By Paul McLaughlin
This a holy place. I know as I watch ‘in real time’ on the webcam that this is a space set aside for the sacred. A place worthy of a divine celebration. Just as I remember it.
“You’re not nearly old enough yet, and that’s that.” My mother had spoken and however much I wanted to protest, I bit my tongue and said nothing as hot tears behind my eyes betrayed my 12 years.
As a child I had attended Clonard Monastery nearly every Sunday for Mass, I was also a member of the junior Confraternity, but that counted for nothing – even with Christmas only days away.
“Midnight Mass is for grown-ups,” she said, “and I’m not having you gallivanting about in the dark, miles from home. God alone knows what could happen to you.”
I ran to my bedroom harbouring terrible thoughts about a loving mother, feeding my disappointment on choking sobs, feeling helpless, but as determined as ever that this year would be my first. Somehow, I would be there .
Many of the lads at school were already bragging that they would be there. Some of them were younger than I was. It didn’t endear them to me, I must say.
I remember Mass that Sunday before Christmas. My nine-year-old brother and I walked the the two miles to the monastery in double-quick time. It was bitingly cold with the sharp edge of a wind from the Black Mountain at our backs and a jaundiced sun in our faces. We wore duffle coats and brown balaclavas knitted by our mother that matched the mittens that were also her handiwork.