I have been christened, communicated, confirmed, married under the nose of the Catholic Church and four years ago I started the circle once again by christening my own child in the church. A typical thirtysomething catholic, I land in on all the ‘big hit’ days in the church but fail miserably when it comes to the Sunday grind of attending mass. While I, have surely burnt my bridge with our Lord when it comes to consistency of adoration I had been hoping to redeem a little of mine own soul by steeping my children in mass and prayer. The baptism four years ago was a rather swish affair, old castle, professional make-up, choice of main course, so I made the assumption that I could rest on my laurels until the infant reached school going age before his next encounter with church.
Now that he started big school only months ago, I was looking forward to my son learning about religion, not that I’m overly religious but the usual events that pop up throughout the year, a cross of reed on Bridget’s Day, a badge on St. Patricks Day, A bit about Jesus around Easter Sunday, An altar for Mary in May, The Ascension, The Assumption, The Birth of Jesus and all the little feasts in between.
Having sent two daughters through primary school in Ireland I was used to sitting back and letting it all happen. My involvement in religion was ‘to respond to the note’, after that the teacher did it all from education to execution, she ensured that each and every child were ready, spiritually, for the Holy Communion and all I had to do was buy a pretty white dress, and one for the kid. The children knew all about god, Jesus and the twelve apostles and they even visited the church during school hours from time to time. Apart from the Eu. 17.65 initial investment in the Alive O book, I had no involvement and considering I’m not overly religious, it was ideal, it was all done for me.
Obviously not the same here in Doha, where we attend an English School with pupils from over 63 different countries, there is no religion taught in the school and initially I thought, at least we’re all in the same boat. One day casually mentioned to my 4 year old one day, lets say a prayer to God, ‘Who’s God?’, was the reply. So it was obvious unless I teach it at home, it won’t get taught at school and I can’t have my child growing up knowing nothing about God, guilt or eternal damnation. Now when I say I’m not religious, that isn’t entirely true, I would like my child to grow up a Catholic and our church in general but I would really prefer if someone else were to take the responsibility.
As my interest in the ‘teachings’ peaked, I began to notice that everywhere around Doha there are prayer books, stories and games teaching about the Muslim faith. The Hindus, Jews and other Religions are all working away at home and in their communities teaching their children, but the final straw came when in the Early Learning Centre in Doha I noticed a wooden puzzle showing Muslim children how to pray, suddenly the realisation dawned on me, we’re not all in the same boat. Are the Irish Catholics in Doha, just a dingy barely hanging off the giant ship of faith that everyone else is on. And if so, is our little Catholic dingy deflating faster than inflated house prices in a recession?
Will the majority of the Irish children that emigrate grow up without any Religion. The belief, faith and ingrained sense of Catholic guilt that makes you hand back a tenner when you find it, will that be lost on the Irish Emigrant kids of today? Suddenly the fear that my child will miss out on a having a bit of faith is overwhelming and I’ve been mentioning the words ‘God’, ‘prayer’ and ‘Holy’ to him sporadically over the past number of weeks, although I realise that I would need to adopt a more consistent approach, but from a dingy in the middle of the Persian Gulf, without the Alive O book and an Irish Primary School, it’s my best effort!