In St Michan’s Church Dublin it was once possible, and perhaps still is, to shake the hand of a mummified corpse, dubiously claimed to be that of an ‘ould crusader’.
The handshake was said to convey luck, in the way that kissing the Blarney Stone bestowed eloquence. However, on my visit, the chief beneficiary of luck appeared to be the verger (‘God bless yor’) who introduced you to his macabre companion in return for a sixpence.
Shaking hands with a mummified reminder of a vanished past is not confined to Dublin. We like to think we have remained true to our roots even when we’ve moved far from them. We all know of ‘Scottish Braveheart who would die for their country, but won’t live there. Or blunt Yorkshiremen whose hats remain on Ilkley Moor because they can’t get from Weybridge to collect them.
Long after New Labour abandoned its Socialist clothes, it continued to sing The Red Flag, although many brothers and sisters knew no more of its words than New Year revellers do of Auld Lang Syne.
Affirming Catholics cling to the outward trappings of Catholicism, although true catholicity may be as dead as the crusader. Indeed the more gloriously vested he or she is, the more likely a priest of that persuasion is to have shed the doctrines that the vestments once proclaimed.
Their fans still call Arsenal Football Club ‘The Gunners,’ a reminder of the club’s origin at Woolwich Arsenal. Now with the French in possession of Arsenal from manager to players, the team (or lequipe) would be probably better nick-named ‘LArtillerie.’ Red Flag, red vestments, red replica shirts – brothers to the St Michan’s mummy?
However, it is easy to mock the fashion failings of others while not noticing one’s own shortcomings. Seeing the pictures of any newspaper’s fashion editor, or watching TV’s Trinny & Susannah, so critical of the dress sense of others, is proof enough.
In what ways do Catholics and Evangelicals shake hands with mummified remains for luck? Readers will have their ideas. I could put in my own sixpence worth but, if I did, I reckon my luck would run out before I could get back to Dublin.