‘Do not let anyone lead you astray.’ 1 John 3:7
I was about eight or nine years old and Kenny at school wanted to lead me astray. There was an old closed up factory called Printshop just down from the school, and when school finished for the day Kenny made me go with him to break into the boarded up place. He bullied me with his talk to go with him, myself and another boy called Michael.
The place was dangerous to be climbing about in, with barbed wire and corrugated iron and broken glass strewn about. Kenny led the way and we followed timidly. When I got home my mother sensed my glumness and asked what was the matter. I told her the story and she said I was not to go there again. But Kenny makes us go, I replied. We have no choice. In that case, my mammy answered me, talk to your father when he gets in from work.
My father listened to my story and then instructed me with that fatherly power that cannot be resisted not to go there again. I protested that Kenny would hit me if I refused to go. He won’t, my father said, and if he does, you can hit him back, and there are two of you!
Armed with this power from on high, my father’s word, I refused to go next day when school was over. Kenny tried to press us verbally but we resisted and came home triumphant. I never forgot that experience.
People are often bullies in daily life. They force their way on others with verbal assaults. Gentler natured people feel overwhelmed by this attack and yield to it. We need power from our guardians to help us face the enemy. It is vital that we learn to walk our own path in life and not be forced down roads we do not want to take.
Soon after this experience, when I was eleven years old, I went away to junior seminary. I was not pressurised by aggressive words but rather by encouraging words from a priest, who thought he was doing a holy work for God, recruiting young boys away from home long before they should ever have left the safe harbour of family life. I went away out of obedience to this holy voice. Interested in Jesus? Come this way.
We can be led astray by kindly voices just as much as by aggressive ones. Boarding school can be just as harmful to a child as boarded up buildings.
4 January 2023