The local men outside the church interested me as a youngster. On a point of doctrine, did it qualify as attendance at mass if you joined them outside the church or was it a matter of being inside the porch door? I suspect it must be the latter. But why did they bother at all? Does God make these sorts of distinctions? One way or the other they had the best time at mass with the exception, probably, of the priest and altar boys who as far as I was concerned always performed to full houses.
The After-mass Men were these men with the addition of a particular strain of ‘inside the door’ man, a type who appeared to me to be taking the same risk as marijuana smokers who hang out with heroin addicts. Anyway, morally,they all constituted a dodgy breed, endangering each Sunday their eternal living conditions.
These clusters of men arranged themselves in ways that would have excited a sculptor. Dark clothes and, I suspected, dark conversations reigned. They were a dangerous influence, to be avoided by such as myself, to be looked down on, to be prayed for like you’d have prayed for the conversion of Russia;and every boy risked joining them at least once.
The After-Mass Men
Remember those figures by the church wall
Sculpted in after-mass conversations:
That hung there by their jackets;
Museums with pockets,
Pockets full of knives,
pipes and matches.
Pre-Christians defiling Sabbaths
With their Saturday conversations.
Coats would be wrapped against them
As though they were sudden showers of hail.
from Sunfire (Dedalus Press)