R.E.M. “Losing my Religion”
Say what you like about REM they can craft a good pop song.
I was brought up a Catholic but lost my faith when I was a teenager. These days I find the concept of a God and religion as ridiculous as believing in Father Christmas or the Tooth Fairy. I accept that many intelligent, good and decent people do not share my view. I do believe that everyone should have the right to worship whatever God they like as long as they do not seek to impose those views and values on other people who do not share them.
My High School was St Cuthbert’s, a Catholic Grammar School in Newcastle, the Head was Father Cassidy a man famous for his temper, his intolerance and his enthusiasm for beating young boys.
Here is a BONUS addition to the blog. Click below to download a short story called “Docherty”. It is based on an incident that happened at St Cuthbert’s when I was eleven years old. Click here :docherty
This week’s poem recalls an event when I was an altar boy for a priest called Father Boyle, a person I had a lot of time for. He had a mischievous sense of humour and wasn’t aloof like a lot of the other priests at school. All CatholicPriests were required to say Mass every day even though they were teachers and had no church. In the basement of the priest’s house in the grounds of the school were a number of small chapels where the priests would say mass to a congregation of none, just me and Father Boyle at seven-thirty in the morning.
Father Boyle could say the a mass in under fifteen minutes and one morning he told me he was going for a personnel best time. This poem is about that morning.
Postscript… Since the blog was published I had a phone call from fellow poet and St Cuthbert’s old boy Aidan Clarke. Aidan and I had attended a poetry night in Durham the night before I published the blog and I had read out the poem. Aidan contacted me to tell me that he had recently been discussing Father Boyle with some another St Cuthbert’s old boys and he had recalled how Father Boyle had read out a poem he had written when Aidan was in the 6th Form and although it was over fifty years ago he could still
recall what the poem was about. Father Boyle had gone to comfort a couple who had lost their five-year old child and he was questioning how a merciful God could let a five year old die. A few days after that discussion Aidan, who has an unhealthy interest in cemetaries had been walking through Lemington Cemetary on the outskirts of Newcastle when he saw this grave. The latin inscription reads “A Priest Forever”.
I was born a Catholic, the catechism beaten into me by Nuns with bad habits
Faith seeps out of most, even the most devoted, a slow puncture on the road of life
For many, routine and the fear of the hereafter kept them shackled to the Alter
My faith was involved in a head-on shunt on a spring morning when I was thirteen
I was an Alter Boy for Father Boyle saying Mass in an empty chapel
Latin incantations rattled through the liturgy like an express train
Never stopping at the stations in between only focused on getting to the end
The Priest ignored obstructions pausing only to issue instructions
As the final bell rang, he checked his watch, eleven and a half minutes
With a triumphant smile he announced his personal best time
A light went on, if it was a game to him why should it mean something to anyone else
Belief hitched a ride on the breakdown truck, It was never seen again
In the years that followed on dark crisis ridden nights when all hope had vanished
I would call up an instinctive prayer that was always unanswered
It is over fifty years since the last prayer left my lips
©Jeff Price November 2017