Wednesday 21 February 2018

First person: A very late vocation

His Nan always hoped Donal Lynch would find his 'calling', so was she right, would he make a good priest?

Donal Lynch
Donal Lynch

For many years my dear old grandmother used to pluck at my elbow and tell me in a small yet hopeful voice that the priest in the local town had "a very late vocation". This was always her way of subtly letting me know that she had noted that I didn't have a job per se, that there was no cailin on the scene and that I didn't even have a house to call my own. Still, as far as she and Jesus were concerned it was still not too late for me and my soul: a free gaff, a hideous combover and a place in heaven could be mine for the taking.

I used to quietly scoff at this idea. After all I don't really know much about the Bible (as a child I got laughed at by our evangelist neighbours for thinking Pontius Pilate was an actual pilot, who might be costumed in air goggles and a flight uniform for the Easter play). Now, the more I think about it, the more I think that Nan might have been displaying some quite genius outside-the-box thinking.

Underneath my heathen facade I am a bit of an old-fashioned moralist. I do look well in dark colours. And sacred heart of Jesus on the cross but I could use a housekeeper - you would want to see the mess of the place.

Like Saul in Better Call Saul, I'd gain instant granny cred my with new calling and I'd be a shoo-in for the job of priest. Where once the Church might have scoffed at the likes of me, now they must be considering sanctification for anyone who even goes to Mass. Letting someone like me in would be the perfect PR move from their perspective, and from my perspective the work conditions wouldn't be half bad: were I to accept my "calling", my boss would be a distant Argentinian in a frock, I'd have constant access to booze meant for a higher purpose, and there would be lifelong job security based on the fear of the masses.

I think that like Bishop Casey before me I could earn renown as a modernising force within the Church. I'd tweet selfies of myself with God. I'd have my own fire-and-brimstone themed YouTube channel. I'd wear vestments made of leather. I'd have a big lock-in for anyone who stayed until the end of midnight Mass (we'd all get plastered on God's love after hours).

I'd urge my flock to embrace more modern contraceptive methods, such as pulling out or having sex in the bath. I'd write a whole prequel to the Bible with way more cool Satan-Jesus fight scenes in it. I'd open up the Church to same-sex weddings ("and now you may kiss your fellow heretic"). Hell, I'd even let grandmothers marry their granddaughters if only so the anti-gay marriage crowd can feel they were right all along.

Career progression is obviously an issue in the Church. Often, the higher up you get, the more you're to blame when a scandal happens. I wouldn't mind starting out in some kippy Irish parishes, where I could iron out the weaker jokes in my material, but I think eventually I'd have to make my way toward Rome, where the real money is, perhaps in time emerging as a contender for the papacy. If successful, I would show solidarity with the world's poor by wearing a giant hat made of gold, giving people free goes on the Pope-mobile and would instantly canonise some of the more deserving recipients such as Jim Henson and Michael Jackson.

I think being a priest would also tap into my natural instinct for performance. With the right encouragement and full access to the papal drag wardrobe, I could eventually graduate to becoming a showbiz kind of a cleric - sort of like Fr Trendy crossed with a televangelist.

I would sell the hell out of whatever clerical tat they needed to get rid of that week. I would testify to the healing power of our Church-themed merchandise. I could cast out devils and say things like, "Jesus wants you to ask the billpayer's permission before calling in".

One thing seems certain: It would beat national school teaching, which was Nan's plan B for me.

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