I actually had a religious upbringing.
Every day, all the way through secondary school, we had half an hour of religious training just before our 11 o’ clock break. The Christian Brothers religious training included the facts of life. Classes the likes of “Masturbation: Don’t touch that low hanging fruit. Look what happened to Adam and Eve” were taught on a daily basis.
I attended Sunday mass until I was 21. Well, I’d pretend I was going to evening mass at the Claddagh church. I’d take a stroll around the docks and Shop Street instead for an hour. I officially stopped attending when I moved to NY.
I suppose the religious wheels really came off the holy bus in Ireland when we found out our Bishop Eamonn Casey was supporting his love child over here in New Jersey. I made my confirmation with that man. All we O’Tooles did. We found that money Bishop Casey was collecting in the “Bring A Penny For The African Babies” box was getting directed towards a completely different box in the USA.
Good Friday was traditionally the most miserable day on the Irish calendar. Growing up on the West Coast, we had one television channel, RTE. On Good Friday all programming was dedicated to religious broadcasts; live masses; hymn recitals and bad re-enactments of the stations of the cross.
The shops were closed and worse, the pubs were shut for the WHOLE DAY. You’d think they’d instituted prohibition my father and grandad were so grouchy. On Good Friday there was nothing to do. This was the Catholic day of contrition and gratefulness because Jesus was dying for you. I had books to read , I was grand.
The pubs were always packed on Holy Saturday after the Long Good Friday Drought. Easter Sunday was another big party night to celebrate the resurrection. Easter Monday was always a National Bank Holiday and day of recovery.
To demonstrate that I wasn’t always a complete anti- Christ, when I was sixteen I lead the Euphonium Section for The Patrician Brass Band when we played for Pope John Paul II at the youth mass in Galway. He was the first ever Pope to visit my homeland.
It was quite an odd set up. Because the biggest arena possible was needed for the public mass, they built the Altar on top of the tote, center field at the Galway race track. JP2 effectively said mass above the Off Track Betting. Rumor has it the Pope took advantage of the location and put down a tenner each way on Persian Sun, for the next weekends race meet.
The band was right there with JP2 in the VIP enclosure for the duration. A life lasting memory is having the 300,000 Catholics in attendance sing along with our Brass Band as we warmed them up with Beatles medleys, before the Pope helicoptered in. The day had a rock concert energy , punctuated with John Paul Two’s greatest hit “Young people of Ireland , I love you.”
And Galway loved him back September 1979.
I went back out to the race track a couple of days later in our school mini bus with a team of teenage lads. We were retrieving folding chairs from the VIP enclosure. They were borrowed from our school auditoriums.
I found the police officer tasked with guarding the Popes altar busy cutting out chunks of the carpeting with a Stanley knife.
“You can make a few bob selling these, “ he said. “Here, take a piece for your mother.”
I took the irregularly cut piece of carpet. It smelled strongly of apoxy. Maybe the Pope himself had put his holy foot right there on this blessed nylon cutting . I gave it to my Granny. She put it in the Bible.
So for tonight’s binge list, I’m going with movies that featured an actor who played or met Jesus in a film.
Charlton Heston was the King of Sword and Sandal movies and he did meet Jesus briefly in Ben Hur. Charlton and Jesus met on the first Good Friday when it was still just known as Friday. Ben Hur is worth watching for the incredible chariot race alone. This film holds the record the most Oscars won and is a one meant for a huge screen.
But my Heston recommendation is possibly one film that’s on the most hated by Christian Creationists List. The original Planet of The Apes still holds up. A lost space expedition crashes on a planet where apes rule and humans are enslaved. Few scenes bother me, since I was a child, as much as the first sighting of those apes coming through the field on horseback. There also has never been a better , more surprising, final scene in film history than in Planet of the Apes.
Willem Defoe was an odd choice to play Jesus in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ. Didn’t anybody tell Marty that Jesus had a British, not American accent. This film has a wonderful Peter Gabriel world music score but from a viewing standpoint it’s for full on Scorsese fans only. I found it slightly silly.
When I feel like watching silly Jesus, it can only be The Life of Brian – Monty Pythons story of unfortunate Brian, the kid born in the manger next door to Jesus, Mary and Joseph’s Bethlehem lodgings. This film was banned in Ireland on release for its sacrilegious theme. I got to own and hear it on vinyl before seeing it years later on VHS.
And now more than ever, as is chorused to Brian on his crucifix….
🎶Always look on the bright side of life🎵
My Willem Defoe movie choice also stars Gene Hackman. Mississippi Burning recounts the FBI investigation into the 1964 disappearance of three civil rights workers in Jessup County, Mississippi. It’s loosely based on the true events. The two actors burn up the screen together.
A History of Loneliness, by John Boyne, is the fictional life story of a good, if innocent priest in modern Ireland. The book deals with Ireland’s blissful ignorance towards the actions of the Catholic Church, starting with young Fr. Ogdens priestly beginnings in 1962.
John Boyne is one of Ireland’s finest contemporary novelists. His novels are that rare combination of smart and readable.
Well we all have our own ways to amuse ourselves these days. My good friend Jacko collects and paints Remote Control Cars. Some of these models travel up to 55mph. Jacko likes to take his vehicles to the rough terrain of the Staten Island Dump on weekends and run down foraging rats (or Dump Bunnies as they are affectionately referred to by SI locals). Sean will usually finish them off with his BB gun. Much like the golf courses in New York State, Sean got word this week that the dump has been closed to rodent hunting until after April 29th. Keep on Trucking Sean!