The wearing of purple
The homilies at the local church are memorable, well-illustrated and with a strong focal point.
It being the season of Advent, the priest talked of John the Baptist and people being called to change.
Of course, in Dublin in December 2021, the last thing on most people’s minds is the thought of the Last Judgement. Most are probably more anxious about what Covid restrictions await than thoughts of hell and damnation.
”The colour purple,” said the priest, “at this time of year the church is filled with the colour purple, the vestments, the altar, the Advent candles.”
He went on to say there was a story about a woman who said she would dress in purple when she was old, and that dressing in purple would make her think about her life. “Perhaps,” he said, “when we see the colour purple in church in Advent and Lent, we should be like the woman in the story and think about our own lives.”
It seemed a simple point, clearly made. Perhaps some people will remember it the next time they notice the penitential colours in church.
I racked my brains to think of the poem in which the woman said she would dress in purple, remembering only that it was about being old. A friend pointed me to the poem and its writer, Jenny Joseph.
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.
Reading the lines of the poem, I laughed aloud. I am not sure it is the sort of thoughts on life that the priest wished to encourage.
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