It was January 1997. The year I felt deep cut in my mind after the night's brutality, I suffered under the hands of instructed "knights" and "guard". Two years after I was baptized. I was told I have been cleansed from the sins of Adam and Eve, who ate the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Good and Evil. I was told that the Holy Spirit lives in me immediately after the Confirmation. (a ritual usually conducted in the Catholic Church immediately one is baptized). Told I was a new being, washed by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Hearing this, sound I was in heaven. Hard to forget such a night, with a lot of people, gathered inside the church to witness our induction: the new converts. I still remember, the memory of that event still flashes through my senses (in spite I am farewell to religious indoctrination). How we are indoctrinated into what we don't understand. I remember the hundreds of teenagers who wore white cloth. Boys and girls, women and men, between 14 to 35, all stood holding white candles facing the altar, to be inducted into the cult of Catholicism.
The white "candle" to the Catholic Church is symbolic. It is the representation of, leading our life to the path of God and holiness. That we have forsaken the dark side of our lives. And as new leaf, who have seek salvation through Holy Baptism. Our lives must always be holy all the time, no matter the temptation that shall unravel. We must remain spiritual, think spiritual and see ourselves spiritual. I could remember, one of the Catechist said, 'when we are baptized God will apportioned Guardian Angel to protect us'. He continued, '....but the day we start committing Mortal sin, the Angel stays away from us, except we confess'.
Holding the white candle, we were made to recite some oath. The sacred oath is for the new convert to sworn loyalty to Jesus Christ, to the sacred laws of Catholic Church and give up our old self for the new one. That, henceforth, we are no sinners from the descendants of Abraham, but as salvation through the death of Jesus Christ, and the intercession of Mary; our lives now represent the symbol of holiness. Where I was my imagination went wild, that I began to see myself as an angel. I saw myself as a new birth in Jesus Christ, and a path to religious dogmatism and Catholicism.
And at the very hour of 8pm, 1995; during the Easter festival, celebrated by Christians all over the world, after forty days and nights, to amend their ways during the "Lenten" period. Parishioners, friends, families, sisters and brothers; all were there to witness the cult practice. The Reverend Fathers: Sean Barry, Michael Madigan, Dermont Connolly, Fr. John were all in St. Mary's Catholic Church; to conduct the exercise - the night of bliss for us. A lot of us, saw ourselves as angels, sitting at the side of God, Jesus Christ and the Arcangels. The imagination was so deep that we were far away from reason. Everything that night was heaven on earth.
Fr. Sean Barry, who was the led priest, conducted the rituals and washed us with water, and recited some liturgical incantations. Everything he said that day were all in Latin language. Only few were in English. That is according to how the Catholic Church foundation was build. It was cast, as some of its Scholar will say - on "cephas". There were a lot of hymns from the gallery. The choirs were on their voices, bringing out some of the rehearsed hymns before the night of our baptism. Everywhere was filled with smoke, that the Knight of the Altar (as they were called), stood both sides of the priests to incense the whole building.
In my very eyes, it was seeing heaven. I was in a pew preserved for us - the converters. At that time, a lot was in my mind. I was enthusiastic when I saw the beautification of the knight. They were, to me, beautiful Angels in their gowns - red-white, yellow-white, white-white, all dressed properly for the ritual. My mind feast with what I saw. That moment, I began to resolve my surrender to God totally. Either to be a monk or priest. I was saying this because I felt I have to. To give myself to this calling of serving God, through what inspired me and made me want to. I was saying all that out of ignorance. It was never scientific but gibberish, when one thought of religion to be the "light".
After the induction, those who came to attend 'Mass' (as it's called in Catholic Church - a Eucharistic worship of Jesus Christ), witness and celebrated with us in the Lord. My relations especially my immediate families, attended the ceremony. They were so happy, filled with joy, that my old ways are gone. I could remember, one of our neighbour (mallam Audu) in the project house we live said, "tank God o say yu don dey go church now. Nian be say every tin go beta". I believed, why he said that, was because, I was very hot-pan. They saw me as a child, who never yield to people's words. They say, I see things from different light. Perhaps, in devil's way.
