So This Religion Thing…. (Campus Times Article)

Watching: Avatar!

Listening to: Final Fantasy IX Soundtrack (dont judge me)

Father Ted: “That’s the great thing about Catholicism – it’s very vague and no-one knows what its really all about.”

Just to be clear, this is going to be solely an opinion piece. May as well start this off by saying I’m not a religious person myself, but I have plenty of friends and family who are. I did grow up being quite religious though, prayers every night before bed and all that jazz. I attended Scoil Lorcáin, John’s Park, Waterford and De La Salle College, Waterford so I know a bit about being taught in Christian Brother schools to say the least. Christianity was with me ever since I was baptised over the road in Sacred Heart. Around that time my parents were quite religious following in the footsteps of my grandparents, The Atkins family in John’s Park living 5 minutes up the road from Scared Heart and The Cullen family in Rice Park heading into Ballybricken or any church around town. Families that were raised on the years were the Catholic Church had quite a hold on the country. That was then, and this is now. These days things are quite different. While still prominent in all areas, religion seems to have taken a back seat to everything else going on (at least in my opinion).

My mam recalls ‘fond’ memories of Lent when she was 14 and 15.  For the entirety of Lent my nan would wake the entire family up at half 7 every morning to go to mass  at St. John’s Church (the one next to xtra-vision now) and having to get blaa’s on the way back home from the bakery (now Twister Vick’s) to keep you from dying of starvation . Move forward to the early 1990’s where you just give up something for 4 weeks and be proud of yourself. Most of us would try to be a smartass and give up stuff you barely had once, but there

was always the poor sod with the evangelist mam who made him give up everything but bread and water. Getting into the late 2000’s , Lent is now just seen by some people as an excuse to diet. Things have changed fast! The people of Ireland  no longer live under the impression that there is Catholicism and that’s it. They have a choice now and that’s clear to them.

Catholocism Dougal....

Even given the fact that other religions are now openly accepted in all society, most Irish people stick with good old Catholicism. And more power to them. Priests might not be the authority figures they once were, but they still get the same respect from members of the community.

And that’s how things should be if you ask me. It’s need to be more of a community gathering than just something you have to go to once a week. When I was in primary school I had two priests that I fondly remember, Father Chestnut and Father Melody (great names). Father Chestnut I remember because he knew my grandmother and actually came to my party after my communion. Fair enough he sat in the corner with water, a ham sandwich and my nan questioning him, but he still came. Father Melody was very involved in the community.

When it came to confirmation time, he went around to all the house and met the parents. Standard stuff for the event but he made it feel that bit more personal because he did his best to get to know the families he was saying mass for. Whenever there was some kind of school/church even though he’d call on myself and Lewis Quinn to do readings and the like. It was annoying, but he was a nice man. I seem like I’m rambling on here but these are the fond memories I have of growing up religious. This is how it needs to be, and how it needs to stay.

I’m feeling quite nostalgic writing this piece now I must admit. I slowly grew out of religion myself as I got older. Not for lack of presence though. Attending De La Salle College we had prayers nearly every second day but you wouldn’t notice it. However as I went through my leaving cert the presence started to fade away. Christian brothers who taught at the school slowly left one by one. Times changed. Fortunately the likes of Brother Ben and Brother Schumacher (a nickname) stuck around, and luckily I got to be there for Brother Damien’s last year as principal. The presence of religion and the Christian brothers in schools has definitely seen a huge decline but this is once again a sign of the times. As Ireland becomes a more modern country, it starts to mirror other countries in Europe with national schools that keep religion to a minimum. Schools have to adapt to the different nationalities and religions that now make up the population of the country. In 5th and 6th class you were expected to know every single prayer in the back of your religion book off by heart and recite them in the morning. The learn some of them in Irish. I can still remember a couple of lines now it was bet into me that well (not literally bet into me, they stopped that).My younger brother is in 5th class at the moment. Prayers are no longer recited at the start of every day, prayers need only be learned to a degree and whenever they have religion class, half the pupils leave to a different room to do other work because they’re not catholic. Once you get to secondary school now things immediately shift to learning about other religions and about life.

While things have changed with the times for everything religion related, it’s changed more for the better than worse. Some people can try and blame religion for problems in the 80’s and 90’s, and for wars today, but even there was no religion we’d all just be tearing the hell out of each other for any other random reason. Religion can get people through hard times, which is why a lot of Irish people have stuck with Catholicism through controversy and what not, but I won’t go into that. The Catholic Church in Ireland, along with other religions, has had learn to adapt to the years of the Celtic Tiger and the fallout of it. Every couple of weeks or so it seems The Vatican is slightly changing yet another rule to adapt to modern times.

I was messing with one of the bras father!

Some things never change though. Christmas mass is always going to be packed and the kid with the annoying toy will always be sitting right in front of you hitting it off your head. The new parish priest will always try to be ‘cool’ and ‘hip’ to get along with you. Your mam will always catch you if you try to skip mass. And your nan  is always on to you. One Christmas we skipped Christmas mass because we couldn’t get in, so we had to lie going into my nan’s house. It was like trying to lie to St. Peter at the pearly gates. I’ve been almost completely personal during this piece, and that’s because religion in Ireland can’t be dictated by one current position of the church or by one event. It’s judged by the people who live with it and their own experiences. As the people of Ireland change, religion adapts. You can talk all you want about controversy and wars and atheism ‘til you’re blue in the face. But it’s the people who decide on religion. I don’t assign myself to any belief or stance, I just have my own views on religion. They may have changed over the last 19 years, but religion certainly has too.

Ireland is a country that’s changing more rapidly than ever. We’ve moved on from the years where religion played a major part in how our country was run and governed. In my opinion this is definitely for the better, religion shouldn’t play a part in how a country is run. Given that Ireland is becoming a country filled with many different nationalities and religions, we were always going to have to adapt. The people of Ireland now see that they have a choice, and the government won’t be able to tell them what to do anymore!……at least we hope so.


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