The biggest item on the agenda for us growing up in the 1940s and 1950s was religion, not so much the love of God and certainly not the love of our neighbour but the avoidance of Hell. In first class (8 year olds) Fr Hearn came in one day to enquire how long we expected to spend in Hell, burning in a white hot furnace, if we died in a state of mortal sin. Someone suggested 100 years, “more” says Fr Hearne, 1000 years, “more”, a million years, “more”, a million squillion billion million billion years, “more, more, more”. The suggestion seemed to be that you had better behave. We had catechism that we learned by heart under threat of serious physical punishment. We had the annual Mission, fire and brimstone, terrorising any impurity in particular. As far as we knew everything was a sin and we all went to weekly confession accordingly. In confession I had my rhyme, “I told lies, stole and cursed and was disobedient.” My brother was asked what curses he used and he said “5 Fs and 4 Jaysuses.” I have no recollection of any spiritual intervention in any of the foregoing, nor do I think any of those teaching us ever considered the matter. There didn’t seem to be an understanding either among priests, teachers or people that religion was the love and honour of God lived out in the world.
Published on May 21, 2012