7 June 2015

A Penance for Frivolity

Rose Marie, wisely, corrected me recently for referring to the elect Vice-Chancellor of this University, a lady of Irish origin, as a "girl from the County Waterford". Would I have desribed a man as "a boy"?

What can I do but plead guilty and throw myself upon the mercy of the court? But convicts are, in some jurisdictions, allowed to make pleas in mitigation.

The vision that had floated before my mind was that of a wild Irish colleen, bare-footed, brought up in a smokey cabin somewhere on the backside of  the Knock-me-down Mountains, skilled in the cultivation of potatoes, adept at strumming the udders of a cow, striding suddenly into the pomposities of faux-sophisticated Oxford.

You see, my mind, in its very great weakness, does tend to dwell on visions of frivolous incongruity. When I wrote recently about the Master of Benets, who appears to have worked with immense distinction in pretty well every university in the known world, I had a picture of him sitting on the Hebdomadal Council in his native peasant lederhosen. (Or am I confusing Saarland with the Tyrol?). The other day, walking past the Salvation Army Citadel in Oxford, which is built on the site of the mediaeval Dominican house, I had a sudden fantasy of knocking on the door and advising them of the appropriateness of adopting the Dominican Rite in their Conventual Chapel. The temptation was so powerful that I very nearly did it. You are right: I am well past my sell-by date.

Sometimes, when I hear of the pontifications of self-obsessed prelates, I like to imagine them as married men, listening to their wives' accurately balloon-pricking assessments. I suffer from this sort of over-vivid and radically disordered imagination.

Megaweird, I know, but we all have our own mental eccentricities. I wonder, Rose Marie, if mine entitle me to any remission of sentence?


Tom said...

Being Irish, and from the Southern part too, I am the lady in question would have no objection as we have no compunction about referring to adults as 'boy' or 'girl' especially in the Munster region. One of our friars, when a young priest, was even addressed by an old woman with the Irish for a young calf.

Boris said...

You are indeed mega weird, dear sir. The strumming of a a cow's udders will keep me entertained all day. Thanks for that.

Liam Ronan said...

I live in the West of the County Cork. I am a man, over 65 years of age, and a retired professional who was once active in adjudicating questions of law and disputes arising there-from.

My friends and acquaintances here refer to me as 'boy' on occasion (pronounced 'bye'); on other occasions 'lad', etc. 'Tis nothin' a'tall sure less yer after strainin' a biteen fer some class of splinter.

It is a testament to the sad state of affairs in contemporary culture to be dragged into the dock over the benign use of a word. I am so grateful that I only have to answer to God when I die. He will give me a fair reading I am certain.

Paddy said...

Might I say from this side of the Irish Sea, that there was, I am sure, no intent on your part to offend (perish the thought that you would every willfully do such a thing!); and, it is not uncommon on this Emerald Isle, a places of saints and scholars (once upon a time, at least) though sadly lacking in snakes and toads through the kindly ministrations of St Patrick, for an adult male to be addressed as 'boy' as in 'How's it going, boy?' or an adult female to be addressed as 'girl' as in 'you're looking well tonight, girl!' This is especially typical in Cork City and its environs, the place from which I hail.

Knowing that you cherish this island in your heart, and are a frequent visitor, I would suggest that you were at least sub-consciously aware of this habitual form of address which may have influenced the way you spoke of the learned lady in this case.

Strong mitigation, if not an absolute defense, I would suggest!

Donna Bethell said...

Father dearest, who could resist such a plea? No offense was ever taken. No sentence was given, either, so there is nothing to remit. But know that I look every day for a dose of wisdom, humor, and just plain erudition.

I will be in Rome for the coming week and ask your prayers for a safe journey. I will remember you at the tomb of Peter and anywhere else you request if I can get there. Just post it!

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Bless you! I haven't been to Rome since I fell and smashed a shoulder while on my way to the Schavi excavations. Perhaps, if you go there, you might remember me? It would be kind, too, if you could say a prayer for the Ordinariate, which has enemies as well as friends! I will certainly pray that you get safely there, and have a very wonderful week.

