I took a walk into town today in order to do a few little errands. How joyous those words, “walking into town”. In reality nothing more exciting than popping into the bank in this humdrum provincial town but as I got ready I felt as happy as a prisoner released from prison after 8 years solitary confinement.
The sky was overcast but it was a mild enough day. I scooped up my selection of empty glass bottles, dropped them in my hessian shopping bag and went out. Quite the little housewife. First stop the bottle bank, conveniently right on my route. The satisfying smash and tinkle of glass meeting glass.
Moving on, checked the bookie’s windows as I passed in case there should be a bet my spirit guides wanted me to put on. The odds for Liverpool to beat Man U looked promising but the guides were saying nothing so I continued with my eye on a straight run down to the end of town before turning right for the bank.
As I approached the church however, the one I’ve walked past many a time with nary a glance towards it, I found my feet turning and walking through the gateway, across the large tiled frontage and through its doors. Inside all was still and peaceful. I genuflected automatically and slid into the nearest pew. I knelt and said the prayer I always say on any of my infrequent church visits: thank you God, and mom, for bringing me here today.
I felt tears pricking my eyes and wondered what they meant. It might have been the majestic sweeping ceiling, incredible to see the time and skill that would have gone into this when the church was built back in the 1930s.
Or were the tears for the two old people up at the front of the church. The old guy sitting left of the aisle. Was he just passing the time, waiting for his bus to arrive or was he deep in devotional prayer? The old woman over on the right. Head bowed. Was she saying her daily rosary or closing her eyes for a short nap in the peace of an empty church?
I felt strongly they were both genuine Christian worshippers, their generation do Catholicism in a way most of our generation don’t. We have discarded our faith more easily with every new story of clerical abuse but they, they keep the faith. I can’t help but admire them for their persistance and stubbornness.
My head kept urging me to leave but my heart kept me there for longer than intended. Just one more prayer of thanks. Eventually I left and headed for the bank, before the lunchtime crush would delay me too much. I popped into the sports shop to find a decent pair of trackies for J. I was horrified last night to see the baggy short grey pair he was wearing. But his response was typical “These are fine. I like my cheap Pennies trackies, so what if everyone else is wearing expensive ones?”
So today I decided to get some nice new ones for him. They were so soft and thick I’d have worn them myself anyway but I hoped he might be pleased.
As I returned home, pleased with my few purchases and my banking business completed, I saw the church in front of me. Groups of people hanging around outside could only mean one thing. A funeral. As I got closer, I was momentarily shocked by the incongruous sight of row upon row of motor bikes lined up across the entire tiled frontage of the church.
Then I realised that the people waiting patiently for the funeral were mostly young people and hairy bikers. Another one gone too soon. He died on Sunday, I discovered later when I found out his name. Someone’s dad, someone’s brother, someone’s uncle.
And he was someone’s son too. I went home, thankful I still had mine.
J came banging on the door a short while later. “Quiiiiiiick, gotta go, footie training’s started, need you to drop me back down to the school…” Loud, demanding, full of life. Thank you God for bringing him here today.
I mentioned casually I’d bought him some new trackies. He peered into the bag. His eyes lit up. He tried them on. He was delighted. So was I.