Wednesday, 18 August 2010

False Start

Eva's Tale

For those who haven't met Eva before, here is a short introduction:-

Eva was a little girl growing up in post-war Germany in a small village on the left bank of the Lower Rhine. Previous adventures can be found under the label 'Eva's Tale' in the side bar. Each story stands on its own. Sometimes Eva writes the story herself, at other times she asks me to do it.

This is one of those that I tell for her.


The area where Eva grew up was predominantly Catholic;  an important lesson at the village school she attended was religious instruction; Eva, together with most of the school - there were very few Protestant children then -  had to go to Mass on  Sundays. Each year was allocated its own pew. Eva rather enjoyed the Latin services, she liked the plain chant and hearty communal singing; the sounds and sights and smells appealed to her nature. Eva was always one for a dramatic spectacle.

Religious observance played very little part in her family as a whole,  in fact, to add to the confusion, there were those who saw it as 'the devil's work'; but that is another story.

It so happened that on one particular Sunday she was very late arriving at Church. The service had started and she didn't feel comfortable to make her way to the front where her class mates were piously kneeling in their pew; she slipped into an empty seat in the set behind,  joining children several years older.

One of the initiation rites in the Catholic Church is the First Communion when the child has reached 'the age of reason'.  It was the custom in those days that a whole year would be deemed to have reached this stage; with all children receiving the necessary preparation at the same time.

When all the children in the pews Eva had joined got up and shuffled to the communion rail, Eva dutifully followed, making sure she did exactly as they did. This had never happened before and she was worried that she might get it wrong; she noticed that the priest hesitated when her turn came, but he carried on and when the others got up she again followed them back to the pew.

Within  minutes a murmuring and whispering like the first breath of a playful wind rustling a handful of  leaves arose all around her, there was a faint disturbance in the air, a shifting on seats and
shuffling of feet. The murmurs and whispers grew louder, Eva instinctively knew that she had done wrong and was therefore not surprised when a black-clad arm grabbed hers and dragged her out of the pew and to the back of the church.

The woman hissed, "you are not ready to take communion, don't you know what you did is a sin!"

Eva knew that a sin was a terrible thing,  although she had only a very vague idea what kind of deed might be involved; she was badly frightened and burst into tears, making for the big church doors to escape from the angry woman.

She ran home;  even so, the news had reached her Dad before she got there. Other children had run even faster to be first with the grim tidings;  no doubt anticipating dire retribution to befall the sinner.

Eva saw her father hurrying towards her in the middle of the road, in shirtsleeves and braces, without tie and coat, an unheard of state of affairs on a Sunday. She herself was hotly pursued by two of the village women who had been at the service, a tall, scrawny pair, both in black hats and long coats, flapping and cawing like crows about to fall on carrion.

Eva wailed, "Papa";  her Dad scooped her up, his arms lifting her high,  turning on the women with a stream of furious invective. Eva's Dad was a strong man, tall and imposing physically, with a very hot temper to match. He was also one of the members of the family with no time for organised religion.

The women stopped shrieking. Eva's Dad threatened them with unspeakable acts of violence should he hear of any further persecution of his precious girl. The women were not to know that this was an empty threat, violence simply not  being part of his nature. They fled.

At school on Monday morning, Eva was taken to one side and firmly but kindly told that she must never do this again. Two years later it was her turn to learn her catechism and in due course became officially eligible to take communion.


  1. Ahhh poor Eva, barely old enough to even know what a sin was!

    My children went to a Catholic school and once my daughter was told she couldn't take Communion with a visiting Bishop because she did not have the correct footwear on (she had an injured foot and was wearing sandels) Her arguement that Jesus wore sandals all of his life fell on deaf ears.

  2. Eva knew a thing or two when she asked you to write this tale. Beautiful, as ever, and matched to lovely photograph, too. I especially like the tiny handbag - or should I call it a pochette?

  3. friko - firstly - the beautiful rose, with the thorn poking its pointy head out back - is beautiful! it ties so well into eva's tale. i know so very little of catholicism that each veil pulled away reveals something for me. but there's so often an obliqueness about the rituals that seems to pull people away from the deeper truths. perhaps if i was immersed in it as a totality it would all fall together and all would be revealed! steven

  4. What a wonderful thing for you to do for Eva, to tell her stories. I can only imagine the persecution she must have felt with everyone chasing her to tattle. I applaud her father for protecting his child. God own Son would have done the same, and shamed the chase.
    Wonderful entry.

  5. Oh, poor Eva! I really felt for her during this story. Lovely photo, too.

  6. Those women were obviously unacquainted with the scripture 'Suffer the little children to come unto Me ..." Such unkindness! And good for Eva's papa!

  7. The walls are crumbling brick by brick on this sad state of affairs. That is my consolation.

  8. I was happy to see another story about Eva - you do tell her stories well.
    I remember sitting in church on morning, and suddenly finding that I had a tissue on my head. An old lady, scandalized by my bare head thought that a tissue would be better than nothing. Where did all those black-clad old ladies go?

  9. Such a well told tale that I could relate to. I do remember my first communion (we were Episcopal which is a watered down version of Catholicism).
    Had my Grandmother not grabbed me when I was 6, I too would have prematurely attempted communion.
    Kudos for the Dad.

  10. Friko,
    Well that sure opened forgotten memories. Even thou we lived in the US, all our religious services were in German until WWll. I had forgotten the white communion dress.... the white stockings, shoes, everything. Thanks for nudging it.

  11. Just one of the many reasons why I am against religion.

  12. The Eva stories have been terrific, heart-breaking,
    nostalgic, and poetic. In the past I re-posted a
    couple of them on my site to promulgate the words
    even further. Thanks for stopping by my place for
    a tick. Yes, I love your poetry and your perspective,
    and you are more than welcome that I want to share
    it with others.

  13. I have loved reading 'Eva's Tales' and this one is no exception. Hooray for Eva's dad, is all I can say.

  14. Friko - I love reading the 'Eva' tales and the way you tell them.

  15. Ah, the harsh man made rules of the church; your story is so true of the old Catholic church ..of the attitudes and of being seen to be correct. Has much changed ...outwardly it has in some ways but the man made rules still rule.

  16. Friko, hier ist ein Foto von meiner Erstkommunion. Ich bin aufgewchsen in einem kleinen ganz katholischen Dorf; als Kind habe ich all diese Traditionen sehr geliebt.

  17. Friko, ich habe es nochmal probiert. Man muss den ganzen link kopieren, dann in die Adresszeile einfügen und enter..., dann kommt die Seite mit dem Foto in meinem blog.

  18. Deine Geschichten nehmen einem fast den Atem, so gespannt ist man auf deren Fortgang.
    Ja, einem Kind eine Sünde einzureden, ist doch schon Sünde an sich...
    Ich hoffe, der Himmel bei euch ist so feurig wie hier bei uns! Einen wundervoller Spaziergang heute Abend und eine wundervolles Post aus Deinem Blog.
    Ich wünsche Dir einen schönen Abend, liebe Friko!

  19. I so love Eva's story. I surely know the story of the hurtful things that happened. Thanks for all your wonderful stories. Blessings

  20. It is so sad what people do in the name of religion. Once I was refused communion in a Brethren church - I was held back whilst the basket was passed over me to someone else. Horrible feeling, even as an adult.

  21. Such wonderful comments; whether you are religious or not, some of the things that are done in the name of God, to young and not so young, are shameful indeed.

    Eva recovered but her respect for the church and organised religion suffered.


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