Sometimes change is brutal. It can be like licking something unpleasant in the dark and letting your imagination run riot. Things always change. The one thing that changes as you age is you. People often say that they don’t or have never changed, but it’s not true. If you truly do an honest introspective you will see just how far you’ve come.
But it’s the subtlety of change that makes the world today so different than the one I grew up in. The sneaky gradual changes that we all take for granted. I’m a terrible heathen. When I was a little chiseller, things were very different. Mass and the church were central to our way of life. This little Island felt it was in a competition to be holier than any other nation and the government even colluded in keeping it thus. Those feckin’ Spanish weren’t half as good Catholics as we were. They might have thought they were but by Jaysus we’d show them and that applied to the rest of the world.
On our knees, ten Hail Mary’s and three our Father’s, we’d pray for the souls of the poor unfortunate starving children in Biafra. We’d pray for the pope, the Archbishops, the bishops, priests and nuns in a descending cacophony of hierarchical importance, until we got to the poor auld man in the street. You didn’t pray for yourself.
Now, there are probably 5 people in the whole Island who go to mass regularly (I might be exaggerating a little but you get the drift.) Oddly, us Irish still christen our children, ensure they make their Holy Communion, get confirmed, married and so on, all under the watchful eye of the local Irish priest. The only thing that’s changed in this regard, is that we’ve run out of what was once our greatest export and secret method of Irishing up the globe – the Irish priest himself. These days, we depend largely on the young lads our older priests converted in darkest Africa, India, the Philippines or some far flung origin, all those years ago. The remaining faithful have to face the indignity of being preached to by people they once felt holy superior to because back in the day, we were of course the best Catholics in the world.
It’s like we’ve lost our faith but not the church. We’re hanging in there ‘just in case’ because God forbid what the parents of my generation believed might be true! If it is we’re all going to hell. It could be that the Irish just like a party and sure if you have a Christening, communion wedding or funeral – what better excuse could you have to kick off an auld shindig eh? Maybe its because the schools are better, whatever the reason, we’ve changed to a nation of convenience Catholics.
I didn’t see it coming. Here I am, sitting in my kitchen at midday on a Sunday, while the world about shops in Malls. I am drowning in the glorious scent of a pot of mushroom soup that’s bubbling on the stove. The crisp October air is cooling my feet by the back door and the sun warming my shoulders through the window behind me. Sounds lovely? It is. The dogs are at my feet Jo is washing her hair and Jomammy is somehow still managing to read the Sunday papers through 91 year old eyes beside me … and I feel content as I write but there it is. I am content. In days gone by I’d have missed mass by now and I would have had to plan to make sure I got evening mass or it would be confession for me on Monday.
My the world tick-tocks and the shuffling of my inner clock as it counts down to my eventual demise, readjusts my thinking. To be fair I only ever went to church as an obligation. I rebelled as a teenager and never looked back. The Church lost the run of itself and drowned in so much scandal that the old traditional respect has long since gone, certainly in this country. When I was 16 I wrote a poem that began thus;
I’ve lost my church but not my faith
People think it’s God I hate
But I’ve lost my church
Not my faith…
I think it was my way of explaining to my parents that I was still a good boy at heart, even though I no longer wanted to go to mass. Oddly, I never showed it to them.
I suffered my own fair share of clerical abuse. We boys were handed over to so called Christian men to be educated and while I am a successful product of their educational thread mill, it is more by luck than chance. We suffered beatings and witnessed worse as fragile little innocents. Others I knew suffered more than just the obvious and regular violent assaults. While I escaped the twisted, sexual perversions of some of the brothers and priests that we were in daily contact with, it took a good deal of guile and chicanery, not to mention some good fortune to escape the clutches of what can only be described as truly evil men. I looked upon the face of darkness daily and as a child it had a profound effect on me. I am one of the lucky ones. I found a path of strength and beauty and mounted my charger , riding through swathes of fallen comrades and I fought my own battle to become free.
When I took to writing my very personal Little Big Boy, it was never going to be autobiographical. However I couldn’t help but infuse some of what I had lived through growing up in similar circumstances as my precious little boy of the title. I injected in him, some of the strength that had kept me safe from the worst of the abuses and all of the vulnerability I had felt. In a way it drained me writing that book, but in truth it also set me soaring and I flew above the glory of the cruelty of my past to witness my own miraculous escape.
Licking unpleasant things in the dark, feeling only texture and imagining taste beyond what is real, is fighting change. You hold back, fearful of the next moment your tongue engages when you need to be not afraid. All of my books are about love as I have said before, but they are also about fear.
Change isn’t coming, change is already here. Fearing the cold of winter is one thing, but I never let it keep me from the sun. As I soar above my past, looking ahead to the future only one thing is certain. Right now I am the kite that soars. Right now is what matters. Fear is the rope that binds me to the ground, trying hard to pull me down. Fear is the thing we cling to when change is coming and we all must let it go if we want to fly free…. Have a happy and peaceful Sunday…
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