Donald Trump is on his first overseas trip as President, visiting centres of three of the world’s major religions; what could possibly go wrong?
This visit to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Rome includes “major speeches” where the President will speak about some of the most complicated peace and security issues in some of the most complex places on the planet – and he does this with his muslim ban and views on a ‘one state’ solution in the middle east as a backdrop. The heart sinks.
Closer to home, Team Jones’ trip to Ireland continued with the main reason for our visit; a holy communion for our niece. In sixty minutes in church today I saw all that was good and bad about the catholic church; a church I have been a member (although increasingly an honorary member in recent years) for virtually all of my 39 years and two and a bit weeks.
The church was packed for such an important occasion, with standing room only. The priest, who started off so well, gave a warm welcome to everyone and specifically reached out to those in the congregation from outside the Catholic tradition and gave shout out to the many Poles in attendance – the enlargement of the EU doing wonders for catholic churches all over these islands. He then told a nice anecdote aimed at the many families with small children – he was reassuring those with little ones (I included Miss J in his calculations) that making noise was no problem and everyone should feel relaxed and enjoy the day.
A colleague of his had said, thoughtfully, to a mother who was taking her crying child out of mass; “don’t do that on my account – the wee one isn’t bothering me”.
“No father, but you are bothering him” came the reply.
The mass was lovely and the children all had smiles on faces and seemed to enjoy themselves. The atmosphere remained warm and friendly. But, there were moments. The homily (sermon) went on 40% too long and after a nice start lurched into a full blown and completely unsubtle recruitment drive for the priesthood, virtually handing out application forms to the eight year olds in the front row.
He then made it very clear that this wonderful career and life was only open to the boys – alienating half the congregation (I know that’s in line with the church’s teaching but this just makes the point). He would have alienated Mrs J too but she had already stopped listening, along with many, many others, several minutes before as he droned on. I am yet to go anywhere where someone complained that the speeches were too short!
And to top off proceedings, the catholic church does what it does best, asking in several different ways for money. I always find that hard to take, but especially in these austere times with the world’s riches stashed away in the Vatican Bank and other institutions. It may have been my time away from mass – it is months not weeks – but it all left me a little cold and questioning, with Mrs J, what we do with our fledging catholic, who was baptised very early but isn’t spending much time in church. Food for thought.
On the plus side, we were then treated to a fantastic, typically lovely Irish family spread after mass (including a mountain of cake), Liverpool won and clinched Champions League football and, so far, the world appears to be in one piece after President Trump opened his curiously small mouth to lecture the muslim world.
Right, I’m off for some more cake before he heads to Israel!