A new unexpected bonus from having a vocation was that people would give you money – and lots of it. Before I set off to be a priest I was told by my mother to go around the houses of relatives and friends of the family.
This was an absolute goldmine. Generally they would give you a ten-shilling note. This was the equivalent to only 50p in today’s currency but it was worth a lot more then. It would buy 20 chocolate bars.
To give you some kind of perspective my weekly pocket money was 10d, whereas a ten shilling note was worth 120d. So I was getting 12 weeks pocket money at every house I would visit.
And it wasn’t a one-off!
Every time I came home from the college I would go and visit my aunts and uncles and family friends and I would receive more money.
I would usually get between 6 and 8 of these so I was getting around a year and a half’s pocket money from just one trip around the town.
My Brother’s Vocation
Years later my brother ‘got a vocation’ and went off to the same place. My parents always suspected that it was the financial benefits that attracted him but he always denied it vociferously enough that they gave him the benefit of the doubt. After all, this was a second chance to have a son become a priest.
I didn’t always get it at the end of the summer either just before I went back. I got some of them at the beginning and this made for very pleasant summers with a whole heap of money in my pocket.
Why they all gave me money I don’t know. A ten-shilling note was a lot of money then and was quite a significant part of their weekly pay packet after tax. In fact my guess would be it would be close to 10% of their weekly take home pay.
I have wondered if I was getting their ‘contribution to God’ and that I would remember them when I became a priest.
Generosity of Heart
I think it was mainly down to their generosity though and their feeling of duty to help a member of what was quite a close family in the early days when there was an opportunity for one of their number to make something of himself at an early age.
One sometimes felt a little guilty at some of the things I spent this money on. Would they have felt that part of their money should go on things like a Lemon Meringue Pie?
I also bought a Brownie camera at some expense and took lots of pictures which were quite expensive to get developed in those days.
I probably had more spare and ready-to-spend cash in those days as an 11-13 year old boy than I would have till I got well into my twenties.
Joining the Chosen Ones
Those were great days – and I had joined the Chosen Ones as well.
Life could not have been sweeter.
The future could not have been brighter here on earth – and then there was a good spot available to be had in the hereafter as well.
This was the mid sixties and it was a pretty hopeful time anyway.
And I was right near the front of the queue.