Different persons, who possibly came to congratulate me, I guess, were persons who knew my parents. Who were at the wake keep when my dad died. My mum was the most happiest human being. She can't hide herself from me. I saw joy crest her soul. I believe, I being baptized in the Holy Church of God, was a relieve. Not far from what other persons said about me. On our way home (two hours after the event), and been the day was lively. Some of the peers marvel at us, the newly baptized. At home, my mum has already prepare meal for me. The neighbours, empathize with me and said...."it has reverse me".
I try to think round what they mean "it has reverse me". That moment, silence arrested me, and locked me in the dungeon why asking myself, what do they mean. This thought left me all day, wanting to tear my mind with answers. I tried, but I wasn't able to do much. So, I left it to stroll away from my mind. While "....reverse me" dies....I, however, had no second thought....but saw myself being free from the bondage of sin. That religion will ultimately make the difference and possibly turn around things. Then, those neighbours who live in the same neighborhood with my parents, saw me as new LIGHT. They, saying this, sweeten my mind, because, I was been made to accept the dogma of Catholicism.
Before our baptismal induction, the catechist: Mr. Harrison advice us that immediately after our baptism, we should join any legionary society in the church or any other group we feel is right for us. It is to keep our faith going, so we don't slip off the doctrine. After the induction night that looks like spirited moment for hundreds of teens. The journey for me started. But before then, the night I was baptized, MY LOVE for the Knights has grown. I was so deep that I can't wait to join this sacred group. I saw them as nearest to God and Holiness. And most importantly, to the Reverend Fathers. Few weeks after my "baptismal induction". I went to the Sacristy to enquire how to be a member of the Sacred Order.
When I got to the door, I knock. "hello...! Any one in.....?". I stood there and no reply. As I was to take my leave....a woman came out and said...."hey! Sorry, are you looking for someone?" I turned and looked at her. "please ma, I am here to join the altar servant". Looking straight into my eyes....she smiled and said. "you mean, you are among the newly baptized?" I replied..."of course, I am". I guess her heart sweeten, and made her said, "hmm....congratulation". At least, she continued, "you are now in the body of our Lord Jesus Christ". Spending few minutes at the door of the Sacristy, imagining what will be inside. She inform me the knights will hold their meeting this weekend.
On Saturday, I was there. Few persons, I believe, were the leaders of the knights. Sat, facing others. While members sat in a rectangle shape, with an executive table infront of the leaders. The meeting was in the evening and it started with opening prayer. After reciting few liturgical prayers, the president now said "we should all sit". I was nervous. I was taking my time to observe every detail. One of them, I guess, was a Sacristian, and he said...."the calendar is open for new recruits into this Sacred Order. Immediately, he finish talking....others agreed, especially the president: Brother Augustine.
He stood up and said...."do we have any new person here that want to join this Sacred Order?". I and others, stood and said...."yes, we want to join the order". I, who said "yes"....joy ran through my vein. I was filled with happiness, that finally, I will become a knight. While we are still standing, Bro. Augustine said...."you are all welcome....but first, exam day shall be fix to confirm us members of the Order, if only we passed the test". Where I was, I am determined to join the Order. And I have promised myself I won't disappoint why I am here. Immediately the leader of the Knights drop the veil. Brother Solomon, who was the Sacristian stood up and announced the day of the "exam".
Two weeks after my first meeting. I started preparing ahead of the exam. Reading, memorizing all the liturgical doctrines of the Church. "Hail Mary, Credo, Our Father etc (in both English and Latin). Day and night, I am on it. Trying to master the craft. The words. The rhythm. In fact, I went as far to research all the significant symbols, used in Catholic Church. The priest vest, the colours and for what occasion; the meaning and representation of the candles - all attached to Catholicism. Engaging myself with all the gibberish in my mind, my mum watched me with an heart, I guess, would have been, I am heading somewhere. She never mentioned a word....but I believe she had something to say.
