Suffering women of Shercock

Religion was especially important to women who depended on it for refuge and solitude. It has been said, with much truth, that men had their local pub while women had their parish church. Kevin Kearns, Dublin Tenement Life

It was dusk outside the Chapel. The priest, Dr. Connolly was kneeling before the seventh station of the cross. He was flanked by two alter boys, dressed in their long black soutanes and white starched surplices and each holding a lighted candle. He read out loud from his prayer book, aided by the light from the candle held by the smaller boy who was about nine years old.

The congregation, mainly women, were all on the left hand side of the Chapel; this was the women's side. It would have been most unusual for a woman to be on the right hand side; the men's side of the Chapel.

In the dimly lit interior of the Chapel, the congregation of the women looked like a small pious army of shadows, all peering at the seventh station of the cross with their heads reverently to one side, and all of them wearing headscarves, which to some extent were similar to the garb worn by the woman of Jerusalem in some of the pictures of the stations. Some of their husbands claimed that they were intent on suffering, and took delight in it, and there was nothing that could be done about it.

The priest arose from his kneeling position in front of the seventh station intoning the words, "In thy sweet mercy, sweet Jesus, suffer me, to suffer and die with thee".

The whole congregation of women gave the appropriate response with great gusto. In the perception of the small alter boy, this congregation intended not only to suffer with Christ but to die with him as well, and they were taking ecstatic delight in all this talk of suffering.
The priest and the alter boys turned and headed for the eight station; the small alter boy leading the procession. He had mentally switched off from these holy proceedings and was picturing himself as Legs McDermott leading out the Shercock football team against Kingscourt on the coming Sunday. He was wondering how he would cope with Victor Shercock of Kingscourt. Suddenly, he stepped on his long soutane and tripped which caused his lighted candle to come back against his forehead and singe his hair. The priest showed slight alarm. The alter boy knew that this indiscretion increased the suffering of his mother and her pals who were amongst the congregation, all of whom were now peering in his direction. He knew that his mother's increased suffering and shame caused by his indiscretion would be referred to in no uncertain manner on their way home.

The priest and the two alter boys reached the eighth station where they genuflected as the priest intoned the words, "At the Eighth Station Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem," and continued with the words, "We adore thee Christ and bless thee".

The alter boys and congregation responded by saying, "Because by thy holy cross thou hast redeemed the world".

The whole congregation of women stared a the eighth station and saw the women of Jerusalem surrounding Christ; all of them looking very sad, some with tears in their eyes. The congregation of women tried to get into the same mood as the priest continued with the words, "Christ, addressing the women of Jerusalem, said to them - weep not for me but yourselves and for your children."

The young alter boy thought that this was a very appropriate comment by Christ and that the priest should turn around and say the same words directly to the congregation and stress the words, "Weep for your Children".

The priest continued the prayers and repeated again the concluding prayer which he had intoned at each previous station, which was, "Sweet Jesus, I am sorry for ever having offended thee. Never permit me to separate myself from thee again, grant that I may love thee always and then do with me what thou wilt".

Even though these words had been said at all the previous stations, the small alter Boy heard them for the first time. The trip and the accidental hair singe had brought him rapidly back to reality. He pondered over the words" And then do with me what thou wilt".

Those words, he thought, were a bit strong. He resolved not to say them any more. He and his pals were suffering enough already at the hands of Baldy McCann, the schoolmaster and he had no intention of praying for more suffering. Anyway, if he did, he would be telling lies and that would be a sin.

The stations continued and concluded with some final prayers at the alter. The priest and alter boys then returned to the vestry where both alter boys quickly took off their soutanes and surplices and put them in their little cases and rushed out of the vestry door to where their mothers were waiting for them.

The father of the smaller alter boy was a Guard and on duty that night was waiting at the Chapel gate to escort him and his mother home.
The family dog was also waiting and fell in behind them as they proceeded on their way. The dog was limping and hopping on three legs.

"What happened to the dog," the father said to his son.
"Eddie Hannon threw a stone at him and hit him in the leg" replied the son.
"Christ" exclaimed the father and asked: "Why did he do that"
"I don't know" replied the son and he added, "But he threw a second stone and hit him in the back."
"By Christ" said the father "That young Hannon fellow should be made to suffer."
"He should be made suffer like that dog is suffering," emphasised the mother. "Wait until I catch him" replied the father.
"And when you catch him" said the son (entering the spirit of the evening), "You should then do with him what thou wilt".