Irish Papist

Irish Papist
Me and General Robert Lee

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Dear Father (Yahweh)

I am a regular visitor to the church in University College Dublin, and I usually look in the book of intentions. Today, I saw that one of the latest entries began with the words I have used for my post title. I couldn't help finding this amusing.

I remember hearing the term "Yahweh" used in some kind of prayer service in my Catholic school, by some of the older pupils (though doubtless they were reading prayers written by the teachers or nuns). I was shocked. I can't remember exactly why I was shocked-- whether because I thought God should be unnameable, or because I assumed Yahweh was a Jewish and not a Christian usage. (Actually I have just checked on the internet and have discovered that the name has been removed from Catholic liturgical use in recent times, for several reasons).

When I look back at my years in secondary schools, I am amazed at the awe with which I viewed the older pupils. If you asked me at the time, I don't think I would have admitted to viewing them with awe, and if I had thought about it, I may have come to the conclusion that I did indeed view them with awe but that it was silly to do so. I'm glad I didn't think about it. I'm glad I didn't lose my unreflective naivety.

When I remember that prayer service, especially, (it was some very informal occasion in a class-room), the image comes into my mind of one of the pupils who was reading the prayers aloud. He had wavy, aesthete-like chestnut hair, round-rimmed glasses with golden handles, and thick lips. My visual memory is usually negligible so this is an unusually clear picture for me. I think he was the one who spoke the name "Yahweh", and I instantly assumed he understood sacred things and that he had a grown-up, calm relationship with God, free of all my callow and shallow reactions. In hindsight, it was probably more likely that he was squirming with embarrassment as he spoke, and that he made childish jokes about the prayer service afterwards, if he even paid it that much attention. (But who knows? Perhaps he was a saint.)

I can remember on another occasion, having a fleeting crush on a senior girl with wavy black hair and rather Asiatic eyes, whose name I never knew and to whom I never spoke. (A line of all the girls upon whom I harboured crushes without them having the slightest awareness of me, could probably reach from one side of O'Connell Street to the other.) I remember developing a whole imaginary, idealized lifestyle for her. I imagined her eating dainty slices of cheese-on-toast with the cheese slightly blackened here and there, (which seemed unimaginably classy to me), reading serious books, burning incense sticks in her bedroom, and drinking liqueurs. Then it struck me that she probably watched television (just like me and everybody I knew). Instantly I was crestfallen. All the imaginary sophistication and refinement had disappeared at once. Of course she watches television, I realized. Everybody watches television. The magic was gone. Watching television seemed far too plebeian for the cloud of aristocratic glamour I had surrounded her with.

I remember, as well, a small group of older boys who kicked a rugby ball around in the grounds of the school, during break and lunch. Although consciously I despised them, being very left-wing and considering rugby to be a toff's game, secretly I thrilled at their Etonian, Harovian, Belvedere College aura.

Where does all the wonder go? Where?

(I rather lost the run of myself in this post, having merely intended to write a few lines about that book of intentions entry, and instead gettting waylaid by nostalgia. Oh well.)

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