The incident which has prompted me to visit my very dusty blog due to hardly having any spare time to write these days happened just over an hour ago. I have experienced enough of life to know that I must never act when I am in rage. However, if I wait and I calm down I know that what I am feeling will never be expressed because really, one might not like the Church too much, but one should ideally keep quiet about it. Too bad for me. I will not let this one go.
An hour ago, in the middle of the funeral service of an exceptional man, the priest loudly expressed his discontent when the fifth and final speaker went up – ‘no you can’t’ he said, waving his hand in a no motion, ‘this is taking too long, I have other things to do’. The mic was close enough for his words to resonate through the walls of the church and all those there grieving or sharing in the grief of this person’s loved ones. Where he realized it or not, he was standing merely four or five meters away from a child who had lost his father and right in the face of the father of the deceased.
I couldn’t and I still cannot comprehend this. I am certain that animals – dogs, cats and pigs – in their own ‘animalistic’ way of dealing with death, do not do this. I was filled with rage as I am certain the entire congregation did, not just because of my disgust for a so-called man of God but also for how his words would have added further distress to the heartbreak of a family. I am however now re-thinking this. The Church is not in the business of empathy is it? If time was of essence why did the priest not decide to forgo collection time instead of stopping another bereaved person share a moment he needed to further soothe those who were hurting? How very very silly of me to even think that.
The thing with today’s incident is that it instantly brought back childhood memories which have marked my entire life. The minute I picked my jaw up from the floor of that Anse Aux Pins church today I was immediately transported to 1989, when I was a 9-year old attending Holy Communion classes in the Good Shepard church. See, I was one of the few non-catholics in my class. I think there was three of us. For a certain period of time in P3 my classmates would cross the bridge from Mont Fleuri school to attend the preparation classes for their Holy Communion. It’s funny how, even now as I write this almost 30 years later, I recall the feeling of not belonging as the queue made its way to the bridge and the remaining three of us would be left in the classroom or library to read. I think I must have asked my class teacher one day if I could attend, and bless her, she had said yes, not knowing the damage that setting foot in that Church was going to cause me for the rest of my life. The nun who was there – thin, short with a severe look on her face – noticed me straightaway. She didn’t speak to me but asked the teacher who I was since she hadn’t seen me before. I watched the entire thing since the minute I stepped in the Church I knew she had spotted me. The teacher must have explained and her severe face turned into utter disgust. She raised the black umbrella she carried with her and shooshed me out of that church like a dog, waving it at me as my helpless teacher just watched. I don’t recall if I cried. I know I ran. I had just turned 9. I was even younger than my eldest son is now. Pardon my language, it has taken me 30 years to say this, but what a bitch. And that was my first experience with the Catholic Church in Seychelles.
I grew up in an anglican family that attended mass every single Sunday. Remembering that walk (literally thousands of them) from Foret Noire to St Paul’s in town always adds warmth to my heart. My mother would stop and talk to almost everyone on the way and if we behaved well during mass my brother and I would be treated to ice-cake at tinsamy. Let’s just say we always had ice-cake at tinsamy. And while that church was a big part of my younger years, it didn’t take too long for it to show me who it was made up of either. My scholarship to International School in 1992 was like the stone that was thrown into the calm waters of my faith and the ripples took form. Maybe it’s true, I changed. But how badly could I have changed at 12? or 13? or 14? I don’t ever once recall anyone, any adult from my church ever coming to talk to me, but I do remember their stares. I do remember their coldness. I do remember looking at certain lot in the Sunday masses and thinking they were good and I was bad. I laugh now when I think of this. Good people will never make you feel like shit. They would lift you up, take your hand and bring you back, if that was required. But really, where’s the fun in that? Like they say, it must rain for you to appreciate the sunshine, I guess it’s good to have a ‘bad’ one around so that the better ones can rejoice. Anyway.
On several occasions over the decades I have witnessed things that have made me want to scream. But I have always kept myself in check. Never write about the church is a promise to myself that I have today broken. I know there are some good ones who try and make a difference and do good, but really, from where I am siting and where I was standing today in that church, the writing on that wall is pretty clear.