Spiritual Bouquets and ejaculations

image-4I can almost hear the exclamations and perhaps even outrage at the title of my offering today. However, remember, the purpose of my prose is to enlighten those of you who were not fortunate enough to be raised radical catholic in the era 1950 – 1959 in the hope that some light can be shed on why it was we did the things we did. Trust me, I will not scandalise you ( or my upbringing ) too much I hope!

Catholics in the 1950s were, generally speaking, not real well off.  There were a number of reasons for this of course but to me, as a kid it was because we weren’t liked very much and we did not like anyone who wasn’t a catholic very much either! This was a quandary for me. I knew that if I behaved myself, did all the right things, did not commit mortal sin and die before I went to confession to have it expunged from my “soul” I would get my “treasure in heaven”. In year 2 this meant as much ice cream as I wanted accessible 24/7 for the rest of all eternity. If however, I died in the state of mortal sin – perhaps having missed Mass on a Sunday ( snowballs chance in hell in my family ) or eaten meat on Friday then it was the highway to Hell at the speed of light and Hell was pretty terrible. “Imagine” on Irish imported PP told us in our First Communion Class “ all day long in fire without water, without food for ALL ETERNITY!  GOOD GOD it was enough to make you behave yourself!

I had no non-Catholic friends but I had a truckload of non catholic relatives! Both my maternal Grandmother and my Father were “converts”. I used to worry about my Nanna and my Uncles, Aunties and cousins who were good Presbyterians but I was comforted in the knowledge that all good people, who had the misfortune NOT to be members of the one true faith would be nearly as happy Catholics in eternity in a lovely place call Limbo which was just like Heaven but God wasn’t there. The other “hereafter place” that I learned about was Purgatory  “ a place or state of punishment where some souls suffer for a time before they go to heaven.” 

I can just remember having an advertisement shown to me by my Mum at the end of which was “Catholics need not apply”! Of course the other reason why tykes tended to hover just above the bread line was the size of their families! I felt almost apologetic my entire childhood because our family – Mum,Dad and 6 children only filled one pew in the Church on Sunday!

So, the point of all of that recollection is to set the scene for birthday gift giving. My own children were spoilt rotten on their birthdays in comparison to the meagre pickings of my own childhood! I have four children which is a bit of an embarrassing total considering my heritage and I was a “working outside the family home” mother so we always had money for birthday presents…oooopppssss- a very necessary side comment here otherwise my second daughter will cry fowl. I NEVER had money for her birthday because it is in the first week of January which coincided with school holidays and the Christmas overspend fallout. I was a teacher and my employer used to pay a lump sum payment at the end of  the school year which included the holiday loading and the first pay in January, so she used to get promissory notes. She would have been much more happy if the practice of Spiritual Bouquets had not died out I think!

A Spiritual Bouquet was something that Nuns were particularly good at crafting. On the back of a “Holy Card” would be written, using exquisite penmanship sometimes coming close to the illuminated manuscript of The Book of Kells, a list of “things” the giver was giving you in honour of your birthday, your First Communion, your marriage, your graduation – whatever.

To Dear Little Louie.

In honour of your birthday I will offer

10 Masses

10 Holy Communions

15 Rosaries

250 aspirations

300 ejaculations

God bless you sweetheart.  Your loving Cousin, Uncle, Friend, Brother, Sister etc etc etc 

Hallmark had nothing on the holy card industry!

Explanations – and aspiration could be “St Joseph…” indeed any saint “pray for us An ejaculation was “a short, sharp prayer” “Jesus help me”. Indeed it was not until I was in year 7 and Sr Agnes pulled down the blinds in the classroom after lunch one day to tell us about the mystery of reproduction – circa 1962 – that I was introduced to another definition of the word!

New to this

It is as though I have received a new toy and I am about 8 years old again. All I want to do is play with it!

So the title of this entry is for all of you who may be reading this – in your HOARDS- and perhaps were not as fortunate (blessed in the Catholic vernacular) as I was to be born into a rabidly Catholic family in 1951! I will attempt in less than 500 words to enlighten you about some of the seemingly inexplicable things about being Catholic and this old!