Donna Bethell said...

Oh, no! I take it that means you never saw the Scavi. Que peccato! I did the tour in 2003, not to be missed, but I don't have an appointment for this week.

I shall pray for you and the Ordinariate at the Confessio. I have friends in the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. I am happy for them, but I miss their company at the EF Mass.

AndrewWS said...

Mmm, but you could refer to a man as a "lad" if you also mentioned his county of origin; a Shropshire lad, for example. You, yourself, even in your advanced and dotty old age (NB: this is a joke) could be referred to as an Essex lad, and I take pride in describing myself as a Buckinghamshire lad (or Bocknamsheer lad, as people said in my youth).

Deacon Augustine said...

If its any consolation, my fellow deanery clergy referred to yours truly as "the boy" until recently, even though I have 5 grandchildren (number 6 in the oven D.G.). It might just have had something to do with the fact that their average age was approx. 79 whereas I was 50.

With the arrival of a 40 year-old priest in our ranks, I have reluctantly ceded the mantle of youth to him and taken my rightful place among the "past-its" and "has-beens".

Unknown said...

One unsuccessful attempt after another Padre - as I try to stop smiling while : reading the original post , reading Boris' ruminations on the "strumming of an udder" (and now, after being given a visual ,as a musician, seriously wondering just what type of melody it might actually render), reading Liam Ronan's ultimate search for a fair reading (which was itself - enjoyably fair reading) . . . right through to Rose Marie's dissolution of the charges - which had never actually materialized. If only denial of sin could be done as smoothly and delightfully - the Church's enemies would have a veritable heyday.

My dear mum hailed from Bournemouth, and I think she would've been tickled pink if you'd referred to her as a "girl" (BTW, so far, not a soul has given you credit for getting the gender right in this scrambled omelette of a world we live in - two thumbs up). My mother told me that there were two ways I would live a very short life in this world - one was to ask a woman's age, and the other was to look in her purse. She told me if I did either of those two things, I wouldn't be celebrating too many birthdays directly afterwards.

All of which begs the question that if the appellation "girl" can actually be offensive to a woman, how much more offensive would it be for someone to be brutally accurate ; as in (hypothetically) ' that old woman from. . . "

Speaking accurately then, one surmises, would also seem to pose a potential threat to one's longevity (turning the sell-by-date into more of a kill-by-date)..

Political correctness is rampant here in Canada. We're paralyzed by it. It's like a state religion. As a Franciscan friar friend once confided to me : "Political correctness has gone crazy here - We aren't even allowed to say someone is dead anymore. . . We have to say that they're metabolically challenged."

Our Lady of Good Success-pray for us. said...

Father, if the Second Vatican Council had had your 'visions of frivolous incongruity' I think the hermeneutic of continuity might have been a reality.

GOR said...

Being of an age with you, Father, I think (of course) some license should be accorded due to our advanced years. Not in the sense of being in our dotage – which is possible for some of us - not present company, of course! But in the sense that so many people we encounter daily are younger – lads and lassies, as your northern neighbors might describe them. We may have lost a step or two and are not as sprightly as we once were, but have not lost our sense of humor.

A story is told of an elderly Irish priest – a renowned mathematician and Chair of Mathematics at one of the universities. At a social function he was approached by a lady who enquired: “And what do you do, Father?” With admirable modesty and understatement, he replied: “I teach sums, Ma’am.”

Don Camillo SSC said...

My dear late wife regularly referred to women of equal age or younger as girls.

Donna Bethell said...

Dear Father, this evening, the Feast of the Sacred Heart, I attended Holy Mass at the Papal Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican. Afterwards, I prayed at the Confessio for your intentions and for the guidance and protection of the Ordinariate.

May you be abundantly blessed and never lose your sense of humor.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Dear Rose Marie, very many thanks.