Holy Smoke


An automatic door slides me into the entrance lobby of the Carmelite Church on Whitefriar Street. The Virgin Mary greets me, enormous and plastic. To my right there is a blue tank. A sign stuck on it with sellotape reads ‘Holy Water’. On the walls, behind grubby plastic covers are newspaper cuttings: the round wrinkled face and soft eyes of Mother Teresa, who visited the Church in 1993 and the story of the statue of Mary, which a priest salvaged from a local second hand store in the 1880s. I follow the arrows (they are blue-tacked to the walls) and find St Valentine’s heart, encased in a carved golden box. I wonder who the last person to look inside of it was and at the logistics of its sacred transport.

Inside the Church a hundred candles glisten. An old man shuffles to light one and in a far corner a foreign girl reads quietly to herself a biblical text in a language I don’t understand. Dotted among the pews, the backs of old women are bent in prayer.

 Outside on the street are mothers with cigarettes clasped between their lips pushing babies in pre Celtic tiger buggies. Shops that sell envelopes and fairy liquid, plastic toys and wall clocks are squeezed between modest coffee shops. Red meat hangs unceremoniously in the windows of the butchers. A man turns into a dimly lit bookie, where scrunched up scraps of paper lie discarded on the floor.

It is 11 May 2010, a Tuesday afternoon. Cameron crafts Clegg’s concessions while Brown tells his little sons that they are moving house.  Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said last night that there are still those in the Church who would rather not see the truth emerge. The cloud of volcanic ash lifts its way beyond Irish airspace. Gum decorates the dusty street. The automatic door slides closed, aloof from it all.

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One thought on “Holy Smoke

  1. Pingback: The place that out-Catholics Ireland | Katekatharina.com

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