Catholicism and growing up with it, simply means that I was, still am, a Catholic, brought up with two staunch Catholic parents. My Mother was the type of person who loved nothing better than going down to a Catholic Church and praying there. She got great comfort and peace out of this. She was of course Irish as well straight from the bogs so to speak. We were also lucky in that a few kilometers down the road from our farm in the rural area of Selous in the then Rhodesia, was a Catholic Mission, run by German nuns and an Irish priest. They had a school there, ostensibly for coloured people or what we as whites referred to as ‘goffels’. More on that later. It stands to reason therefore, that in my childhood days I was a good little Catholic lad. After all who believes more than little children. Jesus said once, “suffer unto me the little children.” Did he not?
Rhodesia was of course a Protestant country who agreed with freedom of religion. What this meant is, that Catholics were a minority. At both junior and senior school it was the same for me. At junior school we were however allowed to use the Anglican chapel at the school once a month and a visiting priest did the service. We had many Catholics in the area made up of three Riley clans ( all Brothers), and a boatload of children. Then there was the Skea’s, one family but also a boatload of children. To this day, I remain friends with all of them. At senior school a service was held for us in the school library once a month. A visiting priest from the Tegwani Mission (black) did the service , and in my time there was an American who looked like he had come straight from Woodstock, far out man. The older people coming from the out lying areas, detested him, but we as young teens thought he was ‘cool man’.
Now over the ensuing years one is growing up and we were a country now at war (an internal) one. Certain black leaders were encouraging disenchanted young black people to join their revolutionary armies. Somewhere about this time I began to question religion and all that I had been taught prior to this. Actually it began earlier visiting the mission church back home. They had a coloured man who was their groundsman and he always used to sit with us and his family too. Every Xmas my mother made a great show of giving them presents (toys), our old ones which we no longer wanted. Then one year (about 14 years old), I exploded and said to her, “maybe they would appreciate something new for once Mum, even if it’s only a tin of biscuits”? Bye gum, this was blasphemy of the highest order and my Mum was furious and I mean furious with me. How dare I?
The top Catholic or Nuncio in our country at this time was Bishop Lamont. I do understand that priests have a very hard role to play, caught in the middle so to speak, but this priest was something else. No matter what atrocity the terrorists committed he sided with them and always was derogatory about our forces and country. True to form when the terrorists attacked the Elim Catholic mission, raped the nuns and murdered them all and the children, there was silence from Bishop Lamont and it was a, ‘deafening’ one. How could this be? My take on the Catholic church was being seriously questioned. Now my brother was a couple of years older than me and one day in the mission church when the ‘kitty’ came around neither my brother or I put anything in it. Ever sharp eyed my mother noticed it and questioned us on this in the car going back home. I never forgot my brother’s reply and I agreed wholeheartedly with him. “What for, so they can buy the gooks (terrorists) more AK47’s”? You also must understand that some of the people we went to senior school with had already been killed in this useless war. Noel Ridge and John Forbes spring to mind. Eventually it became so bad that our leader, Ian Douglas Smith, deported Bishop Lamont, him not being a citizen. I always remember thinking too little too late? But it had put me off the Catholic Church and Catholicism forever and a day. So religion was pushed into the back seat for me, not that I didn’t believe anymore, just, I was now sceptical, and, still am.
There are of course good priests too. Father O’Donovan our priest down at the mission being one of them. To this day he had the most beautiful speaking voice I have ever heard. At 18 years of age whilst doing National Service I had become deathly ill and when recovered was left profoundly deafened. My mother true to form was doing everything she knew how to try and get it back for me. Religion being at the forefront of all this and who can take offence at that? So here I was at the mission again getting confirmation instruction or something (I forget now). Father O’Donovan was the priest in charge. Now there was another older person also there, a young woman, wearing a really short mini-skirt. When she went to sit down I’m not ashamed to say, that I was having a good old peep. I then looked up straight into the dear old fathers (O’Donovan’s) eyes. Blimey, never, and I mean never have I been so embarrassed, turning about fifty shades of pink. Father O’Donovan smiled and gave me a broad wink. Who wouldn’t like a priest like that? Next up was Father Gough apparently a real hood in his formative stages. This came about as I was about to get married but my wife being an Anglican had to go for instruction before they would allow this. Her very apt, “you bloody Catholics, who the hell do you think you are”? So I told Father Gough I was only doing this to please my Mother so the faster he got it over with the better. Was a very nice priest and got me to think about many things.
Which leads us to the essence of this post. I’m battling to regain a spiritual awareness and would really like to achieve this, so am ending with a question which no one has been able to answer for me yet. It says in the Bible, “you, Simon Peter, you are my rock and upon this rock I will build my Church.” Notwithstanding that before the crock crows you will have denied me thrice. Not a great edifice to build on?
The question is. Which Church was this?