I was raised catholic. I went to church every sunday and did a stint as an altar boy. It was boring, and still a place where I could be mildly bullied for being awkward, weirdly haired and a bit of a social freak.
Anyway, one time, I had to sit through a confirmation ceremony. Confirmation, for those who don’t know, is the symbolic representation of Pentecost, when (5o days after zombie Jesus came out of his cave, and ten days after he flew into the sky) the holy spirit descended upon the disciples, allowing them to speak in foreign tongues and confidently preach the word of Jesus (up until then they were feeling a little out of sorts and lonely). Basically, its the renewal of the baptism stuff, when a mostly grown up person says for themselves, that they are a Catholic, rather being raised as such.
Needless to say, I never went to mine.
Along with this confirmation of a set of vows and statements of faith, the confirmee, like the disciples, receives the holy spirit.
It goes without saying, that’s the kind of thing you need a Bishop for.
My job, and I was told it was of extreme importance, and a great honour, was to hold the bishop’s hat.
Now, this was at a time when I’d already started challenging the ideas of the church in my mind. During the ceremony, during the baptismal vows (a call and response thing confirming your belief in Catholic doctrine) I didn’t say all of them. I mouthed along, but there were bits I couldn’t say. It was the bit about the church that I couldn’t abide. I couldn’t understand how a human institution could be infallible. I had known humans all my life, and I’d never known any of them to be perfect. I’d met plenty of priests, and while they generally seemed like quite nice people, occasionally creepy and often boring. They didn’t seem like people that could be capable of running an infallible institution.
Anyway, the point was, that I was holding the bishop’s hat for two hours. Staring at this apparently holy, pointy assemblage of card and fabric. Trying to work out it’s significance.
And why I wasn’t allowed to touch it.
I had this white cloth, like small table cloth, neatly folded.
My hands were never supposed to touch the hat. I was unclean and the hat was pristine. Obviously.
Whenever the Bishop needed his hat, I was kicked in the ankle, walked to the centre, and held it out to Bish. He’d take it in his hands and pop it on his head.
And he looked tall.
I decided he was a prick. And his hat was a stupid symbol. And it was ridiculous that the hat was holy. It was a hat.
So there is some significance to the hats.
But I just don’t see it myself.
I like a good hat as much as the next guy, but, well, I have limits.
Illustration by Adam.