything I tell you about the one true faith.

That’s because you make such a fuss about the whole deal. You never question what the priests tell you.

Question them? Are you out of your mind? Their word comes from God. The Holy Father in Rome speaks directly from the mouth of God.

So he likes to tell you.

Infallibility is nothing to be laughed at.

It’s another tool they have for keeping you in check. What happens when anyone questions the church on any doctrine?

We excommunicate them.

Or burn them.

Only in extreme cases, like that Gabriella woman, you know the teacher in France, when she refused to admit her sins against the Lord.

It never strikes you as odd, that sort of behaviour?

No it’s the way it is.

What’s the use of talking to you? You have such a narrow view on the world.

Just so. That way I never get myself confused. I always know where I stand.

Or what you are standing in.

Precisely.

Breakfast?

Be lovely. What you got planned for the day?

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25 Responses to Being Catholic

  1. Gabriella says:

    Funny how you incorporated some online folks in your story!

  2. Anja says:

    I am thrilled I was fortunate enough not to be burned. 🙂 This is funny on so many levels especially picturing me not missing mass…..wait, I am Catholic? Oh bother….. And Oh AnElephant, smart one I knew all along. Keeping the peace.

  3. Ok I smiled, then I snorted (terribly unladylike I know) I’m not Catholic but related and all the time I read it was in an Irish accent. I’m the father’s secretary huh? Hope he has paid me well. Great story and lines Summer – well done. 🙂

  4. Ooh – I’m famous! Not sure your casting of me was particularly accurate, but hey, those nun’s habits hide a multitude of sins 🙂 – A fun tale!

  5. Penny L Howe says:

    Very funny, a spiritual romp, no less. Imaginative and more than a little bit of truth within each piece of humor! I just love this, glad I was early not late, lol! 🙂 xx

    • summerstommy2 says:

      Thanks Penny. I did actually know an old priest who would make that comment if you came late.

      • Penny L Howe says:

        Keeping the flock close, protecting from spiritual predators! Yep! I’m Scandinavian so was raised (of course) as a Lutheran, Now my beliefs are Universal so more expansive in nature! 🙂

      • summerstommy2 says:

        Me too. The religion of my childhood is the religion I adhere to today. I am spiritual but not in any church sense.

    • summerstommy2 says:

      Thanks Penny. It was a lot of fun to write and that old priest did do those things.

  6. Linda Vernon says:

    Haha! This was totally delightful! (I’m never hanging out my wash again, though I will continue to wear my pink hat!) My mother was a catholic, but only through 2nd grade, but still, she had so many stories — so I can relate! Your humor reminds me of Frank McCourt’s. There was so much wonderful humor in Angela’s Ashes (even in the sad parts!).D What fun this was Summers! (Oh, and if you need me, I’ll be out shopping for clothes pins and fireproof underwear!)

    • summerstommy2 says:

      Oh thanks Linda I was hoping you’d enjoy being part of the story. Next time I’m in church ill look out for you in the pink hat. Thanks again.

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