I have an elderly aunt who is Catholic. Roman Catholic. Very Roman Catholic. After 95 years on the planet the only thing that she really enjoys doing any more, is praying. She is devout and I think she should be commended for it. She understands that the reason she prays is because she needs it. Not because the Almighty, although omniscient, somehow does not have the ability to read minds or see what is bothering a person, but because the person themselves needs to make the prayers for themselves.
People often talk about Christians as having a personal relationship with God, in some way, and prayer being a conversational aspect of that relationship. That sort of admission always feels very naive to me, which usually invites them to say “You clearly don’t have a personal relationship with him”. This is as useful as saying “I know the way to the library”, then calling a taxi to take you there, blindfolding yourself, and waiting for someone else to hand you the book you think you want. Can you have a personal relationship with someone you have never met, but send Christmas cards to? I would say “No”, but maybe I am just showing my ignorance.
I have been trying to find a pack of Christmas cards which have a religious picture on them. You would think this a simple request, given the religious origin of the festival, but you would be most shamefully wrong. Christmas is a time for giving and my 95 year old aunt doesn’t really want for anything. She has no vices. She lost her taste for crystalized ginger some years ago, port gives her pains and unseemly adours and even she has found Neighbours not to be as addictive as it was in the early 90′s. The only thing she really enjoys recieving at Christmas is a Christmas card with a religious picture and a thoughtful message. For this reason alone I began my quest.
Supermarkets are the cheapest place to buy packs of cards, if you missed buying good quality cards last January in the sales. Tesco, Sainsburys, and, I am sorry to say, Waitrose all fell short with no packs of religious cards. I asked an assistant in Waitrose where I could find religious Christmas cards. They looked puzzled for a moment and then pointed hopefully at a box displaying the slogan “The holly and the Ivy”. I pointed out that sharing its slogan with a Christmas Carol did not make it religious. They tried again and pointed at one with a picture of a shepherd…..oh dear…..
Me: “I’m sorry but what does a shepherd have to do with Christmas?”
Shop assistant: “There were shepherds around when baby Jesus was born.” followed by uncertain smile
Me: “There was a Hoover around the kitchen when I made dinner last night. It didn’t mean I ate lint and dust pavlova for pudding.”
Shop assistant: “What about this one with 3 kings on it? They’ve got palm trees and camels.”
Me: “Ok, when did you last read the Bible? There aren’t 3 kings at the birth of Jesus, just 3 gifts. Even if there were, can you see 3 heads of state riding bare-back on camels, 1/2 way around the world looking like carpet sales men”
Tomorrow we will be trying out the Catholic Tat shop and more mainstream card emporia for something that looks a little bit more like a baby in a trough and a lady in a blue veil.