The Gospel According To Tomàs

Here Begin The Gospel Of Tomàs | The Room Where Faith Dies

Valladolid | The Gospel According To Tomas | Oliver Peers

My name is Tomàs. Tom, inevitably. Once, briefly, Tomek, my Tomek… Years and years. Now, in this more distant room, half a life away, I sit so taut – my skin shivers. Muscles freshly gym-trained, upper body upright, though the legs and my red pumps after the legs drag. An alert state. Big, surprised eyes, all of grey-blue-green, squinting a little in this unpleasant room, on a half paracetamol, Spanish-strength, pained by strip-lights, set in a great big, size 8 cru-cut head, which, to look at, wouldn’t much notice if you smashed hard a bottle of Grolsch on it. My face is well-boned, and in friendly fashion, an English, Saxon face, though I have never been upper-class, the underlying bone structure very well defined, but generous. I am counted by the poor people I go to serve lunch to guapo, lips, cheeks – and my skin is freshly excellent, with its light Spanish tan, and a self-prescribed daily regime of tomato and carrot juice. I make time in the college gym as often as they let me and, in addition to the muscle I’ve gained, I feel skinny. There is a non-padded, non-oily-fatty feel to my skin when touched and scrunched about my lower ribs and abdominals. Touched by air – I seem lacking in padding of any sort. I look exposed.

The Rector said to me: ‘Tomàs, I don’t know, maybe you have a vocation, but it is like you are the princess and it is the pea, and there are so many layers of the blankets between you.’

I cross my legs in a half-lotus position, for the sake of my spine, pre-dawn in the college chapel, during morning meditation – distant though most proximate noise of – whisked cars, flying outriders. The Rector said to me:

‘We are not Buddhists! Tomàs, you experiment. And it is in your breathing. This does not come from God. This disposition is foreign to us.’

He really did.

I said: ‘You said we all have a vocation.’

The Rector replied to this: ‘Well yes, you know, you say these things.’

Words. Only words. When hunger’s grip on language overwhelms. And words are solid here. Words are things. Not in synaesthetic sense: I am not tasting verbs or touching-scenting-seeing-feeling… not within the physical register. Words are things.

That was The Room Where Faith Dies, The Rector’s office, where I periodically go to account for my life in this seminary. And to cry, for faith and all life’s exiguities. And death and loss which press so closely. And – monumental dread and love. The Catholic Church.

The Rector: James Michael Keith. Monsignor. Neither fish nor flesh but of Gibraltan abstraction. There is a little square box of tissues, like your granny has, always near at hand, as in a counsellor’s consulting room, though this office, far from being bland, seems lush with treasure – books, an uninitiated game of chess on a crystal board, little polished things, few religious pictures, more in the way of family, little gifts.

We might emerge from The Room Where Faith Dies with a can-do spring in our step – or stunned utterly.

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