“Meant to say to you, Canon Maher died a few weeks ago”.
– “What? How old was he?”
He was almost 89.
He was done and in an old folks home for Priests”.
My Mum said that to me a couple of days ago.
Canon Maher was the Priest for the Chapel I grew up in.
The Chapel where I was forced to spend a lot of my time until I turned 12 and left it all behind.
Canon Maher (I never knew his first name though I since learned that it was Gerald) was a HUGE influence on my life.
There was no way he couldn’t be really.
There was a time when I listened to every word he used to say every Sunday.
I listened to him at school when he made his weekly visit,
I listened to him every Easter.
I even listened to him on Christmas Day.
He and the masses he held were a big part of my life until the age of 12.
(I went to High School soon after).
Shaped me a little.
Canon Maher was the kind of Priest that you only really read about in old books these days.
Never cracked a smile,
Deadly serious about the good book and the word of Christ,
No time for (Ha!) fools.
And definitely! (As I found out at an early age),
He definitely had no time for Dinosaurs or science or logic or pre-pubescent sexual cravings towards nuns in his Chapel.
He wouldn’t give any of those things the time of day.
I was brought up Catholic.
It’s one option of 2 things where I come from.
I was taken to Mass every Sunday and sometimes 3 or 4 days during the week in school time.
There were times where I was completely tuned in to Canon Maher’s soothing monotone.
My 10 year old mind would wander and I’d get myself lost in the faces of the ominous statues staring down at me from all angles.
At 12 years old,
I’d had enough of feeling guilty before I’d had the chance to commit almighty sins.
I’d yet to go hit High School and discover Girls and Whisky & Smoking.
Girls & Whisky & Smoking.
Because of my Dad, I was already into 50’s Rock &Roll.
God fucking bless him!
Maybe they didn’t ‘Save’ me but they were definately better Apostles than Jesus’ mob.
Why are all the most enjoyable things forbidden in Chapel?
Canon Maher was a big influence on me.
Do you know about the Catholic practice of ‘Confession’?
I was sent to ‘Confession’ with Canon Maher every single week of my life until I was 12.
You go into a wee booth and tell the Priest what sins you’ve committed.
I used to genuinely confess to sins when I was really young.
(“I told a lie”, “I said a sweary word” etc…)
It was drilled into me.
If I didn’t,
They said I’d go to the Fiery Furnaces of Hell and burn forever.
Whas a guy t’do!
Round about the age of 10 I got wise to it.
My best memories of Canon Maher are of when I was 10.
Before I decided that Religion was of no use to me,
I discussed it with Canon Maher and the conversation will stick with me until the day I die.
I just don’t think I believe the stories in that book you gave me are true.
I just don’t”.
Maher: “Why do you have doubts my son?”
Me: “No offence Father but, have you read it?
Have you properly read it?”
Maher: “Many times my son.
Many many times.
At your age, I can see why you’re confused.
Me: “Well, Father,
The thing is,
Here’s me trying my best to believe in the book and every week I sit here and listen to you.
Don’t get me wrong,
I’d love to believe in the stories of Jesus and what you say.
Those stories are GREAT!
Thing is though Father,
I go to school on a Monday and they back up what you’re saying.
But I also get told about evolution and Dinosaurs and it’s completely confusing me”.
Me: “And also Father,
The news on TV had proof of Dinosaur bones the other day and my Dad (My real Father who’s Protestant)
Doesn’t have to go to Mass at all and he gets on fine”.
Maher: “The important thing to remember is that Jesus loves you”.
Maher: “It is also important to remember that Jesus died because of you”.
But I’m only 10”.
So that was it.
I didn’t kill Jesus.
Canon Maher was a very kind and old fashioned man but as soon as he said that to me,
I was out.
I had to go to Chapel until I was 12 but I no longer had to listen to it.
I’m sad to hear he’s gone.
He believed and I didn’t and don’t but I have great memories of this man.
In the weekly queue for confession,
At 11 or 12 years old,
My mind would wander and I’d forget what I was about to confess to.
Me quickly making up on-the-spot lies.
After a few weeks of making up fake confessions I’d start to see how far I could push Canon Maher.
I remember this one the best:
“Bless me Father for I have sinned.
It has been a week since my last confession”.
Maher: “What are your sins my son?”
Me: “Well, this week I’ve been really good.
I don’t think I’ve sinned once all week!”
Maher: “I’ve been a Priest for a long time.
Surely there must be some sins my son?
No matter how small”.
Me: “Well,… no.
There really hasn’t been any.
Speaking of nuns…
When I was sitting on the pews out there about to come in here,
Some very un-Catholic thoughts crossed my mind about some of your nuns Father”.
Maher: “This is a very serious matter.
Are you repentant?”
I suppose I am but I really couldn’t help it”.
Me: “That much?”
“Your Penance” means prayers folks and for that Nun thing,
I was dealt a heavy sentence.
So that was me.
I left Canon Maher and the Confessional.
I knelt in front of a statue of Christ Crucified,
And pretended to say my 20 prayers.
Then I got up,
Left the Chapel,
And went on to commit the sins that would make me the flawed man I am today.
Catholic faith was ingrained into me to the point that,
Although I’m faithless and believe none of it,
I still get Catholic guilt now and again about certain things today.
Sometimes I even get guilty about getting Catholic guilt.
Maybe that’s a useful thing.
28 Years old,
PS: This is just me writing down memories of Canon Maher so I won’t be entertaining any offence you may take so get fucked.
PPS: I learned some of the loveliest music in Chapel when I was 10.
PPPS: I found a link mentioning Canon Maher HERE.