Actually, I think my age and gender are really significant in terms of my understanding of my upbringing – how’s THAT for a “parenthood” statement! I remember the 60’s which of course means I didn’t do drugs. I remember the growth of the women’s liberation movement – so well embraced by the clergy then and still – NOT! ( brief aside…cynicism is a demon with which I wrestle and sometimes I let it win!) I remember the publishing of the Female ……person without genitals, the word for which I cannot spell , and how I needed to look it up in the dictionary to find out what it meant! I didn’t burn my bra for fear of knocking myself out and in spite of at that the age of 65 when I remove my bra my breasts nearly cover my navel….GET TO THE POINT LOUISE! It was those years 1951 – 1960 (inclusive) that  gave our generation of tykes – especially women – a unique set of experiences that are totally beyond the understanding of our children and theirs. So my next few posts will be an attempt to context some pretty odd practices from our past!

THE COVERING AND UNCOVERING OF HEADS.  In our current climate of fear of difference and radicalisation of youth, much has been said about the covering and uncovering of heads. When I was a child, most men wore hats. Not beanies, not baseball caps but proper business stetsons. My Dad who was a journalist never left home without his hat and he had several of them. He travelled to work by bus and sometimes when I was in high school, we would catch the same bus together. Every time we passed a CATHOLIC Church, Dad, who always sat near the window would discretely make the sign of the cross with his thumb over his heart and then doff his hat out of respect,as did every other catholic man wearing a hat on the bus! They would wear their hats to Mass on Sunday and take them off before entering the church. Different set of rules for women and girls of course. A woman couldn’t enter the church without covering her head. This was great for the millinery industry of course! Hats for all females from bonnets, to little girl hats, to masterpieces of fashion design to scarves and berets and the most exotic of all Mantillas!

I remember when the film Cleopatra came out, the Womens’ Weekly did a segment on how to wear a scarf in the style of Cleopatra’s head dress! It was brilliant! Directions followed properly resulted in a fashion statement to die for. Slightly off the mark? Fashion Tragic!

The doors of the churches were open from dawn to dusk and we were expected to “make a visit”

Every time I pass a Church, I always make a visit. So when I’m dead and carried in, Our Lord won’t say ‘who is it?’” How’s that for a happy little ditty in the year 2 classroom! Of course, should you be female and passing a church sans chapeau a handkerchief would suffice. This was why every good little girl carried two hankies – one, usually plain cotton perhaps  a floral print, the other often linen with crocheted edging going far beyond chain stitch and treble, pressed to within an inch of its life with razor like fold marks. The first was for sneezes and the second for head covering in case a church should pop up on your journey! But sense of responsibility to make the visit outweighed even a hankieless state! Caught without one, you could whack your right hand into the holy water font, bless yourself and plop you left hand over your head which allowed you to enter the church. Visits were always brief of course!

Stay tuned for “Spiritual Bouquets……aspirations and ejaculations”






This is my third attempt at starting a blog. The title came to me at about 4.00am two days ago. Having recently been successful in logging on to the the Australian Government website to complete the census, on the day it was supposed to be completed  which makes me a very, very special little Aussie) I had to wrestle with the “Religion” question.

Encouraged by believers and non believers alike I was in a quandary! Yes!  We really have become a completely secular country with commitment to the footy team replacing commitment to and belief in a particular religious tradition. Sadly, my local football team is the Newcastle Knights and they have been on a steady trip down the gurgler for the last few years since being taken over by a multimillionaire who went broke and a GOD in the coaching field who brought a demigod player with him and still couldn’t get the team up so I decided against naming footy as my religion.

“Give me a boy till the age of 7 and I have a man for life” or something like that is a quote I remember from one of the great Saints about how to capture souls in the name of God. Well, I guess that applied to girls too (if you have read this far you need to know I refuse to accept male pronouns as generic references to both genders)  because the tykes certainly had me for my entire formative life, but I could no longer put “catholic” so I opted for “Christian”.

But truth is, I cannot ignore my catholicity – it would be like ignoring my blood type. So I am stuck with it but in deference to my experience as a catholic and the reality of my reproductive organs I classify myself as free range and prolapsed in my faith practice!

My Mother was 98 when she died.The day before she died, she held my hand and thanked me for being a good daughter. Looked into my eyes and said “you always belonged to me”. I wear her words around my neck  as a symbol of my religion!

My name is Louise – “every little breeze”