I’ve always had a thing about churches. They’re a haven from the outside world, a sanctuary where the mind can wander and meditate in silence.
My relationship with churches, though, is tempered by what they represent. Those vast, cavernous, cathedral buildings represented power and intimidation, too. In such a massive space, how could a sinner not feel intimidated and penitent.
Churches are among some of my earliest memories. My mother was a very devout Roman Catholic whose day was not complete without a visit to the church. She helped out with the flower arrangements, did some voluntary, cleaning work and attended sodalities, rosaries and special Masses.
She had her own devotion to St Martin of Porres, an ascetic, Brazilian monk who endured severe hardship and deprivation, throughout his life, as part of his own religious journey. When she went to church, she lit candles and prayed for the dead. Her missal (prayer book) was packed with memorials to deceased relatives and friends, whose souls’ redemption, she prayed for, every day.
The sound of people, like my mother, praying, in an empty church will always echo in my head. Their whispering chants and mantra like drones and sometimes, whistles, rattle around in my head.
Although I have little time for religion, I do believe in the fervour of their belief, those women and men of my parents’ generation. Yet, it’s tempered by the sickening revelations of abuse and cover ups that have plagued the Roman Catholic church, in particular.
But most of all, I don’t like religion because, while most of them hold ‘love’ to be a central tenet of their beliefs, too many people have died, in hate, in defence of those beliefs, I wrote a song, once, called ‘Dying to Believe’, on that very subject. This was the chorus,
Kill me with faith
Beat me up with the truth
Lay me out with the evidence
I m dying to believe
So I like to visit churches, alone. I sit and listen and think but I don’t believe. I have no issue with others’ beliefs, just leave me out of it. I live in the grounds of a church and enjoy the site of a beautiful church tower, outside my bedroom window, every day. Within a short walking of distance of where I live, the two largest and oldest cathedrals in Ireland regularly ring out the time of day or the call for devotion.