Wednesday 23 January 2019

This Man's Life: Has my daughter seen the light - becoming the first female Pope?

A coffee cup (Yui Mok/PA)
A coffee cup (Yui Mok/PA)
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

'It is better to go skiing and think of God," someone wise once said, "than go to church and think of sport."

Last Wednesday evening, I took my young daughter out to the park with her ball to play sports. An hour later, because it rained, we ended up sheltering in St Patrick's Church in Monkstown village. She was soon lighting candles for "Holy God".

In fact, she probably lit every candle in the church for "Holy God".

I was unable to stop her turning the church into that ethereal scene from The Police video for Wrapped Around Your Finger with Sting running amid millions of lit candles.

You had to be in St Patrick's last Wednesday to see what I meant.

While my three-year-old daughter pondered that Holy God lived in this strange-looking house with marble floors and wooden benches, I was pondering the sign near the altar about celiacs and the Eucharist at Communion hosts.

My mind was wandering in distinctly Life of Brian by Monty Python direction: ie the Body Of Christ coming in a gluten-free form. Luckily, I kept such tasteless thoughts to myself, even when I met the lovely priest outside by the gate as we were leaving.

My daughter waved at him with her doll as we made our way towards the village for our treat in Avoca.

She had a mini hot chocolate with marshmallows and I had an espresso. It was here where I was suddenly confronted with my past - in a good way. I thought I recognised the waiter.

His name was Frank Murray. He soon told me that we used to work together as kids in Blake's restaurant in Stillorgan.

It was my summer job to earn a few bob. I was 16. I was a little rip.

I remembered turning up late for my shift one evening and, thinking on my feet, I told the manageress who was ready to tell me off - rightly - for my tardiness, that my mother had been in a bad car accident and I was sorry for being late. It would never happen - titter - again.

Instead of carpeting me for my unpunctuality, she told me to have a cup of tea and a cake and not to think of being late.

Two nights later my mother dropped me off at Blake's.

In my terror at being late again, I had forgotten the tale I had told the manageress.

What made matters worse was that my mother, who was both beautiful looking and a beautiful dresser, got out of the car and gave me a kiss before I ran up the stairs to start my shift.

When I got to the top of the stairs, the manageress was there to greet me. She said nothing. I still don't know to this day - 35 years later - whether she realised my little white lie and said nothing, or she was at the top of the stairs that day out of concern for me whose mother had been in a bad car accident.

Those were the days. I thought the shifts would never end.

Be that as it may, Frank was a great chap to work with. Clearly.

Because he actually met his future wife in Blake's all those years ago. They now have two grown-up children together.

My own child, once she finished her little cup of hot choccie, ran after Frank to give him the empty cup and say thank you. Frank was almost as impressed as I was by my young daughter's manners.

Even more so when she carefully put her dolly in her buggy, and put a little blanket over her, as I said it was time to go see mummy.

With one last chat about our briefly shared past, Frank and I said we would stay in touch. It is one of life's predictable sadnesses that we probably won't.

Emilia wanted to go to the church again on her way home to see Holy God in his house. It was satisfying on some level that she had chosen a place of worship over a play centre.

So, we went in again. And true enough, she lit all the candles she hadn't managed to light on her last visit 90 minutes earlier.

Maybe it is a sign. In 30 years my daughter could become the first female Pope. At that point in my life - when I'll be 80 years of age and knock, knock knocking on Heaven's door - I could do with a place in Italy to get away to. Whatever path Emilia chooses, I will support her all the way, even if she wants to make pop videos with Sting. I will consider it my moral duty. As George Bernard Shaw once said: "We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future."

Sunday Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News