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”!!😈
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.