Posted by The Reluctant Emigrant—Denise Hession in Features.


Living in the Middle East and trying to raise your kids as Irish Catholics ain’t easy but somehow when you’re away from home it never seems so important. A large chunk of the work happens in the summer when you’re home in Ireland.

In fact summers home can be like a crash course for the kids in learning some Irishness; a whole two thousand years of culture, heritage and ethos packed into a seven or eight or 13 week period. You encourage them to sit through and appreciate every quarter and semi-final of the championships. You take them to every beach and picnic area you can think of and force-feed them with ham sandwiches and choc ices and you drone on about the evils of social media and how you played with sticks, ate grass and was ten times happier where you were a child.

The Catholic part can be even harder to instil, you aim for mass every Sunday, but there’s always a distraction and you end up feeling lucky if you go even once all summer. You aim to instil a deep sense of shame and general remorse but that old positivity keeps raising its head and you make an elaborate attempt at kneeling and praying at random roadside grottos along the road in the hope that your faith is recognised and replicated, but it doesn’t work like that as they end up staying in the car out of the rain and looking on as if you’ve lost your mind.

This summer we had the opportunity to celebrate our religion as our baby was going to be baptised. I was going to use this as leverage to propel the rest of the family, not just the baby into a godly state as well. We would emerge renewed, that was the plan anyway.

I started to work on creating the perfect christening, I made the list, book dinner for the immediate family in the hotel, balloons, favours for the table, a christening cake that Jesus himself would be happy to die for, the christening robe, shoes and tights, printed menus with the baby’s photograph centred between the garlic mushrooms and the mains, a personalised christening candle, the shawl from Debenhams, no Dunnes here, this was going to be the christening of all christenings. My children would witness the importance of the occasion of entering the church.

So I started to prepare for the day, I took great care in choosing the menu, red meat, poultry, fish and vegetarian choices, that way everyone was covered, for the starters soup or salad, hold the wings that would eradicate the need for finger baths which would upset the table setting. Balloons have come a long way in Ireland and I was delighted to be able to get helium christening balloons with her name on, brillo. Through handmade and homemade favours consisting of Ferrero Rocher and marshmallows, I was hoping to bring pretty chic to the table, and it did. The cake was a very simple sophisticated affair, pink and white, no sparkles, glitter or love heart, no sign of the cross either mind, but the polka dots spelt simplicity and the bow brought that girlie touch. The christening gown was mine own, the very one I wore 40 years prior, traditional again, so in line with the church occasion.

My own attire and that of the rest of the family was all in order and we were ready for off. Working outside the church hours to accommodate Middle Eastern holidays, we had missed the monthly christening day so we booked the church for 2pm on Saturday.

We stood outside of the church, suited and booted, ready for the blessing and possibly moreover the subsequent celebration, the church was open but nobody was home. It dawned on me that with all the arrangements, ‘priest’ never made the list. Nowhere between balloons and the personalised candle did I make a note to book a priest to say the mass. So here we were in Gods house with no butler. No exactly the message I wanted to pass to the kids. Luckily there was one floating, who could accommodate, and the meal didn’t run too later, but just a note to all those arranging their christening, A Priest should be the first thing on your list, Ferrero Rochers and marshmallows after.

 
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