I've been polishing this anecdote for a while so I thought I'd best share it.
I've been going through the mill over the past two or three weeks and last Thursday (13th September, 2012) I couldn't sleep. I was well into my cups at this point and just not able to turn my brain off, not even Tesco's value whiskey was working - though I kept trying and purposefully ignoring the head-ache I knew I'd have in the morning.
I got to thinking about all the lovely people I knew who were getting some measure of comfort from their faith. One of my mates at school was one a Catholic, a good friend from work is one. One of people who's been phoning regularly in order to insult me and who's helped me ever so much is one. The lady up the road is one and, shock and horror, I discovered that I would've been one if my Grandma hadn't lost her faith. Most of my extended family are Catholics and they, as well as the people I've already mentioned are lovely, bright and sincere people. I felt that I simply must join their ranks! I'm re-reading this now and realising that the list of lovely people I know who are Catholics is staggering!
It all made perfect sense to me - I've always felt guilty of something or other: I've always felt as if I was to blame! Goodness knows I've an awful lot to feel guilty for, but even when I was too young to remember having done anything wrong I felt guilty. Perhaps a little confession would help ease that...? But without that feeling of original sin (whether it was real or imagined) what would I be left with? If I were washed clean of all my previous sins what'd be left? Would I be reborn as a psychopath? Without all the anxieties I have about doing right would I feel able to do what's wrong? All these questions and so many more were whirling around in my head lubricated by the ever so gritty whiskey - so I decided to do what every good geek does - I looked online.
I picked up the iPad and started up Chrome and entered "convert to Catholicism Cambridge UK". The number of results returned was just staggering but eventually I found a link which had a list and not just blah blah blah words. Ahh, a list, something I can work down and check I can fulfil the requirements.
- These was something about taking communion... I'd been to one when I did some voluntary work in a hotel for the disabled as a teenager in Southport and a lady needed an escort but the staff had been lovely about me not having to take the bread and wine. My old history teacher at school had talked for ages about Transubstantiation and the idea of mystic cannibalism had me thinking of all sorts of things like developing some sort of kuru. If I ignored the possibility of divine Mad Cow disease then I guess the option of a bit of plonk and a biscuit on a Sunday morning wouldn't be too bad - though with my propensity for strong drink the afternoon service might be better: at least the sun'd be o'er the yard arm! Tick!
- There was something about leading a good and moral life. Please refer to my rant about guilt! The load I carry is so huge that I really can't face adding to it so I try to lead as good a life as possible. I don't even kill bugs or anything like that. That crunch you hear when you accidentally stand on a snail in the dark means that I have to turn around and apologise. If I were anymore twitched I'd end up being a Jain! Tick!
- Confession? Hell yes! That's what I want. Feeling unguilty (should that be innocent?) for at least a little while (until I stood on a snail on the way out of the church or something) would be lovely. Perhaps my back would miraculously unkink and I might be able to stand up straight (Having said that I think I stoop because I was a tall kid and I didn't want others to feel intimidated by my height - of course I'm no longer tall what with diets improving over the last few years and me hitting 40 a month or so back (aren't you suppossed to loose an inch in height for each decade over the age of 40 you hit)). Perhaps I'd be able to do something immoral without fear of being crushed by guilt? Tick!
- There were ever so many other things, things that looked just strange and ridiculous but things that I felt I could do. Tick, Tick and Tick!
- Then there was the one about believing in Jesus as my lord and saviour (I'm pretty sure I should've capitalised that lord before?). Arse! Busted! That'll be a big fat angry red Cross!
Perhaps though, I already am, my ex-wifes Grandmother was suspicious of me for ages because of my name. It took ever such a long time for her to be convinced that I was called Dominic because my Ma had high-church leanings rather than because I was a Tim. Things like that seemed to make a difference in Birkenhead in the 90s... If that's the case and I have some measure of genetic Catholicism then I've lost out on the redeeming bit. All I want is a little absolution.