Sep 20 2014

‘But Father I was only asking…’

Published by at 8:23 am under News

martin coffey photos-18

Do you know what it is, of all the things I ever wanted to be when I was a little fella, an Altar Boy was top of my list. I tried my hand on several occasions at being a Cowboy, a Cattle Man, Tarzan, the Lone Ranger and even Robin Hood with a sword the brother made for me out of two bits of wood he found up at the dump that were held together by a rusty nail that also came from the Dump. The nail was hammered through the wood with a rock he got out of the Compound on Lower Killala Road where we lived.

Every Sunday and Holy Day I’d sit up at the top of the church glaring across the Altar Rails at the Tabernacle, you know the golden thing on the altar where the Holy Communion is kept? I  was always dying to see if Jesus was really in there because that’s what our teacher in Finbar’s used to tell us. Imagine that all the same and you’d be seen a little sad  face with a beard looking back out at you, just like the face that Jesus has on him up there on the cross over the altar.

And I’d be there wondering if Jesus talks in English and did he ever hear of Irish. ‘Well Coffeyer, how’s it going? Are you going up to the Baths later for a swim? I’d love one meself, you wouldn’t believe the heat in here and it’s tiny, I can hardly move you know, I could only fit my head in here because it’s so small’. ‘Ah don’t be talking…’ I said to him. ‘…I know how you feel, sure haven’t I got all those brothers of mine in the bed with me and I’m all scrunched up in at the wall and I can’t even stretch me little legs for fear of getting a box in the head or a knee in the back. And when I told them I wanted to be an Altar Boy  so that I could get to see you in there they just laughed and said I should be a Nun. Sure they mustn’t know that you have to be a girl to be a Nun. Anyway I might see you up at the Baths later’.  ‘Okay so…’ says He. ‘…I have to go because here’s the Priest, adios amigos’.

Well I tried being an Altar Boy and learning off by heart all the Latin because that was what Jesus spoke or so the Priest told me when I asked him. But you know I knew Jesus spoke in English as well and I don’t think the Priest knew that. One day I was asking the Priest why he had to wear all them robes and things with the names I couldn’t remember and I asking him was that Holy Water he was drinking out of the little bottle he kept hidden at the back of the press in the Presbytery. That’s when he told me I wasn’t cut out to be an Altar Boy because I asked too many questions. ‘But Father…’ I said ‘…I say me prayers to Holy Mary every night and I don’t eat any meat on a Friday because the Ma’ only gives us bread and drippin’ until the Da’ come home and then we get chips out of Mister Cafolla’s chipper’. He didn’t want to hear it and off home I was sent with a long face on me that I knew wouldn’t fit in the thing where Jesus kept his face of a Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation.

I was heart broken and so sad that I had to tell the Ma’ all about it. She wiped me snotty little nose in her apron and told me not to be crying because Jesus would understand and not to mind that Priest. I remember sitting at our fire in the kitchen and staring in at the flames going up the chimbly as I ate the bread and jam that the Ma’ had given me. And I wanted the Chinese to come in to the house and throw me on the flames so that I could become a martyr for the cause like Joan of Arc in the film I’d seen on the Cabra Grand. Well, after snifflin’ for about ten minutes or so I went out to play with me pals and left the idea of becoming an Altar Boy behind in the flames…



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