Thirsty Thursdays & Hungry Hearts: The Papery Taste of Despair


(It’s probably not the done thing to feature a scene describing the consecration of the communion Host in a meme about food and drink.)

As a young Roman Catholic, I struggled to accept transubstantiation. I didn’t think it was disgusting (as some do — my sister, who attends a Brethren church, says RCs are cannibals O_o), just unlikely. I accepted what I was told though and didn’t think much about what it meant. These days, I view that aspect of Roman Catholic doctrine with fascination. I am not required to believe, as I am an atheist, but I do think its a mysterious, awful (in the old sense of the word) and beautiful idea.

(We used to sneak unconsecrated communion wafers out of the tin, but they are not satisfying as snacks,being too thin and disintegrating almost immediately once inside the mouth.)

I wasn’t impressed by the priest played by Richard Chamberlain in The Thorn Birds, but I still have a hopeless (and wholly chaste) crush on Damien Karras (the younger of the two Jesuits in The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty) who is the one saying Mass in the following scene from The Exorcist. I believe its his crisis of faith and the intense sadness that enveloped the character. I am currently creeping through the book , and so far (the possession has not begun), the writing is mostly schlocky and stilted, but I like this bit, especially ‘pain in a black valise’.

‘Et clamor meus ad te veniat,’ he prayed with murmured anguish. ‘Let my cry come unto Thee …’

He lifted the Host in consecration with an aching remembrance of the joy it once gave him; felt once again, as he did each morning, the pang of an unexpected glimpse from afar and unnoticed of a longlost love.

‘He broke the Host above the chalice.

‘Peace I leave you. My peace I give you …!

He tucked the Host inside his mouth and swallowed the papery taste of despair.

When Mass was over, he polished the chalice and carefully placed it in his bag. He rushed for the seven-ten train back to Washington, carrying pain in a black valise.


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