The 28th December is the Feast of the Holy Innocents or was when I was a child. It was one of those ‘Special Church Days’ in my father’s calendar. It commemorated the memory of those infant males killed by King Herod in an attempt to kill Jesus. Being a holyday we were obliged to attend Mass.
Fasting from midnight before Holy Communion was the norm when I was very young. This meant that we were woken from our sleep very early and ready for 6 or 7am Mass. Can you imagine the job my mother had to waken five young children (it was before my sister was born), wash the sleep from their eyes, dress them and comb their hair and have them all ready to sit in the car just when my father said he was about to leave the house? In his eyes, looking after the children was my mother’s job. She did it well.
My father had a preference for Order Churches so we attended Gardiner Street, home to the Jesuits and where my older brothers sang in the junior choir. The boys always sang during the first mass of the day. Thinking about it now brings on the internal shiver that was partly from the cold air in the large building and partly from the internal shock of being woken suddenly from sleep.
Once the mass was over we returned home for a cooked breakfast. Now hold on a minute…. This cooked breakfast was prepared by mammy and she was with us. So she had to start in to cook bacon, sausage, eggs, tomatoes and mushrooms when we arrived home. Daddy sat with the Sunday papers waiting for the food to appear on his plate.
As you can imagine we youngsters were at times fractious at the table. They were the days before central heating so we were tired, cold and hungry. Sparks flew and arguments flared easily.
On one particular morning the bickering went on at the back of the table. Daddy raised his head and complained about the arguments and asked if we thought that ‘The Holy Family’ behaved like that at the table? Mammy muttered something to him and he pushed back his chair and left the room in a hurry, his breakfast forgotten!
It was years later that we learned what she said:
‘It was easy for them, they had only one child!’