Forgive me father for I have sinned

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Mike, all six foot four of him, had disappeared right in front of me.  As I walked behind him into the church, I looked up at the ornately decorated gold roof  and when I lowered my eyes he’d gone.   Confused, I stopped and in the space he’d left I stared down the church aisle at the priest genuflecting at the altar.  Sensing a hostile presence in the house of god he slowly got up, warily turned around and stared into my eyes.    My friend, having kneeled down and paid his respects, bounced back up and blocked the priest’s view of the lapsed protestant who’d dared to enter his church.  Mike dipped his fingers into the font and crossed himself with holy water.  As he raised his hand he redistributed the liquid and sprinkled me from above.   I started to laugh – this was not going well.  

We’d agreed to go to church because Mike’s mum was worried about his soul.  It was Christmas and in accordance with the season of good will we headed off to church to grant her wish.  She stayed at home and prepared the lamb (not a traditional dish but being old it was the only thing she remembered how to cook).    I was raised in the protestant faith, before I rebelled at the age of 14 and gave religion away, so I’d never had any experience of catholic worship and wasn’t keen to go.  My parents were atheists but felt it was important that I drew my own conclusions.  So I was subjected to brownie/guide parades, Sunday school, an austere church and a preacher who breathed hell and damnation out of every pore.  The only highlight was the collection money, which very rarely made it into the church coffers there being far more important things to spend it on – like milk lollies and sweet collections.  A reward to ourselves for lasting the bitter cold, sermons and dirges that were supposed to be hymns.  The first inkling that people were not all equal in the eyes of the brethren was when someone informed me that my sister wouldn’t go the heaven because she had not been christened.  I would apparently because I had.  Now I knew that my sister was a better person than me or the believer who imparted this piece of knowledge.  I decided that I would follow a faith which embraced all types of people – I haven’t found one yet!

Back in the church Mike shot me a warning look and lead the way to a pew.  We settled in for the long haul.  The chanting bored me, the incense made me sneeze, the sermon sent me to sleep and when the congregation gave trained responses I was completely out of my depth.  Therefore, I was startled when the person next to me grabbed my hand and started to pump it up and down.  As I tried to extract myself I noticed that everyone was shaking hands with their neighbours.  I proffered my hand to Mike with some reluctance and he started to laugh – it was infectious.  We sat back down and tried to contain ourselves with no success.  There was silence in the church apart from the stifled giggles coming from our pew.  The congregation was not amused and after a serious of dirty looks we left in disgrace but still laughing.

Returning to his mum’s expecting a ticking off for the early exit from mass, we found her on the floor, unconscious.  When she came round in casualty she had a broken arm and a hangover.  Apparently she’d fallen off a chair whilst trying to get to her secret stash of booze on top of the wardrobe.   That’s why she’d sent us off to church – it was not about saving our souls it was about getting soused.

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