You couldn’t regard Feeney as a a priest. Not from my point of view. He taught me French, a language I rather liked , but he made me detest it. Violently so. I was also obliged to serve his early morning mass. So at eight AM I had the privilege of filling his wine cruets before mass so that he would turn the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. And at ten AM had the privilege of flogging me for mistakes I'd made in my home work. .He had a fondness for the leather strap which other priests recoiled at That was the way he was . He slogged you just because he had the power to do it .
The only thing that kept me sane was the numerous ways I had planned to murder him. And I devised plenty of these . Mostly by shooting the bastard .Maybe if I got him one day walking the pier .. Maybe at the top of the canal where the lock gates had a drop of about forty feet .. somewhere .. But It was all just dreaming . I knew I'd never get him .
He was one of those people who had two completely different personalities, withtwo different voices and two different laughs .That was a dead give away for those psychopaths . The laugh . It sounded polite and miles away from the other personality. It sounded more mechanical than anything funny. They kept itn for sports days or other days they had to meet the [arents .Reminded me of the false tune of a cuckoo clock if you follow me. .You could never consider telling a parent what an evil bastard he really was. They could never see it . Thats the way it was .
Sometimes , coming into our classroom he reminded me of the boiler on a steam train . The forehead would be so full of pressure when he came in . You could see the fluid in his head comimg to the boil. His temples seemed to throb somedays . All I knew was that the blow out would come soon enough. That was for sure .
The other thing I couldn’t take at the time was how adults would refer to him as a man . A good man , a stern man , a devout man. Feeney was none of these of course , Just a vile and evil brute. A fucker dressed in priests robes .That protected him , and he knew that.
One other thing that really bothered about him was that not only was he a good looking ‘man ‘ but he had this really beautiful singing voice. He could make the hairs stand on your neck. He had that way of holding the note back in a soft tender way until the end of the line when it burst from him in a long and loud passion .It was like the way Mario Lanza could sing. Softness and then a tremendous musical roar that you could hear way above the organ. And it rang out from the choister through the congregation up to the altar , and the echoe would bounce back . He was that good.
Of course he was the darling of the mothers . They adored him, if only they knew. But they never would. and I wondered why God would give such a voice to a depraved fucker like Feeney.
I ‘ll never forget one Sunday after noon seeing him coming along the canal down to the boat club. I could see him from a distance . We were working on Paid's boat.I could’ve said something to Paid but what would have been the point ?
- God bless the work !
- Oh ! And .. and what about the workmen. Father . ?- Paid said humorously
- Ahh God Bless them too - Feeney said - jocularly . that’s the word I wanted ‘’jocularly’’ .
A reasonable greeting you’d say. But all I could do was turn away and think of t where Paid kept the .22 rifle in the bow of his boat. Just under the bunk. I was that close to blowing his brains out. It was thinking that I had his life in my power that kept me sane .I could shoot a target at 200 yards no problem. I was in the FCA - the Local Defence Force - and even though I was under age I’d shot for the Western Command team. Yes , I swore I was 1seventeen to get in , but it was sort of mumbled taking of the oath and no one really wanted to know. See , I knew I'd really never kill the bastard ; but a bulett could , and I ccould fire a bullett.
I know it really evil to say this but I could even see this priest sitting in his room reading his office and cursing blasphemy at his bible the same way cranky old men shout at theTV. I do not just imagine it but I have proof that was the type he was. Yep , I have .
It happened when I was serving early mass one morning when he was giving out communion . My job was to hold the paten under the chin of the receiver so the host wouldn’t fall on the ground. I’m not sure how it happened . Feeney’s hand could be unsteady at that time of the morning and a lot of the old tongues were pretty shaky also. Theyn were all old people , You could see all the black teeth and the shiny gums .So next thing a host drops.
That was worst thing that could happen. I knew he blamed me. The mass had to be abandoned and the area screened off with black drapes, It was a really big deal. The bishop was consulted and he came down to our church to inspect the area. . He interviewed me . I think he asked me about my dedication to my studies and had I had I a vocation for the priesthood .He didnt give out . He looked more sorrowful than anything else .Then he interviewed Feeney for a long time .Then there was a ceremony ordained which required Feeney to go down on his hands and knees and scrub the area with different fluids , deconsecrating the ground then reconsecrating it ; then he had to decontaminate further with holy oils which smelled like lavender and incense mixed .. Maybe frankincense and myrrh - like what the Four Wise men took to Jesus in the cradle ..
