January 4, 2015 – An action and a long lived reaction

“Life is too sweet for bitterness”


This is a family story I never heard until the last year or so.

In the 1930’s when my parents were planning on getting married there must have been an announcement of their plans in the newspaper or someplace.  My Grandfather Fergus Sr. received a message from the Bishop to come and see him. The Bishop told my Grandfather that he had to stop my mothers marriage.  That no way should she be marrying the son of a protestant minister.  And the Bishop made it clear there would be no wedding in his church between the young couple.

Well, my Grandfather being the wonderful person that he was told the Bishop that no way would he do such a thing but that he would have them married elsewhere if the Bishop continued and I am sure he also told him that the families support of the church would disappear.  In a community where my Grandfather was involved in many organizations, had a strong medical practice and was involved in politics it was probably not a good idea to get him really angry since he had seven more children who might be getting married in the Cathedral.

So, the Bishop said they could get married but not in the Cathedral but in the Chapel and that they could have no flowers and no music.  At some point they must have all agreed, we are getting married so let’s just do it. I am sure the Bishop did not marry them. And from the pictures both families were all there and they looked very happy and I am sure they had a lovely reception at home etc.

But what did happen as a result of all of this meanness on the part of the Bishop was my Dad’s bitterness and anger towards the Church.  He had been studying to become a Catholic some have said, although, now that I know this other story, from a letter my uncle wrote to his future bride, I think the story we have been told was not entirely accurate. We had always been told that my dad was studying in NY to join the Church and that when they went to Canada some Fr. Brown refused to accept the classes he had been taking and told him he would not be accepted into the Church in Canada unless he took instructions there which would have been impossible.  I think that was a story to protect the Bishop.

Anyway, no matter what the story over the years my dad’s bitterness never healed. But since he had nothing to do with the Catholic Church and the only Catholics he was in close contact with were his wife and children we were the ones to pay the price.  By the time I was seven I was already so angry with him that I wanted nothing to do with him.  We would get punished in the darnest ways.  In the summer on vacation one year my mom told him she wanted to take us to church on a Sunday morning somewhere out in the boonies. We found a church and he sat in the car while we went.  Afterwards he drove to a bridge and told us to stay in the car while he went fishing, he wanted to get his hour.  None of us ever thought to say anything to him, in fact he went to his death never understanding the anger some of us had towards him.

As a seven year old going to her first communion you can understand the confusion when my mom dressed me out in the back porch in a borrowed dress and veil and then as soon as the service was over it was back home, out of the dress and into play clothes while all my friends were at home having celebration parties. I had to pretend nothing had happened at all that day.

As I got older my anger grew and grew. But in those days in our house you could never say anything to anyone if you were angry or upset.  It was always “go to your room until you can be nice”. So, life went on in this fashion and we never did resolve it.  I wonder if he would have died so soon if he had been able to get rid of his anger and stop punishing us instead of that Bishop.  Even when he had been drinking and having lively discussions with our uncles it amazes me that it never came out. I wonder why my mom put up with it and did not try and get him to stop his taking it out on us. People always say, “Well, you know back then woman could not speak up” I don’t buy that at all.  My mom and dad had long discussions about lots of things.

So in thinking about the phrase above remember if you are bitter you are probably not only hurting yourself but those who love you the most because they feel it and may not know it has nothing to do with them.

And LIfe is too Sweet to waste on such things.


2 thoughts on “January 4, 2015 – An action and a long lived reaction”

  1. Margie, that’s so sad that religion caused such bitterness in your family. But I don’t think it’s unusual. I have a good friend who was in a mixed Protestant/Catholic marriage and the parents made life miserable – I don’t remember which side was responsible – they wouldn’t attend the wedding and didn’t really know their grandchildren. Doesn’t really matter.
    But the fact that you had to almost deny the fact that you had a special day (your first communion) is awful.
    I was wondering about how it came to be that you were raised Catholic if your father was Protestant. It seems to me after reading many census records that children were usually listed with the religion of their father. Or maybe I’m wrong.


    1. It was sad because it was always this cloud hanging over us all. In the Catholic Church when someone from another religion married a catholic that person signed an agreement not to interfere with the spouse raising the children in the Catholic religion. I don’t know if we do that today. Strange thing I learned recently is that his mother and all her family were Catholics and his fathers mother was Catholic as well. His mother had married a protestant minister out of the church but I am told by my old aunties that when Grandma L would visit the O’Connor’s she would ask my Grandmother O’Connor if she could go to church with her because she missed it. There is so much more to the story and this is one of those times I wish that wall had not been there and that discussion would have been open in our house so we could have asked my Dad what the story was and what his childhood was like.
      After I posted this my younger brother wrote me that when he was being confirmed my Dad made my mom go with his out of town so he had to go alone. The same thing happened to me and I even had to find my own confirmation sponsor. Thank goodness for my friend Dolly’s mother who knew someone to ask and she fixed it up for me. I was so angry that my dad made my mom go sailing with him that I am sure I truly did not receive the sacrament since I was almost homocidal. After the service I was parading out with the others and there is the back of the church was my brother John, bless his heart, he had come so I would not be alone. I was invited to the party taking place at my sponsors house for her child so I went to that. If my Dad only knew the hurt he caused and the anger I cannot believe he would have done those things. He was a fool for sure.


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