As I waited in the surgery, I reflected on my life.
I’d always lived frugally.
“Sacrifice ‘n’ penitence wull bring ye closer tae God,” my grandmother told me.
Simplicity and devotion, I’ve based my life around these tenets. Fresh fruit and vegetables, simple cuts of meat, cooked simplistically, boiled and burnt. No sauce, nothing fancy. Overcooked and soggy meals. Highland functionary, niceties unnecessary.
“It’s sin, nae poverty whilk mak’s men miserable, bairn,” Gran would call from the scullery.
I believed her; I’m a man of faith.
Faith in God, confession on Thursdays, fish on Fridays, mass on Saturday night. A simple life.
Communion was the highlight of the week.
“Jesus said tae thaim, “I am th’ breid o’ lee; whoever comes tae me shall nae hunger, ‘n’ whoever believes in me shall ne’er thirst.”
I remember my first communion; it was the only time I saw my Gran smile. Afterwards, she beamed to Father Clifford, “he is yin o’ us noo Faither, he haes bin saved. Holy communion is th’ shortest ‘n’ safest wey tae heaven.”
The priest smiled and nodded like most people did when trying to understand her thick central brogue.
As we walked the four miles home after mass, Gran asked, “sae tell me bairn, howfur dae yer feelin’ efter receiving th’ host fur th’ foremaist time?”
“I felt the spirit of Jesus enter my body,” I answered honestly, “he is now tingling and burning in my gut. I feel a sparking energy I have never felt before.”
I feel sick, I complained when we got home, promptly running to the bathroom. I spent the next two hours expelling the host from my body.
“Th’ laird haes deemed ye, unworthy bairn, yer stowed oot o’ sin. Ah wull fetch th’ bible, ye mist read ‘n’ memorise wan Corinthians 11:27-29.”
Despite my confessions and constant prayers, I remained unworthy; my body always rejecting the host within hours of receipt. It sent Gran to her grave, moaning and wailing as she left.
“He wha rejects Christ ‘n’ does nae receive his sayings, wull be judged harshly oan th’ lest day.”
“Francis,” the doctor called, disturbing my thoughts.
I followed her to the consulting room, sat down.
“The results are in,” she said, “you’ve tested positive for coeliacs.”
As I pulled out of the carpark, thoughts of Gran returned.
“Be sure tae taste yer wurds afore ye gob thaim oot,” I said smiling before deciding to skip confession for the first time ever.
PS: Despite some priests and parishioners living with gluten intolerances or Coeliacs disease, the Catholic Church still do not provide gluten-free hosts. They offer a low gluten alternative.