29 May 2010

I was thrown out of this church

By chance, I chance across a photo of Drimnagh, Dublin, taken in the 1940s. It was then a new suburb of Dublin and I spent the first three years of my life there, before we moved in 1946 to the northside of the city where I had been born. (The Northside/Southside distinction is very important for Dubliners!) The street where we lived is not in the photo but is to the right of the area shown. However, the newly-built church of Our Lady of Good Counsel, Mourne Road, is very clear, with the new parish school to its right. In Dublin people always refer to a Catholic church by its street name rather than by its patronal name.

On a Christmas weekday in 1945, or it could have been very early in January 1946, my mother, pregnant at the time, took me to Mass. I was a few months short of three. It seems I shouted 'Bah' at the Infant Jesus in the crib. The priest ordered my mother and myself out. It seems he was 'ably assisted' by an older woman who made sure my mother understood what the priest had said.

I'm sure the priest had got out of bed 'on the wrong side' that morning, as I sometimes do myself. My father went to see him some days later but the priest didn't apologise. It would have helped had he done so.

I have one memory of the incident, a 'photo' in my mind while walking home. As you can imagine, it was a shattering incident for my mother. My father went to see the priest but he never apologised. However, whenever my mother told this story she always mentioned that the same priest (not the priest in the inset above but a curate, as an assistant priest is known in Ireland), having moved to the parish where my mother had grown up, couldn't have been kinder to her younger sister Madge in her last illness. Auntie Madge died on 3 February 1950 at the age of 26. Hers was my first experience with the death of someone close to me. My mother brought me to the wake.

I was at home during Lent 1991 and Our Lady of Good Counsel parish asked for a Columban to preach at all the Masses one weekend in connection with a 24-hour fast by secondary school students to raise funds for Trócaire, the development agency of the Catholic Church in Ireland. Fr Michael Scully, the Columban Vice Superior in Ireland at the time, who knew nothing about my connection with Drimnagh, asked me if I could respond to the request.

I had the best opening line ever to a homily: 'I was thrown out of this church'. (In Dublin dialect that would be 'I was thrun ouhah this church'.) My mother died in 1970 and as I repeated my homily I felt a vicarious healing on her behalf. I also discovered that the parish was formally established eleven days before my birth. Now it's part of a cluster of three parishes working together as a unit

This incident has helped me more than once, though it's essentially a story rather than an experience for me. I have been very harsh with people on occasion in church. But whenever this has happened I've had the grace to ask the person later for forgiveness. And I'm usually very patient with small children making noise, though once or twice I've had to ask quietly if the parent or guardian could take care of a particular child.

One situation that does get to me here in the Philippines is children playing with coins on the floor of a church or chapel. However, I grin and bear it and it's a very long time since I've been in such a situation.

I found this photo on the parish website. Our Lady's Children's Hospital is in nearby Crumlin.. The words in Irish Gaelic mean 'Your two arms around them, O Christ'. A beautiful memorial.


Jackie Parkes MJ said...

Funny I was thrown outta one age 47!

Nanada said...

Hello Fr Sean. I too attended a Brothers school ( Brunner , same as your dad ) between 1955 1nd 1965 and my memories of that time are happy ones.as well as the lay teachers we had wonderful brothers teaching and encouraging us all the way in our scholarly and sports education.Perhaps they did have inklings of what went on in Artane and the like but they were different times and having been through the trauma and ongoing self-purging I thing our Church will be the stronger from it.

I was of the generation that was inquisitive about far -away hills and I left Ireland in 1967 for Australia.The influence and education that I received at North Bunswick Street stood me in good stead in my further development in Australia .Because of my background my two sons have attended Brothers Schools here in Australia .

I too attended Stanhope Street Convent school and I remember Sister Santy Claus ( Sr. Stanislaus )also - she had tinted glasses and did the collection for the "Black Babies" !

It was good to read your thoughts.

I'll pray for your and the work which you are doing.

God Bless

John Murray

Crux Fidelis said...

My niece (now 15) was very seriously ill when she was a couple of months old. Thanks to Our Lady's in Drimnagh she made a full recovery.

Fr Seán Coyle said...

Crux Fidelis, I've added the name of Our Lady's Children's Hospital to the post. as I should have done in the first place.

John, it's great to read a comment from someone from my part of the world. Are you by any chance the same person as Jack Murray who was in Stanhope St with my brother Paddy?

Paddy and I both have good memories of our time in O'Connell Schools. I was there from 1951 to 1961.

A good friend of mine who was in 'Brunner' in your time was the late Fr Anthony Maher, who lived on the North Circular Road, very near the Phoenix Park. He died of cancer on 31 July 1997. We became friends when we were both in the seminary. He had been the head altar-boy in Aughrim St before he went to Clonliffe. I was never an altar-boy. We wrote each other fairly regularly after I came to the Philippines in 1971 and usually got together for a meal when I was at home. I still miss him.

A few years ahead of Father Tony as head altar-boy was another 'Brunner' man, the late Fr Billy Madden, who also lived on the North Circular Road near the Phoenix Park and was ordained for the Archdiocese of Birmingham, England. He too died young, at the age of 39.

Father Billy as a kid went one further than me. He didn't shout 'Bah' at the Infant in the crib - he took it home from the church in Aughrim Street! He was alos the first kid to appear on The School Around the Corner, when that radio programme began around 1954. Paddy Crosbie, who possibly taught you, was a classmate of my Dad, John, in 'Brunner'. The late Gerry O'Mahony, who spent his life as a teacher in St Gabriel's, 'Gaybo's', was another classmate.

My memories of Sister Stanislaus are happy ones, though my brother might have different memories! I got to know her well after my ordination and found her a delightful person. She once ordered me to stay in school after class but I walked out right under her nose and never heard any more about it!

I was in Melbourne last September-October doing some mission appeals for the Columbans.

Thanks again, John. Like you, I'm very grateful to the Christian Brothers.

Nanada said...

No Father Sean , I'm not the Jack Murray you referred to. My brother Jim was 6 years ahead of me at Stanhope Street and he was taught by Paddy Crosbie in "Brunner".I guess I'm one up on you-I was an altar boy (in Church Street for 5 years-Brother Colmcille ofm was the sacristan,another good man!).
One of my classmates at Brunner was Paddy Madden from the North Circular Road, he became a journalist with the Independent Newspapers in Dublin-I'm not sure if he's related to Fr.Billy.Indeed I remember Paddy Crosby. His brother ,Martin,was a typical Dublin tenor and comedian.
My two oldest brothers,Eddie(RIP) and Paddy were together at O'Connell's School - 1938 - but they jointly decided they should try another school.There's a good story behind that decision.
In the late 70's I twice visited Manila and Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur as part of private enterprise involvement in Australia's aid ( Colombo Plan ) to the Philippines .During my travels there I recall meeting some Australian Columban fathers .May I have your email address. Mine is janckr@ozemail.com.au

God Bless

John Murray