The Malta Independent 23 May 2024, Thursday
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A wing and a prayer

Sunday, 26 March 2023, 08:00 Last update: about 2 years ago

Louis Gatt

The three subjects that should never be brought up in polite conversation are: politics, money and religion.

Recently I have aired my views on the first two, so now I suppose I had better state just where I stand on religion. To be entirely truthful I have never really been very – or even slightly religious. According to my late mother, I often embarrassed her when, as a child, I would show scant interest in the subject. Then, as I grew older and became more and more interested in subjects with science as their basis… even that minimal awareness disappeared. Now don’t get me wrong here; I am not anti-religion, I am well aware that an awful lot of people get great comfort from it in its many forms; it’s just not for me.

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The old saying “Once a catholic, always a catholic” is not always true and certainly not in my case. My aunty Grace, was, what even her brother, my father, once described as “a religious nutter”. She ate, drank and slept her faith, to the almost total exclusion of all else.

Throughout my childhood aunty Grace was an overpowering presence, pushing religion at me and my siblings at every turn. Later, when my wife and I decided to have a civil wedding, (must have been one of the first to take place here), aunty Grace threw a complete wobbly and tried to get my parents to insist that we get hitched in a church. Not a chance! We got our way and a civil wedding it was. But aunty G wasn’t finished. At the reception she saw her opportunity and buttonholed me away from the main action. She hissed at me: “Why did you insist on putting your bride through such an ungodly ordeal?” I was patient with her and explained our reasoning and that the decision was mutual. She then changed tack and blurted out: “So you’d be quite happy to deny your father a religious funeral then?” No I didn’t know what that had to do with anything either and I said so… especially since the old man was still very much alive and would remain that way for the next 20 years or so.

I think I responded by suggesting to aunty that she stick to her prayer groups and let us get on with our lives. She didn’t of course, and for the rest of her prolonged time on the planet, never let us forget that we were, in her eyes, living in sin.

In my late teens, just before going off to university my mother said to me: “Today I spoke to Father Tony, and he asked you to give him a call.” Oh, oh I thought… here we go. But I remembered him as a decent guy and so I did call him and agreed to meet him at a Sliema café for, what he described as, an informal chat.

I recall our meeting to be pleasant and non confrontational. He asked if I would attend mass when up at uni. I replied in the negative and, after some more chat explained that I was not religious and just could not accept the paranormal side of things. He took a long time to reply – and then utterly swept the rug out from under me with: “No Louis, neither can I.” Not long afterwards I heard that he had left the priesthood and emigrated to Canada; where he married and raised a family. And yes, today… even in late middle-age, I am still a practising agnostic.

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