Community spirit

There is not a religious bone in my body. It was, I’m afraid to say, a source of extreme regret for my late mother that neither me nor most of my siblings retained or maintained the Catholic faith in which we were raised.

And I admit there has been the odd occasion when I have pondered that lack of a spiritual centre in my life – only very occasionally though.

What I have missed over the years is not a spiritual connection or belief in a deity or a church but the undeniable community feeling that comes from attending church services, the responses to prayers, the singing.

Attending a football match does offer something of a similar experience, often down to fans appropriating some of the best-loved hymns and reworking the lyrics and generally the whole communal singalong that you might only ever do in church.

Today is Easter Sunday, the most important and significant festival in the Christian churches, the one on which the entire faith is based. It was also always my favourite holy day, less frenetic than Christmas and – despite the subject matter of crucifixion and resurrection – always the more uplifting and joyful.Christ_of_Saint_John_of_the_Cross

It also inspired one of my favourite paintings in all the world, hanging in my favourite art gallery in all the world – Salvador Dali’s Christ of St John of the Cross.

For my family, immediate and wider, it was always the occasion of an enormous get-together with a mighty meal at the centre of the celebration. Yes, attending church was a major part of the day, but the joy came in being together.

As the older generation has passed away, those opportunities have become fewer and fewer. I don’t live near my family now. I don’t even get to the football any more. While there’s no chance of me experiencing a spiritual awakening, suddenly believing in God again and heading off to Mass, on a day like today I can’t help but feel a little pang that there is nothing in my Easter Day to compare to what I once had.

Social media is great for seeing pics of nieces and nephews guzzling their chocolate eggs, but it’s not the same as the entire family piling out to a nearby field for a 4hr game of football in which even your mammy takes a turn in goal.

Those of all faiths and none, enjoy your Easter Sunday/Bank Holiday, especially if you’re lucky enough to be surrounded by loved ones.


On a related note, I was riled beyond belief this morning by this story in the Mail on Sunday.

In the interests of full disclosure, I confess I did subbing shifts at the Scottish MoS and Daily Mail from 2005-10. Working for an organisation does not necessarily mean one endorses all it does or what it stands for.

Famed even in their own newsroom for their “unique” take on the news, the Daily Mail occupies an interesting position as the paper that has more female readers than any other but also appears actively to despise all women who don’t fit its very narrow worldview of what a woman should do or how she should look.

But even women get a softer ride from the Mail than those on benefits. Witness today’s MoS story on food banks. The rise in food banks in the UK has been one of the most startling and depressing facets of austerity Britain. And their very presence is an utter embarrassment for the Coalition Government.

Hence the start of a backlash against the charitable organisations that run these services – The Sun told a story this week of a woman who fills up at the food bank and gets restaurant vouchers so she can buy fags and take her kids to the cinema. It’s not true.

Never let the truth get in the way of a good story
Never let the truth get in the way of a good story

Today the Mail on Sunday told of how they sent a reporter to lie to the Citizens Advice Bureau so he could get three days of groceries for free and they could rail against how charities responded to people in need by giving them food – even when they lied about that need. Even their headline is a lie.

t’s altogether breathtaking but not surprising.

Newspapers inventing stories or bending them out of all shape so they conform to their political or world view is nothing new.

Dirty tricks and misinformation campaigns waged against politicians, public figures (particularly union leaders – the late Bob Crow and his holiday anyone?), public sector workers/organisations and anyone else who gets up their humph is also nothing new.

But attacking charities because they’re feeding hungry people in wealthy Britain in the 21st century? Have we ever seen such a perversion of the truth, an inversion of reality, all to fit a political agenda? As victim blaming goes, it sure takes the biscuit – or it would if a lying undercover reporter hadn’t snaffled it first.

I said at the start that I had no faith or belief but I do believe that Jesus Christ existed. So, in the words of the slogan, what would Jesus do? Join in on the bashing of food bank charities and users or feed the hungry?

I think we all know the answer.

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