You Can’t Be Serious – ‘God save all here …’

And the band played on!
And the band played on!

My first inclination was to commence this piece with; ‘I am not a very religious person.’ This may be a fact, but why should I feel the urge to qualify what I write with downplaying my religion? Why do so many of us Christians almost apologise for belonging to a God club? ‘Oh, I was born a Catholic but I don’t bother much anymore.’ ‘I was brought up by staunch God-fearing Protestant parents, but I grew out of that.’ How frequently do we hear remarks like these?

Contrast this with the zealous public showing of religious worship from Jews, Mormons or Buddhists, for example. Very few Catholics will bless themselves in public in recent years – unless footballers of course!

Undoubtedly the widespread disconnect we Christians are experiencing is down to the abuse of power by a small minority of clergy. But should we have cut the lines to God – as we understand him, just because old Lucifer infiltrated God’s army? Or could part of the falling out be that we are so well off; so empowered by technology and knowledge that we believe we can do it all ourselves?

Not until a crisis of gigantic proportions presents itself, does the possibility hit home that man may not be the master of the universe after all.

Coronavirus is concentrating a lot of great minds these days – not to mention minds that thought they were great. In all of the 24/7 commentary on this pandemic, I have not heard the word ‘God’ mentioned once. I suppose this is fair enough in the medical and scientific world. But it wasn’t always so.

There is a compelling yearning in the human soul for the presence of a higher power and an afterlife. I guarantee you that if you had a hundred ‘God-doubters’ on-board an aeroplane about to ditch into the sea, the name of God would be invoked by most of that group. “No agnostics in the trenches.” When the Titanic was sinking, the glory of God was sung across the icy graveyard, as the orchestra struck up, ‘Nearer my God to thee.’

During my youth, I heard the name of God used dozens of times every day. ‘God bless the work’, ‘God bless the child,’ ‘God give then luck’ and ‘Please God’. I remember when a neighbouring lady would be given a can of milk by my mother, instead of ‘thank you’ the woman always said ‘God bless the cow’.

In those days of self-entertaining, the locals would meet up at night to exchange news and stories. One house would be the meeting place and it was known as a ‘ceili-house’. Nobody knocked before entering, but the first salutation always was, ‘God save all here.’ That greeting may have come from tougher times of plague and persecution – or indeed at that time before the scourge of tuberculosis had been eradicated.

Milly Walsh is one of Mullingar’s entertaining characters, as he peddles his petrol at the Dublin Bridge at the top of the town. I stopped for petrol one day in 2007 during the depths of the recession. ‘This recession could be the greatest thing to hit this country’, said Milly, loudly, as everyone turned to look.  ‘How do you figure that?’ I enquired hesitantly. ‘Oh, I see an awful lot more of them in the Cathedral these mornings!’ Milly is a good and God-fearing man.

Is Milly right? Does it take a catastrophe to bring back God into the equation?  Only today I heard an RTE Radio presenter sign off with; “See you tomorrow … please God!”

When you sneeze, there is a good chance that the person next to you will say, ‘Bless you’. This originated as ‘God bless you’ – until we got too grand for God. This calling on God to bless the sneezer dates back to a time when a sneeze might be nothing, or equally it could be the first sign of a fatal illness. The reply was always, ‘God bless you too.’ Like we say, those were the days when the people felt they needed God; like when a sneeze could mean the signs of a killer virus … Oh dear … weren’t those things supposed to be confined to our dark and ancient history?

Somebody once said that when man makes plans for the world – God smiles!

I know this column is regarded as gospel for many people. If you have read this far in the hope that I will tell you definitely if there is a God or no God, I am sorry to disappoint you. What I will suggest is that you live as if there is a God. If there happens to be no God welcoming you after death; nothing lost and you will have lived a happier life. On the other hand, if you live as if there is no God and you arrive for the hearing on Judgement Day … won’t you feel a right eejit?!

See you next week … please God!!

Don’t Forget

There is plenty of heavenly music for those who are tuned in