Grateful 32

I was in Ireland last weekend for a First Communion. My nephew’s. The style was something to behold. Young girls dressed up to the nines, complete with parasols. Young lads in three-piece suits and flash ties, hands in pockets, doing great imitations of their dads. Mums in high heels, calves stretching under the strain. Dads in the open-necked casual Miami Vice look. A regular fashion show in which the First Communion took a meagre second place.

I’ve been told that I’m a ‘pick’n’mix’ Catholic – one who chooses which part of Roman Catholicism suits me – and which I’d sooner leave alone. I don’t agree with the Church’s stance on homosexuality. I don’t think that a Church, which was ultimately fashioned by man, should be so exclusive. My God doesn’t pick and choose who should be let in. I have similar problems with the Vatican having so much money when its people around the world are wondering where their next meal comes from. My God encourages sharing of wealth rather than hoarding. I am a practising Catholic insofar as I go to Mass every Sunday and on the few holy days that haven’t been moved to Sundays for the general convenience of a busy public. It doesn’t matter than I don’t understand the sermon – I know the prayers by heart – and it’s a rare priest these days that has something to say worth listening to. But my week is simply not the same if I miss Mass.

In the church, the kids were very well behaved. It was their big day. It was the parents who showed a complete lack of reverence, treating the occasion like a family reunion. In the line to receive Communion, two dads were laughing out loud discussing at full volume whether hands should go right over left or left over right. Then one said with some authority: right over left because everyone knows that Jesus was left-handed – it’s written in the bible. No silence. No solemnity. No sacrament. No clue what was going on. Most probably hadn’t been in a church since they were married.

My parents say the rosary every night. When I’m home, I say it, too. And I know that I am the last of that particular generation. I’ve been brought up in the Catholic church with a set a principles and values that have been instilled in me over the years – not by lecture but by example. Some I never really owned; others are very much a part of who I am.

This week, I am grateful for how my parents reared me – for their example, their respect, and their unfailing faith in God and in me.

Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out the post Grateful 52

10 Responses

  1. Hmm. Quite a post, this one. I could react to Catholicism and fancy dress while poor people have no shoes… and go off on that tangent. Or I could agree with you on a Catholic upbringing for totally different reasons from yours. But, I am going to comment on the image of ‘Mums in high heels, calves stretching under the strain.’

    Although your description is perfect as imagery, a tight butt, a pumped bicep, and calves in high heels are all taut because they are contracted muscles (‘strained’). Not stretched. Ahh.. who cares, you might ask, and you would be right. Not even I care. But somehow that has not stopped my fingers from typing on. A distraction less controversial than Catholicism?

    1. Am laughing out loud here. You’re right, of course. You know your muscles. And yet those calves looked stretched to me. Even the pedant in me can’t promise that I will remember the difference next time I have cause to write about them. Am more curious about you agreeing with me on a Catholic upbringing for totally different reasons…

      Mary Murphy

  2. How refreshing, I know that your writing are always heartfelt, honest and have deep meaning for you …………sometimes they reach and have deep meaning for others, this did for me……thank you Mary.

  3. Well, as a relatively short reply, you say: ‘I’ve been brought up in the Catholic church with a set a principles and values that have been instilled in me over the years – not by lecture but by example.’

    I was brought up a strict Catholic by the letter of the law, lectured and browbeaten into belief, not into the principles and examples of a loving Christ. How contradictions, bitterness and morals fit together into that framework is probably a life’s work for a psychotherapist (emphasis on the psycho).

    1. It never ceases to amaze me how one religion, one Church, can be interpreted by so many in so many ways. I remember being in Washington State, at mass, and being gobsmacked when the priest, from the altar, invited divorcees to marry again. One church, one set of rules, and many many interpretations. I have to keep reminding myself that the RC church is a man-made institution. And then it makes sense…

      Mary Murphy

  4. Can one be browbeaten into belief? Into acquiescence, perhaps, but to believe has to be voluntary.

    1. Oh, I definitely think that one can be browbeaten into belief. I think religious beliefs and self-worth beliefs are particularly susceptible to being ‘beaten’ in. This may be similar to, but not exactly the same as Stockholm syndrome ‘When men and women are placed in a situation where they no longer have any control over their fate, feel intense fear of physical harm and believe all control is in the hands of their tormentor, a strategy for survival can result which can develop into a psychological response that can include sympathy and support for their captor’s plight.'(See

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