For Sue Vincent’s #writephoto writing prompt.
Turn off the lights, the priest muttered in his head. Turn off the damn lights!
The church had been refurbished and modernised against his will. The parishoners had raised most of the money and the diocese had donated the rest. They’d all rallied round big mouth Gallagher when he’d come up with the idea and there’d been no stopping the fund-raising events, one after the other until they’d hit their target.
Father Collins thumped his way up the stairs from the sacristy, eyes cast down to his feet, refusing to look at the flashy new brickwork and the new skylights with the ridiculous tinted glass. He had been a young priest, fresh from County Cork when Vatican II had turned things upside down. Letting the men and women sit together was a great mistake, and forcing the priest to face their thick faces to say the office. It stripped away all the mystery of the Mass, brought the words out into the open. It had been so much more sacred when only the priest heard the holy words, only the priest spoke to God. Now every last eejit in the parish bawled out the responses, watched the gestures and the ritual, as if he understood it at all! And where did that leave the priest? What was left of his special role as mouthpiece, the ultimate final power to forgive or condemn?
Now they inflicted this on him in his old age. Like Las bloody Vegas, it was. They’d taken away the beautiful statues of the Virgin, Saint Anthony, Saint Francis, Saint Jude. Even Saint Patrick had gone. They had symbolic shite now with lights, and tacky pictures the children from the primary school made, God help us!
He pushed open the door into the nave, if it was even called a nave anymore, more like the social club without the bar. He glared at the congregation, the benches set in a semi-circle round the altar, stepped so that even the idle beggars at the back who crept in late could get a grandstand view. His face darkened as the electric piano chimed in, and the fecking awful din of the massed recorders from Junior Four.
Godless, he thought. God is in the holy darkness and the secret Latin words, the incense, the silent awe and respect. There is no God here.
He went through the office mechanically, while the recorders whined, the people bawled, and Michael Gallagher gazed with smug pride on his efforts. God drifted further away, further and faster than an old man could follow, while outside, the blackbirds sang, and the cats dozed in the sun as if nothing else mattered.