A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Jim Carroll - Catholic Boy - Confirmation
Monday, May 07, 2007

They can't touch me now
I got every sacrament behind me:
I got baptism,
I got communion,
I got penance,
I got extreme unction
I've got confirmation
'Cause I'm a Catholic child
The blood ran red
The blood ran wild!

Now I'm a Catholic man
I put my tongue to the rail whenever I can.

From Catholic Boy - 1980

One of my fondest memories of my father is singing in bed with him. Our two favourite songs were My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean and Onward Christian Soldiers. It is only recently that I found out that the latter song was originally called St Gertrude by Arthur Sullivan who wrote the music.

There we were singing as loud as we could:

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.

It was in 1980 that I photographed Jim Carroll and his band at the Commodore in Vancouver. I was struck by the lyrics of his title song (above) Catholic Boy. He misses two sacraments(Holy Orders and Matrimony) although he must have been at death's door in one of his drug ODs to receive Extreme Unction.

For many years, until it closed in 1989, I was a patron of the Classical Joint on Carrall Street. I went on Thursday nights to listen to my friend, alto saxophonist Gavin Walker play with his ever changing band. What never changed was the repertoire of classic bebop and bossa nova tunes peppered with jazz standards. There was one that intrigued me.

It was Charlie Parker's Confirmation. Walker explained that as a boy Parker had sung in a Catholic Church choir and that indeed the name of the tune was Catholic.

I would only mention that Confirmation is the forgotten sacrament. This is the sacrament that follows First Communion and makes one a "Soldier of Christ". As it was explained to me by Brother Edwin Reggio CSC this meant that it was my obligation to find out as much about the Catholic Church and its doctrine so that I could instruct anybody who asked. Brother Edwin saw Confirmation as an obligation to teach and impart and not something out of Arthur Sullivan which would have us march with sword in hand to battle the hoards of infidels!

Taking Confirmation seriously (and I was confirmed) has enabled me to explain to Rebecca all the questions she asks every time we enter a church in Mexico or in Vancouver. It will give her a richer appreciation of art, music, dance and the architecture of Gothic cathedrals.

And there has been an added bonus. I have been able to fend for myself when my Argentine nephew, Jorge O'Reilly (who is a member of Opus Dei) tries to put one over me!


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