Saint Nicholas pray for us

My favourite “modern” Christmas song is, “Fairytale of New York,” by the Pogues. (Yes.) I have it not on disc, but listen every Christmas Eve on YouTube. If I had to explain why I so love it, the spell would be broken. Suffice to say, it is perfect in its kind. There are people, even in New York, and these days even in Ireland, who can make no sense of it. This is their constitutional right. But there ought to be a law to prevent it from being “covered” or re-recorded.

Well, that is my salute to pop music for the year. There is not much else I find bearable; though compared to the happyface commercial jingles, I’d prefer ring-in-the-nose punk. There are rings in Hell, as we are reliably informed by an Italian poet; there are rings beneath rings, lower. The song I mentioned could perhaps be described as punkish, though disturbed by joyous “celtic” lilt. It has a Catholic sensibility. As much could be said for François Villon. And Dante is that sensibility, in shock vertical.

As the infamous Oscar Wilde famously said (or shall we make that vice versa?) Catholicism is a religion for saints and sinners; for respectable people, Anglican will do.

This spoken from a Paris dive, while the balladeer of Reading gaol was perishing from meningitis, after a life that could not be said to have ended well, by any bourgeois standard. Yet from the Catholic view, a tremendous deathbed recovery.

It is not generally acknowledged, at the present day, that man is in a fallen condition, and that men (including women) can behave very badly. There are moments, however, when we are reminded, “Yes we can!” But also moments when the worst sinners (and Wilde had a fairly good run) turn to Christ. And this because, there is no other place to turn, when you have seen through the Devil. Money is little use to the dying. Prospects for concupiscence are grim, … though I’ve seen at least one old perishing customer, tied down like Gulliver with hospital tubes, still valiantly trying to seduce a nurse. And (I don’t expect you to believe this, gentle reader), nearly succeeding.

But, heroism alone cannot get you to Heaven.

I have a friend who calls himself, “the world’s worst Catholic.” That, too, is a nice try. He’s actually quite observant, by contemporary tests; a faithful and diligent husband and father; who to my knowledge has yet to do anything that could earn him a prison term. But he has some insights, and probably some secrets he would only tell a priest. Whereas, I’ve known some real baddies in my time, several of them Catholic. I’ll leave God to decide which one was worst. (Imagine my surprise when I discover that I was.)

The prim live in a world of illusion. Parkdale, for all its little faults, isn’t prim. It is, I suspect — compared to the more prosperous neighbourhoods — fuller of people freed from illusions about themselves. And too, of people who have done prison time. But that, in itself, will not get them to Heaven.

On the altar, tonight, we will see the Christ child. He comes at midnight, the perfect Sacrifice; the most astonishing Gift to fallen human nature. He comes as the most paradoxical Thing.

He hath come, and will come, to shew strength with his arm; to scatter the proud. “He hath put down the mighty from their seat: and hath exalted the humble and meek.” The most unlikely people see it.

Merry Christmas to all of those, and to all the others.