One of my brothers in Ireland gifted me a book entitled Ghosts of the Faithful Departed by David Creedon. It is a beautiful, sad, and poignant pictorial trip down memory lane.
As I browsed through the photographs I began to realize how important a part religion played in the generations before us.
In the 160 pages of this book the iconic Sacred Heart painting was displayed at least 14 times, I had to look hard to see the last few, but they are there!
Religious statues such as the Child of Prague, considered lucky in my home-place if the head was broken off, religious calendars, paintings of the Virgin Mary, prayer books, scapulars, memorial cards, and pictures of various popes feature no less than 37 times in the 160 pages.
It is a beautiful book and shows what holds meaning for people. An unworn dress, purchased in America, with tags still attached, hangs from the back of a bedroom door. Probably too fashionable to wear in Ireland at the time. Maybe a daughter bought it for her mother and sent it home to Ireland as a gift. It was never worn.
I pulled out a magnifying glass to see what stood on mantelpieces beside crucifixes and candlestick holders; a small tin of Brasso, no longer keeping things shiny, but collecting dust like everything else. A calendar dated 1974 droops lopsided from a wall.
The most distressing picture of all is actually two pictures of the same scene, each taken just twelve months apart. Time ravages not just the body, but the things the body builds to give it warmth and comfort.
My father often said, “Time nor tide waits for no man.” Ghosts of the Faithful Departed is a brutal and vivid reminder that they don’t.
How many mothers and fathers sat beside an open fire and prayed the rosary for the son or daughter they saw off to America?
Did the Sacred Heart painting hanging on the wall give them solace? Did the statue of the Virgin Mary or the Child of Prague ease their sorrow? Who knows? Maybe they did.