Because I lived in Montreal and not Dublin, my experience of growing up an Irish Catholic differed in many ways from that of James Joyce, but if you’ve ever read his A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, you have a vague idea of some of what’s involved. We were both altar boys and both educated by the Jesuits, and, partly as a consequence, we both pondered the idea of becoming a priest. (Okay, that’s probably less in common than you were expecting, but I always wanted to be mentioned in the same sentence as one of my literary heroes.) Joyce rejected the idea early on. Gerard Manley Hopkins, another literary hero, did not reject the idea and became a Jesuit, which is what I might have done but for the fact that becoming a priest severely limits the number of one’s offspring—to none. While I thought I wanted to be a Jesuit, I knew I wanted to be a husband and father. Then I met someone and fell in love and that was that. Then we had our three children...boy, did I make the right choice.
Apart from my beloved family, I have one other reason to be glad I decided not to become a priest: I don’t have to prepare a homily once a week and stand before a congregation to deliver it. I find the two activities involved—writing and public speaking—daunting.
Still, I either forgot or ignored that fact when I, like many students of English literature, eventually became a university English teacher—who had to prepare and conduct classes several times a week. Fortunately, my love of my subject overpowered my insecurities and I was able to teach for 18 years, and I loved it (except for those student essays that made me want to weep for the English language). Along the way, I managed to convince someone to let me be an editor. I finally stopped teaching when someone else made me editor-in-chief of a national magazine and I had no more time to grade papers.
So now I’m your editor, and instead of preparing classes, I write editorials, which I find no less daunting a challenge—even at Christmas. But at Christmas, that challenge is a welcome opportunity to thank you, for being a part of Good Times and for caring enough to write to us—your letters make it easier to write this page. And perhaps at Christmas I can risk a very short homily: Love one another.
Happy holidays to every one of you.
Murray Lewis, Editor-in-Chief