Unholy Communion

People often ask me how I feel about religion. Not what I think

of it but how I feel and I always tell them this little story.

I was on a Laudanum bender with my very good friend

The Archbishop of Choom. Laudanum is a heroin based cough

suppressant and my pal was thinking of using it at mass instead

of the wine. We had studied theatrics together in Belmullet in

the early 1980’s. Twas just the two of us living in a caravan at

the time, translating Ibsen into Old Irish and then putting the

plays on in the town. Fair to say we were unloved. We did a two

man Gaelic version of An Enemy of the People, renamed An

t-Asshole, on the back of a truck driving round the parish. We

drove through every estate and down each boithrin within an

eight-mile radius of the youth cub. Twas hard going. The roads

are bumpy up there and we were probably being driven a bit too

fast for anyone to be able to keep up with the story. We fell off a

good few times.

He was a star though. Even back then I knew he was destined

for greatness, his ability to conjure meaning out of nothing and

make everything he said sound believable was truly awe

inspiring. Little did I know that he was destined to the religious

life. Of course he had dilly-dallied with the fairer sex but in

Belmullet the fairer sex is rough enough. Couples often take it

in turns to be the fairer sex and tis many the Monday morning

you’d see big men a little unsteady on their feet and jumping

every time a door opened. From there he went to France to live

in a cave with six Dominican nuns and emerged a year later with

a one-man show entitled Christ Almighty, What Was That!

which went on to get a special mention in the drama section of

the Ploughing Championships.

Such was the depth of his ecclesiastical knowledge and

such was the width of his wisdom that it wasn’t long before he

came to the attention of the mystical wing of the Catholic

Church, men, and women disguised as men, who travel so deep

into the bowels of the mind that they drop below dogma and

rules and a lot of the time below coherence. What they needed

was a vessel who could travel far under the surface of things and

yet emerge understandable. They believed that Milo was their

man. He wasn’t up to much so he said he’d give it a lash

confiding to me over the phone ‘it’s a gig Tom, it’s a gig’.

We often speak over a phone and if it rings we take it in

turns to answer. He did the seven years training in a fortnight

and only spent an hour being a priest before being promoted up

the ranks and handed the Archdiocese of Choom which was

often thought of by the powers that be of being an incidental

parish on the outskirts of Europe where experiments of a

theological nature could take place without anybody really

knowing, least of all the inhabitants. They knew well enough

though and said nathin, content in that age old Irish tradition of

playing dumb in order to be left alone.

Milo took chances with Mass, he used to say it sideways. Music

could only be played on animals that were still alive and he

made a point of baptising cattle and hedges and attending

conceptions. He blessed petrol, wore transparent plastic trousers

and during Lent ate only Magic mushrooms and cold Barry’s

tea. He was working hard at the coalface of perception. He spent

a year walking backwards, only to end up right where he started.

He had a mask made of his own face which he use to wear on

himself, sometimes to the back sometimes to the front. He had

his right hand amputated and grafted on to his left wrist and his

left hand taken off and put on his right. A fine enough idea but

once he had it done he couldn’t shuffle cards or deal a hand of

25.He’d be looking straight at you, aiming for you and throwing

cards left and right onto the floor. And at dinner would often

send his fork into his ear and him aiming for his mouth. Three

days of the week he muttered inaudibly to himself in Hebrew, a

language he didn’t understand but somehow spoke fluently. Of

course the parishoners sometimes sickened of him and used to

throw him down a well for a few days when they saw him

getting a bit hyper and leave him there til he came back to

himself. But most of the time he was cherished.

Anyway there we were the two of us, leaning over the phone,

yapping. The laudanum was by now wearing off and we had

resorted to poitin to help take the edge off our comedown. It had

been brought to him by the children of the local primary school

who had made it themselves as part of a project on rural

disobedience. It was tough stuff. A hint of apple at the front

with a jammy aftertaste and the middle bit tasting like fermented

Lynx. We were on our fifth glass when he said to me

I think I need to lie down

I told him he was already lying down and then he said

Well then I need to get up

He stood up and almost immediately collapsed back down again

Well, he said, that didn’t work out quite the way I

had it planned

You’d be as well off staying where you are now I

told him

I am Chumbawumba he declared struggling up again

And thus proceeded an awful half hour of rising and falling,

rising and falling

I haven’t the knees for this, he said

And that’s how I feel about religion, I don’t have the knees for


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