Any way that’s when I distinctly heard him. I was part of the cleaning up act. So I was quite near him. I overheard him hissing-
- Jees what an effin job - Jeesus Jeuss.. !! - And he was saying Jesus real loud - Yes ! That’s what he was saying. This man of God.
Well it proved to me that he really was the evil bastard he was . In front of the altar he curses God.
And at the time I did believe that God was there in some way behind the tabernacle,. Well I convinced my self that I thought it . Or maybe I forced myself against the odds to believe it.O maybe it was that I prayed that I'd believe it
Of course I knew after the ceremony, which I took real pleasure in ; seeing him on his knees -; I knew I’d pay for it .And I did . Later that day he gave me 2 doses of 4 slogs. eight in all . One lot for insubordination , which is hard to define ; could be the way you looked at him or away from him,- and the second lot was for mistakes in my homework. The old French. What else . . After the punishment he made me stay in after school and correct the homework. Write every line I made a mistake on 4 times. If you saw the way he savaged my copy book with his biro you’d know he was evil .I don’t mean disturbed . I mean evil.
This is how I felt about him . I prayed if I ever came to a stage in my life when id forgive him; I’d rather die first.
Hard to explain any more than that.
But it got so bad that he even started slogging me for making mistakes in the after school punishments , which I shouldn’t have let happen . But I was just weary. .Feeney thought I was doing it to crack him up. I know. That’s the way he thought .Then I began to think I was as evil as him because I was thinking like him.
Another trick I used to do was to do a blessing of the class with me as Rasputin - or Feeney . I could mimic his voice pretty well . But not as deep . I would end the act singing '' Nearer my God to Thee '' flogging every guy in the class so much until I got a heart attack. I think he got wind of this and I've always suspected it was one of my class mates told him .
Then I figured out something I should have thought of a long time earlier.
I stopped doing any home work, so he slogged me for that . But couldn’t get me for mistakes in my home work . I didn’t do any ! l !
Then I stopped learning the lessons he’d given us the day before. Said I forgot to read them. More slogging , which I expected but I knew I’d wear him down. Whenever he came into the class room I’d put my head against the desk or started reading the French book on my own. I ignored him and just kept taking the slogging as he called them . I fugured it was a good investment , I'd crack him. It would hurt , but I'd get there or so I thought . But it took a long time , Then one day he cracked.
Feeney lost complete control of himself .He threw the blackboard cleaner at me in a fierce rage ,. A rage so bad he lost his balance and was out of puff with fury. Then I knew I’d beaten the fucker. So did all the others .
Then one by one the other heads went down as he came into class . As if it was in support of me ? No . I detested them . Why didn’t they think of defying the fucker themselves . Sheep .. That’s all they were . Sheep. There were only two students left sitting up now .One was my best buddy . Brian who sat beside me for three years . I suppose it was a betrayal of me .. I used to whisper to Brian when he’d get up to recite his studies for Feeney .- ‘’ Cockadoodlle doooo!!! And the cock crowed a third time.‘’ -Like Jesus said about Judas in Gethsemane . . But I didn’t resent them betraying me , the others . Fuck them .Feeney was welcome to them. They were no use to me . So it went on. Me and all the other 28 zombies with heads down ignoring the fucker till we were called up fro slogs.
Funny thing was he’d stopped slogging me .I couldn’t figure that out . Had I beaten him ? I thought , yea. But there was something else going on .
Then one day having ignored me and me him for about 2 weeks , he came into the classroom and sat down looking suspiciously serene. He placed the copy books on the lectern and then as if he was trying to place them in some imaginary square in front of him he nudged them this way and that . He kept at it until we all imagined there was some box there .
There was a concentrated furrow across his brow and the sunlight hit the side of his forehead shining up one side of his face like a that of a saint. It was just a fluke thing. But everyone was dead silent .He remained seated as he said the Lords Prayer , which was unusual too. I had my head down on the desk they way I had been doing to crack him up. But I kept a slanted eye on him. He took off his glasses and cleaned them slowly. For a minute he looked like one of those blind people or people with that lost look in a train station without his glasses .
Then he started slowly . I knew the tone was different ,. More a sort of a musical intonement.;He spoke it looking like he sang ; beautifully - the bastard - over all the bent heads looking out at the sky and he had no notes.