Before my enquiry at the Sacristy, I had already been recruited to one of the legionary group: "Our Lady of Fatimah". I attend their meetings every Sunday, immediately after the second "Mass". While Sunday's had always been dutifully....I never skip to prepared for the test. "Day and night" are feast for me. And on Saturday, May 8, 1995 7:30am. We had already got there at the Sacristy for the exam, the ten of us who attended our first meeting as convert. Bro. Solomon, Bro. Augustine and two others were the ones that conducted the exam. They whip us with questions and said each of us, should recite the liturgical prayers of Catholic Church. Ten minutes was spent on each person. I observe they didn't want to waste much time on questions not within the box of Catholicism.
As "Knights", they believe every new convert must know the purpose why they are joining. That, it is not an Order meant for chewing fingernails and whistling the lip. It is a Sacred Order for serious people. And we must be able to know the liturgical doctrines of Catholicism because of the high respect accrue to the Order. I got to know this....through questions....asked. They wanted to know our seriousness and truly whether we want to serve....as a "Knights", if finally inducted after the test. I feel cold in my bone marrow when I was called in. It wasn't an easy path....especially reciting the Credo. It is long and all "knights" must master and be confident on. In fact, it's compulsory.
Four hours were spent on the test. And Bro. Augustine said...."result will be announced later the day, for you to know whether you passed the test or not. All of you must attend the meeting in the evening. No one should fail. If you don't....count yourself out". I gave listened mind to every word that fell off his mouth. His eyes doesn't look like one, who as leader of the Knights I got to know, will want to fail us woefully. And because of the way I have premonition myself. I went home and started praying my rosary. When the "result" was announced, my name was among those to be inducted into the Order. My perception, was because of the incantation I did. Whereas, it wasn't.
The politics was, some of the old "Knights" are leaving the Order, and replacement are needed to swell the rank. It is never my "rosary"....it was the politics. In the Order, when you are twenty-two or twenty-three years old. You must resign (whether as officer or not), for young people to continue. It was a standard rules that has been there. Possibly when the Parish was built in 1965, and the first altar servant were inducted. After our induction, the results were announced, including those who did well and not. Three months later, election was conducted. Some of the officers, lobbied to return back, to office in spite of the rules.
Eight months of knight life, I had made chums with persons of Vincent Njoku and Joesph Ugbonna, who were Knights and older in the Order, who later left to the Seminary school. My friendship with them especially Joesph, was to sustain the belief of living an holy life, possibly as an aspiring monk. Having this in mind of becoming a monk, began to trigger my imagination to see spiritualism the source of everything. I no longer think outside the box of indoctrination. I see everything as God making including people around me, who witnessed my baptismal induction and were happy when I said, "I want to become a monk".
The way I began to live my life was so religious. Nothing made sense to me except enrolling in the Monastery. I was so excited like a mad man who sucks a pussy till dawn. Who kisses the labia and crest his name there. My imagination was no longer reasoning the part of humans. Every one, even those who attend church, to me, weren't in the "faith". Within me, I had already concluded to be Franciscan or Dominican. Day and night was prepared for it, and I tried to emulate this sect - their lives. It never occurred to me in my subconsciousness, that majority of these imaginary "paintings" or "stories" were influence by the papacy.
One night, in front of the Sacristy. Group of religious propagandists who were campaigning for Canon Law 1. They believe the church has moved away, from its original foundation of worshipping - the very essence why Jesus Christ spill his blood. On their own, they began to build an army to propagate the Canon I doctrine. They believe it has meaning, despite the church doesn't want to return to it. I, who want to dig down the abyss of Catholicism. Saw it as an opportunity to join the propagandists group: "the blue army". They weren't much. They were the most tinniest group in the church. They have their way of praying and conducting themselves in public like the Catharists.
I was at the Sacristy when I heard one of them in a gathering talking, and he said ".....that is why in 1965 the Catholic Church has two Pope: Pope Paul VI and Pope Paul VII. The church must return back to Canon Law I. It is the original doctrine of Catholic Church. The foundation....beginning from Peter, several saints had defended". As he was talking....where I stood, I tried to figure out....what the crisis was. My mind tries to caption every atom of his words, and the logic emphasized. This was around 8:35pm, and it was in 1996 when the parish was preparing to organized a send off celebration, for the Irish reverend fathers, who had spent at least thirty two years of their lives in the Parish.
