– “Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong!” – Anon
Having served my apprenticeship, so to speak, growing up Catholic, during the 50s surviving the convent, the priests and the nuns, then a strict Catholic boarding school, I felt pretty comfortable that I had come through this ordeal mostly intact. Oh, there were scars and wounds that needed to heal, but as they say: “Time is a great healer”… or is it?
You see, as I’ve said, I grew up in the early 50s, in a loving caring family, the eldest of six boys. Hardworking father and a mother that saw her duty to God, the Catholic faith and her husband in that order. At a very young age I was introduced to our local Priest. An Irishman who was overpowering, yet as I remember, gentle enough, but firm and dogged. What was now beginning to take hold, was the guilt that was installed into me by that Whiskey drinking, cigarette smoking priest! The nuns followed his orders faithfully!
What had been very powerfully and cleverly instilled into me, was a strong sense of ‘guilt’. It was a ‘mortal sin’ to miss Mass on a Sunday, to eat meat on a Friday, not to fast during Lent. Girls were evil and one must never touch a girl as it was a sin. God forbid if you actually held a girls hand. It was too late… I was going to hell in a hand basket, I had broken the cardinal rules! I became riddled with guilt! I went to confession every day to confess my ‘mortal’ sins. As I stepped into the confessional, I was consumed with the pungent smell of the priest’s stale whiskey laden breath, the darkness, and smell of an oiled floor mixed with the sweet smelling incense was all becoming a bit too overwhelming. I endured this ritual for sometime as my mother fueled this guilt… “God will punish you” she would repeatedly say, “you must go and confess your sins”.
I couldn’t take too much more of this, so decided the best thing to do, was to move to the nearby city. I went and lived with my mother’s father. I thought I’d be safe, but unfortunately, he was an alcoholic and would come home tanked to the eyeballs, then start in on me all over again. I believed God had it in for me! First, the parish priest, then the nuns, my own mother now my Pop! Just was not going my way this whole Catholic thing! Then something rather miraculous happened. There were now priests in my hometown. Dutch priests from the Mill Hill order. They were fun loving practical jokers and one of them would spend time with my dad at the petrol station reading the weekly scandal tabloid, complete with its page 3 girl. The standing joke was “it’s Fr Jack’s Bible ”. Along with a couple of the other members of the church’s select little group, they’d gather and knock off a couple of flagons of beer and a bottle or three of cheap wine! If I asked any questions, I was simply fobbed of with “Important parish business son”. After a while, I became pretty friendly with the other priest, he and my mother shared a love of art and spent long hours painting and sketching.
One day, she invited me in to the sun room to join them. What I didn’t know was this was all part of their plan. You see, my mother wanted her priest. She believed it was time to instil a bit more of the catholic guilt into me. To be honest, I was not the perfect teenager. I’d dabbled in a few things, less than desirable I guess. There was no way in hell I was going near a priest to confess that little lot! Or so I thought.. Then they started. It was like a well orchestrated and precise manoeuvre… didn’t see that one coming! Had no answer. I was too scared to rebut anything they said and before I knew it, I was in front of the Father Superior of this order, bags packed, train and ferry tickets at the ready and on my way to the seminary!
I have questioned myself many, many times over the years as to this bizarre behaviour resulting in my entering the seminary. In my opinion, it all leads back to the manipulative and controlled agenda that the Catholic Church, through its priests, had. The guilt was very much planted, almost to the point of being brainwashed. I do remember at one point as I’ve stated already, my mother saying I would be punished if I did not become a priest. So, after some intense questioning by the Fr Superior came the announcement “Brian is going to be our priest… you must make your mother and God very proud”. As crazy as this may sound today, back then it was very real. I had stepped into the unknown!
To be continued!
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