Marvin Gaye’s 1962 song “Wherever I lay my hat, that’s my home”, could provide a motto for parish ministry. Wherever one stops, that’s home.
Shifting boxes from the attic in anticipation of the move, there is a feeling of rootlessness; of belonging nowhere. Perhaps it makes moving easier, perhaps not.
An Internet encounter with a moment thirty years past brings memories of roots, of origins; perhaps not home, but the starting point for the journey; a reference point, an explanation of an accent.
A photograph of Glastonbury brings back the stories from childhood; it was the centre of the world in those days; the stories with which we grew up made it the most important place in Britain. It was a place that resonated with hope of a different and a better world.
The stories of King Arthur promised heroes who would again ride forth and right all wrongs. Layamon’s Brut from c.1200, concludes with the death of Arthur and his being carried to Avalon – the isle of Avalon for anyone from Somerset could only be in one place, Glastonbury.
“And Arthur himself wounded with a broad slaughter-spear; fifteen dreadful wounds he had; in the least one might thrust two gloves! Then was there no more remained in the fight, of two hundred thousand men that there lay hewed in pieces, except Arthur the king alone, and two of his knights.
Arthur was wounded wondrously much. There came to him a lad, who was of his kindred; he was Cador’s son, the Earl of Cornwall; Constantine the lad hight, he was dear to the king. Arthur looked on him, where he lay on the ground, and said these words, with sorrowful heart: “Constantine, thou art welcome; thou wert Cador’s son. I give thee here my kingdom, and defend thou my Britons ever in thy life, and maintain them all the laws that have stood in my days, and all the good laws that in Uther’s days stood. And I will fare to Avalun, to the fairest of all maidens, to Argante the queen, an elf most fair, and she shall make my wounds all sound; make me all whole with healing draughts. And afterwards I will come again to my kingdom, and dwell with the Britons with mickle joy.
Even with the words there approached from the sea that was a short boat, floating with the waves; and two women therein, wondrously formed; and they took Arthur anon, and bare him quickly, and laid him softly down, and forth they gan depart.
Then was it accomplished that Merlin whilom said, that mickle care should be of Arthur’s departure. The Britons believe yet that he is alive, and dwelleth in Avalun with the fairest of all elves; and the Britons ever yet expect when Arthur shall return”.
I loved those stories. No matter what the reality of the world was, they could change how it was viewed. Arthur would return and the world would be right.
Adulthood brought an abandonment of the stories, but perhaps went with them the capacity to change the view of reality. Perhaps being able to see things as they are not would change how the world seems; perhaps an imagination where Arthur is possible is one that makes into a home a place where a hat lays.
Ian: I hope that’s true for you . . . home where your hat lays. If you were a Catholic cleric, it would be home where your biretta lays. . .
Not too many birettas in evidence these days. I was walking the dogs the other evening when three men in their twenties were walking down the other side of the dual carriageway; seeing the collar, they shouted comments about abusive priests. It must be hard to be in the ranks of Catholic clergy these days.
Ian: You said, “seeing the collar” . . . as in YOUR collar? I thought I was oblique. But if it was you, I’m sorry about the shouting. Even I don’t do that. I have a very good and close friend still in the ranks. I haven’t seen a biretta in a while, either. But as a kid, we had to memorize the names: stole, cincture, alb, cassock, chasuable, biretta, miter, zuchetto, etc. You can take the kid out of the catholic, but it’s tough to take the catholic out of the kid . . .
Sorry for the obliqueness, Dublin vernacular! It was my collar. It didn’t disturb me – but maybe it should.