I was triggered with what I heard. My mind breaks into the past of Catholicism. To become Time Travel after hearing what the propagandist said the first day. The new priest: reverend father Mike Umoh, was embittered when reports about this group started coming to his table. At first, he never believed such kind of group exist, going about propagating, what he described to be "....against the church doctrine". The priest, to lot of parishioners, they saw him as tough whip, who doesn't care about his actions. He was everywhere. He always made his presence felt. The propagandists, who already some members in the parish has problem with, began to use the advantage of the priest to cast reactions.
Because of this, they started meeting secretly. They thought wise to do so, been they were few. Among them, I was recruited by a lady whose name was Sister Felicity. She was highly religious and conservative. She had had issues with the parish before I met her. I was very young and still in High School when I joined the "blue army". My joining was because of what the propagandist said about Canon Law I. I saw them as lead way to most of the controversy requiring answers. She introduced me to others and the objective of the group. What they really want to achieve, through what they are propagating. She said "padre pio and other saints never supported the Canon Law II, because of its contradictions".
She took me to her house and gave me some strange pamphlets and handbook. They were all completely strange...so strange that I have to ask her. "do you think the church will ever return back to Canon I? Will Pope John Paul II ever recognized it, despite a lot of parish don't want to apply it again, especially the priest to serve Mass?". She looked into my eyes and said..."they won't...but if they will...it mean the wrath of our lord won't spear them". I try to figure out what she meant by those words. She went on to say...."it is only those who are respecting Canon I, that our lady of Fatimah will intercede for when he or she dies". She engaged me for an hour at her place, and later serve me a meal.
My expulsion from the Order was after they discovered I had secretly been engaging with the propagandists. The Order frowned at it and quickly reported me to the Reverend Father: Mike Umoh; that is after the first round of tortured in the Sacristy. For committing "Mortal sin" against the Holy Spirit, before they handed me over to the parish priest. That day was hell on my flesh. I saw what I haven't seen before. In the priest confinement, it was paradise. The house was filled with hilarious. And it was at a period when the church was raking money like feudal lords who are exploiting the serf - that work day and night for crust bread. Guards were instructed to deal with me for another round of torture, for violating the church doctrine.
For six hours, no food, no water. I was locked in one of the room converted to be the Fr. Umoh dungeon. I was tortured till my eyes puff out. My flesh suffered pain. My mind drill to madness, and my lip can no longer speak a word. I was left in the dark until the day bore seed of silence, sliced to pieces before my own very eyes. For death weep, PLEASE...! Fr. Umoh - the parish priest - spoke to his guards and instructed them to manhandled me. He roared...."you have the heart to violate the church. To question the authority of the Papacy and Catholicism". While he was shouting....my mind was cold. I can't look into his eyes. It's like seeing death face, to face. The guards held me, and he roared again...."who told you Canon II is not Catholicism?". I didn't say.....nothing but silence, when I saw my corpse.
Around 3:45pm, January, 1997. News got across to the group that a fellow was beaten and locked in Fr. Umoh dungeon. It was all over the parish, down to other district - the main parish is controlling. For six months, it was blacklist phenomena I had to go through. Every person saw me as devil incarnate, who want to bring down the church dogmatism with heretical impossibility, SANCTION.
"Who am I to question the authority of the church?"
Flip through the lip of the entire parish. Believers started asking who is this boy that has the effrontery to question the authority of the church. Is he not afraid?
My release later, after much tortured, became sermon in most of the outlets, especially in the main parish. For the priest, it was ".....in every white cloth, they will want to find a spot. Even though it is the most tinniest, that is who they are - heretical propagandists - going about tearing down the veil of Christianity". Few Sundays later, the church EXCOMMUNICATED me.
By Davy Fidel
Davy Fidel is a writer, socialist activist and poet. DF reside in Lagos, and has been involve on social work in where he reside. He is also a freelance reporter, and run a site: https://lifeinslum.blogspot.
com. His poem - "Peace" - has been published in International World Peace Poetry (IWPP) Anthology in Canada in 2013. He is currently working towards getting publish. In addition, other unpublished work.