Young Miss Tink’s Break with the Church of Rome

After I graduated I was so lucky to win a scholarship for Dublin University. I say lucky, as I don’t actually know how my name happened to be among the 10 Italians who won that year. My dissertation wasn’t even about an Irish author, but I won. Apart from flight, tuition fees, the accommodation by an Irish family was included. I have to say from the very first impact, that the Irish appeared to be a particularly welcoming, kind, sort of people and the family I was assigned to even kinder, if possible. Another thing I noticed when I entered that house was that religion mattered, and a lot.  In fact, while the landlady was showing  me around,  the great deal of sacred images hanging here and there couldn’t but come to my attention; even in the bathroom, I swear. It seemed we were never alone, HE was following us wherever we went.

I also sensed that I was taken into particular consideration compared to the other two girls that were hosted along with me: another Italian and a Dutch. At meal time I enjoyed bigger portions, if I had a wish it was always fulfilled, I was given the best of the best,  but why ? It couldn’t be my being Italian, as there was the Italian girl from Bologna too. One day, from something our mistress had hinted, I suddenly understood : I came from Rome, that was my wild card ! The lovely lady had somewhat associated my birthplace and myself to the Vatican and the Head of the Catholic Church. In a way, I was the closest person to the Pope she had ever met. My being Roman and living in Rome made me …”special”. She couldn’t know to what a snake she had given her warm undeserved attentions, but she was to discover soon. At the end of the first week, in fact, when she asked me if I wanted to join her for Sunday mass, I said with a faint and slightly guilty voice: ” I…..I’m sorry, but I do not profess ….. I am agnostic “. She paused and looked at me in a way as if she had seen me for the first time. Then, she put on her hat, smiled gently and popped out. She kept being nice, for sure, but something had broken between us. 

The point is that my relationship with religion has always been troublesome since…. ever. All the catholic architecture has never had a hold on me and my being inquisitive has always found religious dogmatism unsupportable. I still remember my dear aunt Mimma, one day, after one of those sermons of mine, which wilfully aimed at mining her certainties of good catholic woman, had eventually enough of  my profane words and went like:

Auntie😵 : ” If there is a hell, you’ll go straight down there, when your time comes!”😤

Little MissTink : ” You see? You said “if”! IF !!!There is doubt in you”!!😈

Auntie: 😭

There were two days of the week I particularly loathed when I was a girl: Friday and Sunday. On Fridays good catholic families were not used to eating  meat, but fish. So, every Friday my mother’s menu consisted in either boiled cod or (even worse)  brain.  I guess the reason why my mother kept stuck to this rule was not religious orthodoxy but rather she thought it was the kind of food that could have made me become smarter, so, two birds with one stone. No need to say that I found both boiled cod and brain repulsive. I actually believed that there was a reason why Saturday was placed between Friday and Sunday : first of all to make me recover from the disgust of Friday’s diet and then to find the strength to face what was for me Sunday’s punishment: Sunday mass. I had done whatever was in the powers of  a child to skip that weekly appointment for years : faking  sickness, crying, threatening and more, but eventually the squabble always came to an end  with me reluctantly pulled by an arm in tears and taken to church. This every Sunday.

My mother and I came to a truce on the occasion of my Holy Communion. I had become milder about church-going and I even attended months and months of catechism classes for one major reason which had nothing to do with religion: the dress. I was attracted to the idea of wearing that white dress and that made me more yielding, but after my Holy Communion reception, as there was no other reason to go to church wearing that virginal dress, the fights started over again.

I was eleven when a memorable event happened . My mother and I were at church and I remember the mass being more boring than usual. Insupportably boring. That priest had been talking and talking what was nonsense to me, for …how long? It seemed hours. I felt I had reached the limit of my forbearance and finding myself unable to restrain my intolerance, I exploded saying something that wanted to be heard and unheard at the same time, as what remained of my sanity made me fully aware that consequences to my words would have been inevitable:

Young Miss Tink: “Che palle!” (That sucks!) 😤😤😤😨

She had heard⚡ ⚡⚡. My mother looked at me and said nothing. She looked at me and I am sure I saw the green of her eyes turn black. What could I do? I prayed! I prayed like an angel for rest of the mass. I prayed like I had never done before, always checking with the corner of my eyes if that was enough to see that green again in her eyes. No way. I was doomed. As soon as we left church, out of the blue, she slapped me in my face, which made my lip bleed as she was wearing a big ring.

I didn’t cry and she didn’t say a word; but that event put an end to my church-going, or better, to our church-going, because this story took the most unexpected turn. 

