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.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own