A Mother's Incantation

In rousing her three sons for 7 o'clock Mass in Lent (circa 1910), Sean O'Faolain's mother would intone:

"Up!  Up! I come, said the Lord, like a thief in the night seeking whom I may DEVOUR! Rise from your slumbers! Woe to the weak and lukewarm of heart -- I spit them out of my mouth. Up! Up! Come to me, all ye who labor and are burthened and I will refresh ye. Think of the poor souls suffering in Purgatory at this minute, waiting for your prayers. Think of poor Ned Keating who used let ye in free to the Opera Hous and died only last month. Is this your return to him? There he is down there burning like hot coal! Up! Up! with ye! Say but the word and my soul shall be healed. A fine bright cold hardy morning, with the crow putting out his tongue and ye yet still in bed!" [ht: Joseph O'Learey]

And off they went.

"At that raw spring hour, mid-February or early March, the sky would be as beautiful cold as a mackerel, bluish-white at its base, everywhere else a dark bruise-blue expcept where gas lamps in the streets let in a pale green-whitish-yellow, and to my memory it seems as if always there had just been a soft fall of rain....There was always for me an exciting, strange beauty in those dark and empty streets in contrast with the suddenly bright church." Vive Moi! (p. 60-61)

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages.

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