As we didn’t go to church any longer, we had the Sundays free, so, well, I don’t know how, but it was decided to embrace another faith, my father’s faith, that is: football. We became devoted to S.S. Lazio, after all the pattern is the same : choirs, anthems, sanctification of the players, people gathering etc. .The stadium had become our new church and every Sunday we followed the team wherever they played, whether it was Rome or other places in central Italy – the team at the time wasn’t very good as they stalled in second division . We also made new proselytes among our relatives living in Rome and in the other regions nearby. They didn’t care much about S.S. Lazio, actually, but the Sunday match had become the occasion for us to meet and visit beautiful towns all together.  I have splendid memories of that time. 

Growing for me has been nothing but losing “faiths”, I have to say, but still there is one that survives, very childish indeed, I know : my team and I am confident it will stay with me forever. I have no doubts about it.


32 thoughts on “Young Miss Tink’s Break with the Church of Rome

  1. Hah, football is definitely a religion, and the team’s congregation absolutely one church! I was brought up mostly in a culture heavily influenced by Irish Catholicism and so recognise that look of betrayal and judgement that I was given as I gradually but determinedly disengaged from Catholicism’s clutches.

    • I am so sorry to have been a disappointment, because she was a truly sweet lady. I remember she enjoyed sharing with me her stories about her only trip to Rome, her visiting the Vatican and all the details about it. Actually, I did not expect there was a country were religion mattered more than mine.

  2. From one forced to attend church as a child, I sympathize my dear. I hated every moment spent in church and the compulsory religious instruction at school. Like you I saw through the hypocrisy, in my case by the time I turned seven. From your loving fellow agnostic, Jack XX

  3. A really nice story! Sunday sermons can be really boring: it seems that some priests have remained in the distant times when even the Gospel was read in Latin, and they keep repeating it several times, changing a few words

    • You are right and their distance is what I actually feel whenever I am forced to attend a mass ( weddings, baptisms and such). I even force myself to pay attention .Nothing. To me whatever is said is absolute nonsense .

  4. Echoes of my experiences. Catechism did it for me (I asked many questions, and the answers didn’t make sense).

    It also helped that my uncle was a priest. I spent lots of time at the Canonica (my grandparents lived there as well) and saw priests as regular people; smoking, drinking, joking, etc. It helped remove some of the mysticism associated with the trappings, pomp, and rituals.

    I imagine people who only see them in their official roles come to view priests differently and as authority figures imbued with wisdom denied to mere mortals.

    I started skipping Catechism classes and got in serious trouble when the priest of the parish where we lived contacted my uncle, who then gave my mother the whatnot. . .

    As an early indication of what would become second nature for me, when my mother said that my uncle had visited and had “un diavolo per cavel!” I responded (without considering the consequences) that he couldn’t have been too mad since he was almost bald.

    . . . yes, in those days, corporal punishment was a thing, and things like that were lightning rods for it.

    Thanks for sharing, and I’m curious about one other thing . . . I don’t remember if you had siblings, but if so, do they share your views?

    I ask because mine didn’t. In the argument of nurture versus nature, at least in my case, nature handily won.

      • Glass ashtrays, belts, slippers, rolling pins and whatever my mother could pick were my punishment “things” (small, terrible woman half my height, to whom, however, I owe the few good things I did in my life).
        From the too many “I” it is easy to perceive that I did not have the pleasure to share those punishments with anybody. I am an only daughter.
        “Ocio”, you still remember the Triestin dialect, impressive!!

      • Well, I still speak to my mother, and that’s what we use. My ‘proper’ Italian, on the other hand, has rapidly gone down the tubes.

        I subscribe to Quora in Italian just so I can sort of keep up with the language, but I often encounter unfamiliar words and word usage. I should probably re-read some of the Books in Italian that I’ve kept because if I listen to a video of a newscast in Italian, I miss a lot of stuff.

        In part, it’s also the cadence (sing-song) and inflections of the newscasters, which is not the same as what I’m used to nor how I speak when I speak ‘proper’ Italian.

  5. Ah, I know from where that at communions and confirmations ceremony there is money spending. The children are always happy to go through it! Great story, my genius teacher. 👍🤗🌹🦋😍👌

  6. An entertaining and enlightening story, I admire that younger you being unafraid to speak out, to bear the consequence and what a grand consequence it turned into.
    I like to sit in the cathedral but never when a man pontificates from the dias. The sound of Gregorian chanting is inviting, little else, silence is bliss.

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