Morality Tales

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As we stumble under a further blow, the suspension from ministry of yet another Catholic priest of the diocese, we wonder how long our faith might survive. 

Where are our children and grandchildren to find role models ?  

What morality is to dictate our actions ?  Who is to give leadership ?  Will Christianity survive the century, much less another millennium ?

Next week the Dominican Prior, Father Gerard Fearon – an intelligent, forthright preacher and great foe of Church abuse – retires and I wonder if I ever will return to the Church I have attended for more than fifty years. 

This morning’s service did little to persuade me.  Fr Joseph Ralph is a good and sincere man but his homilies are aimed at children and those of childlike faith.  

He told this morning of the servants who approached their master for fear of entering the dark, gloomy cellar of his home.  “Take these brooms and go below and brush the darkness away”, he advised.  They tried and failed.  “Take these sticks and cudgels and drive that darkness away”.  They tried and failed. “Go below and rant and rave, and curse the darkness away”.  They tried and failed.  “Take these candles and light one each and go below”. And the darkness was lifted.  “Amen”, concluded Father Ralph.

My eight-year old granddaughter Naomi would have advised the latter action first!   It’s somewhat wanting as a ‘morality tale’.  All religions – indeed all cultures – have had their morality tales and their role models, designed to teach children (in an age before universal education) the mores of their society.  Most of ours were rooted in biblical history, but there were others.

Great literary figures created their own, often parodies, but the lesson was clear.  Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver” comes to mind, as do, from other countries’ literature, Don Camillo and Don Quixote. 

The ancient Irish oral tradition had many such from the storytellers’ collections, especially tales of the ‘amadan’.  ‘

The Old Man of the Sea’ by Hemmingway made a special impression upon my young, impressionable mind.  Beware the pleading and whining of those who wish only to take advantage of you. 

How we need our children to learn this lesson! On holiday in Turkey recently I learned of their historical equivalent, a character called Temal.

The CIA from their skyscraper headquarters advertised for new (well-paid) recruits and, through a process of testing and interview whittled the potential agents down to three hopefuls, including Temal.

“We know you are dedicated, qualified, skilled and able”, they were told, “but are you loyal? To prove you are loyal, you must go down the corridor to another room, where you will find a loaded gun and your wife. You must kill your wife to prove your loyalty!”

The first applicant proceeded and there was silence for a while and then the sound of sobbing.  He broke down, crying that he could not do it.

The second applicant lasted somewhat longer before he too, began sobbing and reconciled with his frightened wife.

Temal entered the room and immediately there were three loud bangs, followed a few moments later by the sound of broken glass and a scream. The CIA bosses rushed into the room.

“There were only blanks in the gun”, Temal explained. “So I threw her out of the window”.

When you are finished laughing, the lesson you are meant to draw dawns upon you. What lessons for our children, after the death of Christianity and with it, apparently all morality ?


You may wonder what has sparked this?

In the past month, four young men in the town of Newry have taken their own lives.

Are our young concluding there is nothing worth living for, and no reason to fear an eternity of oblivion?

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