One of the more recent scandals about the Catholic Church in Ireland has brought up memories of going to Catholic schools.
Having been brought up a Catholic, I remember what it was like to believe in God as a kid. I also remember absolutely not wanting to make Holy Communion and refusing to smile for any of the photographs. Gradually, as I got older, I began to stop believing in God.
In primary school in Dublin, I was at a “state run” Christian Brothers school for two years, and every so often a priest (I’ll call him Father Brady, as I cannot remember his actual title) from the church round the corner would visit the school for us to make confession.
During one of his visits, I was in the line and I heard a lad, Sean, daring another kid, Johnathan (Johnno) to say to the priest that his confession was that he kept on thinking of little boys’ mickeys (Irish slang for penis).
‘Oi’m not fuckin sayin tha, ye dope, you say it,’ said Johnno.
‘Here, oi’ll pay ye two quid if ye say it,’ whispered Sean. ‘That’s two hundred jellies.’
There used to be a shop beside the school that sold sweets for a penny (cent) each.
‘Alrigh, giv us the two quid then,’ said Johnno.
‘No, you gotta say it first.’
‘Give me the fuckin two quid an oi’ll say it.’
‘Oi’ll give ye a pound and you’ll get other one when ye say it.’
‘Fuck sake, alrigh,’ said Johnno.
I was ahead of these two, but I remember the feeling of anticipation and the increasing urge to start laughing. The two behind me were still arguing over the pound deposit (“Give us one fifty now an oi’ll say it”) and when it was my turn, the best I could do from getting a full on attack of the giggles, was walk into the room with a big, silly grin on my face.
Father Brady asked me if I had committed any sins lately and I racked my brains. I honestly couldn’t think of anything, so I said:
‘No, Father, I can’t think of anything.’
‘But you must have done something,’ said Father Brady.
‘I really can’t think of anything, Father.’
Father Brady continued to press me for a confession, but I was sure of my innocence; this was all said while trying to stifle laughter. It wasn’t an act of rebelliousness, I honestly couldn’t think of a single thing worth saying.
Then he asked me to say the prayer that one normally recites after confession, but I didn’t know the words. I remember the disbelief on his face that I didn’t know this very common prayer and the apparent frustration in his tone when he said:
“Repeat after me, so.”
When I left, still grinning, the two next in line, Sean and Johnno, were silent; as Johnno went in, slamming the door behind him, Sean broke into a fit of convulsions.
Apparently the news had spread down the queue, because all the whispering and talking had stopped and you could have heard a pin drop in the room. Even the teacher, who was sitting at her desk, looked up, apparently wondering why everyone had gone silent.
All of a sudden, there came a roar from the confession room.
‘WHAT? WHAT DID YOU SAY TO ME?!’
The door burst open and out flew Johnno, followed closely by Father Brady, robes billowing.
The class burst into a roar of laughter. The result of this was that Johnno got five hundred lines and three days suspension. He also got five hundred jellies, so he didn’t mind.