Yesterday afternoon, while lounging in front of the telly enjoying a double bill of religiously satirical films, and digesting a late breakfast, my mother interrupted the blissful first day of my little sister’s school break by asking whether we would prefer to have dinner before or after mass that evening.
“We have to go to mass today?” my little sister asked, frowning as all plans of a day in her pyjamas disappeared before her eyes.
“I love being a heathen” I said, smiling.
I am a self-professed bad catholic.
After being dragged through the rigmarole of the catholic school system, learning by heart their prayers and responses, singing at their masses and playing a shepherd in their nativities, I had confessed my sins, taken communion and been confirmed, but I never considered myself particularly religious. I received a very good education, felt part of a very loving community, and became romantically fond of all their storytelling and hymn singing, but in truth, I found more divine inspiration watching Father Ted than I ever did at any mass. I am a catholic in that typically Irish way – I don’t practise my religion – I stopped going to mass around the same time that I started being hungover on Sunday mornings, but it forms a very great part of my emotional education, it is stitched through all my childhood memories, I treasure the rosary beads and mass cards I’ve been given over the years because the people I love believe in them, whether I do or not.
By the time I entered secondary school, another institute drenched in catholic rhetoric, the dark secrets of the catholic church and the sectarian hatred which had divided my homeland had tainted any romantic attachment I felt for the church as an institution. Having to study the Gospel for six months of GCSE Religion also had something to do with it.
But I still thought the buildings and the hymns they sang in them were very beautiful, and the stories they told were pleasant little fables not to be taken too seriously, I had the utmost respect for the devout good Catholics who surrounded me, but I wasn’t one of them.
I was a catholic in the sense that I had been raised by Catholics my grandparents and at least half of my parents are good Catholics they taught me to be good, honest, kind, not to lie or cheat or speak with your mouth full. Isn’t that enough?
Because, honestly, I do believe that everyone should have some kind of faith, its good for the soul. But I don’t understand why that faith ever needs to interfere with what I eat and when.
I made a good effort at Lent, fasting from takeaways and chips almost entirely throughout the six weeks, only caving in circumstances of extreme hangover, however I only managed to go off crisps for approximately 36 hours.
My faith is built on the foundations of Christianity I believe there is a higher power, I believe that force has some divine purpose for us all, but it is much more Mother Nature than Father Almighty.
I won’t try and compete with two million years of Christian faith, and I don’t expect them to argue with my beliefs, faith is far too personal a thing to be questioned by anyone else. Except Creationalists – those guys are nuts.
So while my mother and sister and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and the rest of the community in which I have grown up are attending the Good Friday service, I’m going to walk the dog and take in some of Mother Nature’s beauty. I might not be in a designated church building, listening to a designated leader of church, praying designated words of the church, but I’m going to go enjoy my own personal kind of divine inspiration.