Back in a previous life time (high school) this little blogger was an altar boy at his local Catholic church. I have no idea how I was roped into it, but it was a pretty good deal actually. For starters, you got to drink the wine come Communion time, and there was always an excuse during mass to go and hang out in the sacristy and have a bit of a chat and a drink with the other guys. This was particularly true when I graduated from junior to senior altar boy (from red robes to purple ones) and got the responsibility for swinging the incense burner, which had to be serviced continuously to ensure the coals were burning properly.
I don’t remember it being a particularly religious experience, but I got to do some interesting things. It’s where I got my second exposure to alcohol (the first was one sip from a can of Tooheys that a friend and I lifted from his dad at a school working-bee) and also my first experience of wearing a dress. A couple of the older guys regularly organised pizza and video nights, and I had a couple of mates from my year in the fold, so it was all a bit of fun really.
This is what religion was all about for me when I was young, before I started thinking about it. It was about hanging out with friends and having a laugh. The masses were just the scaffolding around which I based my social life. For a while I really got into it and I was serving at all the masses I could, maybe three to four times per week.
So what went wrong? Well, my parents separated and divorced, which wasn’t hugely smiled upon. And when your mum’s getting treated like crap from people who used to be her close friend, it’s not much of an advertisement for the church they go to, is it? Also, the head of the altar boys, Brother Greg, got me to serve at the funeral of a woman who had committed suicide. That’s not a problem in itself I suppose, but I knew the woman, quite well, she was the mother of my best friend from primary school. And Brother Greg hadn’t bothered to tell me whose funeral it was. Arsehole.
Oh, the order of Brothers that ran the church and the school were also disbanded because the senior members of the order were fiddling with the junior member’s members, and one of them was accused of abusing soldiers in his role as navy chaplain (what a cliche, right?) But that’s by the by – I’d had a good long think about organised religion by then and worked out that it pretty much wasn’t for me. I did stick around for a bit (at another church though) in order to get initiated in the finer things in life, namely girls, smoking, alcohol and the guitar.
I’ve been thinking about those days a bit recently, since I went to a church wedding the other weekend. The fat and jolly priest was going through his rituals, but no one in the church was responding to the bits they should have been. I was, but in my head, actually I could probably deliver a mass, I’ve been to that many of them. Plus every girl I meet these days seems to be Christian. It’s not that much of a problem, I suppose – as long as they’re not the hypocritical kind, I usually get along pretty well with religious folk. Similar value system maybe. But dating? It gets a little problematic. First of all, my past experience of dating Christians has involved jumping from ‘dating’ to ‘seriously going out’ midway through the first kiss.
I don’t mind the ‘jesus loves me, loves you, loves to love me love you’ stuff, because I’m arrogant enough to assume that I’d be able to cure her of that eventually. But maybe what I’m really worried about is if things did develop into seriousness and marriage (I’m assuming that the sex bit would happen before marriage, unless we got married within the first few months or something) then she’d probably want to get married in a church.
I don’t know if I could do that. I really feel that strongly about it. Of course, if I were going to marry someone, I’d probably feel quite strongly about them, too, and maybe even strongly enough to compromise on certain things. But I can just imagine standing at the altar next to the priest, everyone around me in earnest and stuff, my aunts with tears in their eyes. My foolish bride-to-be walks down the aisle on her father’s arm, towards me, the priest and the gruesome crucifix hanging on the wall behind us.
I shoot a glance to my right, at the two altar boys in red and white with pimply faces. One of them signals to them other with a flick of his head that they should skip back into the sacristy for a couple of swigs of red, seeing as though they’ve got about fifteen minutes before they have to do anything useful. They very quietly slip away – they’ve done this a few times before. And at that moment I’m sure I’d start thinking of how to slip out and join them.
I’d like to think my groomsmen would help me do it.