There are boys ..and boys. Some come to this school through privilege . Some through scholarship. Some use their talents and go on to be exemplars in their many and varied careers. And we as Jesuits are justly proud of their achievements. Indeed we expect them to succeed. Because we give them the best we can give to face a world full of its myriad challenges and trials. Some of our boys have attained the zeniths of these goals . Are captains of industry , politicians and legislators. Some have led in the fields of law and the sciences .In the Humanities . And some have followed in the calling of St Luke and have become eminent physicians and healers.
We expect this from our boys and they have not disappointed .
To become rulers , legislators and paragons that they have , they not alone leave this school armed with the yearning to achieve and excel. They leave here with a vocation ; a determination to do so. That vocation comes not alone from the school but from God. We merely cherish , nurture and lead them towards the hands of our Creator .
There are other boys . There are other boys who are very different. They come from privileged backgrounds and are foisted upon us. That is the way of the mix and we must take our share of that mix .We may .dislike it but our calling as Jesuits behoves us to accept our fate .
Here he paused and cleaned the glasses again and by now every boy was sitting up rapt in the moment .We knew something very different was happening .
These other boys too come with their gifts and talents too . But they come with strange cross upon their shoulders. They may not know of their affliction but sadly too soon they will . They come not to praise and manifest but .. But rather to avenge Gods hand rather than to follow it.
As is our calling in life we try to guide them to the path or rectitude and probity in all things .... But .. But ..No ! They veer away from what in their hearts they know to ne rightous ..They become indigent . Incorrigible .. Irascible .
It is God’ s hand that delivered them to our doors. Indeed in some ways I feel He sends them to test us and our resolve as Jesuits. And with this small group I fear we fail the Lord's call. We fail because these boys have decided to turn away from the vocational path and plough their own furrows all along the path of indigence of indolence and laziness. They choose to go willingly into the arms of temptation, and that path is one of defilement . Defilement of the body and the spirit. They go on to covet to lust , to anger ; to become glutinous slothful . Envious , proud beyond measure .. Hubristic.
Yes . I speak of the 7 deadly sins .
Why do we bother to teach them ? You may well ask.
We do so because every boy deserves the benefit of a second and yes a third and fourth chance ... Christ Himself fell three times on His Via De La Sella Rosa ..
But there comes a time when it behoves a teacher and mentor to acknowledge his failure and turn his attention back to his greater responsibilities ;the class in general ; ‘’for the greater good of the greater number ‘’.
‘’Ad majorem m Dei Gloriam.’’- The motto of St Ignatius ; For the greater Glory of God .
Note here the use of the word ‘ greater’ . St Ignatius was a military man. He brought much of his military discipline from the army into the community he founded. Our spiritual leader is as you know referred to as the Vicar General. But Ignatius was a pragmatist. He knew his community could never aspire to unravel all the ills of society .He knew that was impossible in a frail and wayward society. ; a world which had lost its destiny after the Reformation.
Ignatius could have chosen the word ‘ greatest’ glory ; but he was a humbled man when he stood before God .He was a pragmatist also and he thus he choose the ‘greater glory’.
When we are tasked with the teaching of these wilful boys we too come to a realisation. ''Lord I have done my best I can do no more.''
I must turn back to the greater number for the greater good.That is what St Aquinas teaches us .. The greater good for the greater number .It is an axiom often misquoted by lawyers . But its meaning is simple ..
Domhnaill . Ta me chriochnatha leat anois . Nil Tada nios mor le ra . Ta me chriochnatha leat. Is cuma liom fud as seo amach. Is cumma liom.. Dia aguas a Mhaithair leat..
( Donal . I am finished with you now . There is no more to say . I care not any further about you . I do not care . I can not care . May God and His Mother go with you .)
It was one of the most magnificent speeches I’d ever heard. It left a kind of spell on the class .Then he got up slowly from the lectern before that spell could lift . He collected his text books , and taking one copy book from the square he so carefully put together at the beginning he walked the short distance to my desk . He placed the copybook in front of me waited a moment but said nothing. I recognised it as a copybook in which I’d written a French essay for him the previous year. One he’d never returned to me .
Then he just walked out of the class room and we could hear the crisp foot fall of his steps on the corridor , all the way down to where he turned into the cloister where the community lived.
And I knew immediately that he’d defeated me again. The fucker had really whacked me with that speech. Whacked me completely.
There was just no denying it. And worse . He knew that I knew that he’d whacked me .
And Worse ; he knew that I knew that he knew that he'd whacked me .