Cordelia spirituality

Apr 29th, 2009 | By | Category: Personal Columns

A black Cordelia moment on Monday.

There’s an encounter in Brideshead Revisited between Cordelia Flyte, the youngest daughter of the big house family, and Charles Ryder, the quintessentially bourgeois Englishman

“Cordelia Flyte: If you weren’t an agnostic I should ask you for five shillings to buy a black god-daughter.

Charles Ryder: Nothing would surprise me about your religion.

Cordelia Flyte: It’s a new thing that a priest started last term. You send five bob to some nuns in Africa and they christen a baby and name her after you. I have got six black Cordelias. Isn’t that lovely?”

Searching for someone in a hotel lounge, a woman called, “Father, can I have a word?”

“It will have to be brief – I’m meant to be meeting someone.”

“Would you say a prayer that my house will sell tomorrow?”

“Would you be content with Protestant prayers?”

“What do you mean?  How do you know I’m not a Protestant?  Anyway, why wouldn’t I want Protestant prayers?”

“Because some people in your tradition think we are not Christians at all; they would refuse us Communion”.

“Oh, I don’t hold with any of that stuff, besides I believe the Law of Unification.  Do you know what that is?”

“Sorry, but I’ve never heard of it.”

“Well, there’s the Law of Attraction and it’s followed by the Law of Unification.”

“Is it?  I’m afraid I’ve heard of neither.  In the times in which we are living, I wouldn’t be inclined to believe too many people’s laws”

“Well, you’ll pray for me, anyway”.

“I will”.

A bizarre conversation – it’s no wonder two Catholic colleagues I met for coffee last week did not wear clerical collars.

Googling the Law of Attraction, it’s a piece of New Age pseudo-science, not far removed from the prosperity theology of some African Pentecostal churches – decide what you want and it will come to you.  The Law of Unification and its applicability to prayers for the sale of property in south Dublin remains unclear.

The collapse of the influence of the traditional church has left a pick and mix spirituality, people blending whatever they want to tailor a religion that supports their lifestyle.  Jesus the auctioneer and Jesus the estate agent slips just as easily into the process as any other sort of Jesus.

To an old Protestant, growing up on primary school stories of Jesus from the Bible, it all seems strange and alien.  Charles Ryder would presumably have been unsurprised.  Maybe I should have asked for five bob for the prayers

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  1. When I lived in Greece I was often surprised at what he Orthodox priests used to do. On the first day of the month they used to visit people’s houses to bless them. They were paid for this. I had often wondered how they managed to drive around in such big fancy cars and live in fancy houses this answered my question. It seemed often that that was the only parish visiting that took place because there were many priests there who seemed to spend the entire day sitting in the kafeinio drinking coffee or ouzo and playing backgammon. Something just didn’t seem quite right about this.

  2. Ian,

    At least she didn’t ask you to hear her confession! 😉

  3. I think it’s rather sweet that priests are prepared to visit people in their own homes, not sure about praying for house sales fame and fortune though. Pastoral care seems to be a thing of the past over here. It’s been a long time since the Vicar came to tea! And I’ve got a nice set of Shelley bone China to boot!

  4. I was given the name zina cordelia at birth and was on the internet looking for two lost sisters when i happened to come across the the black cordelias 5 bob site after looking into it further i came across this page. I dont know what to tell you but i believe i am offended i have been black all my life an a cordelia and not because anyone paid 5 bob for me. An the idea that a black person couldnt or wouldnt be name cordelia without the 5 bob is really sick

  5. I agree with you – the post is an attack on such attitudes, which came out of strange ideas about religion.

    The attitude of Europeans towards Africans was so patronising that such stuff used to go on. In Ireland people used to talk about collecting money for ‘black babies’.

    I was in Rwanda and Burundi in June and July. Many Europeans are still patronising, except that they now come in flashy cars, stay in expensive hotels, and have posh air conditioned offices, and tell Africans what to do.

    I met a group of people who were visiting villages where people’s incomes were no more than a few dollars a week – they were staying in a hotel that cost 150 dollars a night.

  6. Sorry, I don’t see what’s so offensive. Africa is the charity case of the world. It is offensive that the White nations used the term “black babies” to describe the black babies they were rescuing from poverty and disease?? As for the Brideshead quote, I hope all are aware that it is fiction, but even if it were true, I think it’s a beautiful idea. If you could name an orphan after you that would create such a nice bond and probably encourage future financial support.

  7. As a Christian, I believe that we are all made in the image of God and that we are saved by God’s grace in Jesus Christ, so that every single person is a “charity” case.

    As for having an orphan named after oneself, it is contradictory to Jesus clear teaching in Saint Matthew Chapter 6, that giving should be in secret.

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