One morning in Donegal, during the time when the penal laws forbade Catholics to assemble for Mass, a farmer herds his four black cows into a corral, along with one white one, writes Brian Doyle.
- Eureka Street
This is a sign to his fellow Catholics as to where Mass will be held at noon. This sign of four and one also means in a particular hedge under a hill. The people casually drift away from their work before noon and assemble silently around a rock where the Mass will be celebrated.
The priest is a fellow age 40. He gets halfway through the Mass, but just as he elevates the host, just as he lifts it to accept and accomplish the miracle, he is drilled between the eyes with a bullet from a British soldier on the hill. The priest falls down dead and the host flutters into the mud. The usual uproar then ensues and several men are arrested and the priest is buried in a pauper's grave.
The soldier was a man age 40 also, with a son about age ten. He finishes his year of duty in Ireland and goes home to Bristol. His son is a scholarly lad and goes to university and then into the ministry. At age 30 the boy is a curate, with all his future smiling before him, and there were many who thought he would be bishop before long.
But something happens and the boy grows more and more interested in how Anglicanism grew from Catholicism. This is a dangerous road and his superiors frown upon his inquiries, but he persists. When he is 35 he makes the break, and converts to Catholicism. Five years later he is a Catholic priest, to the immense dismay of his father.
One night the father, terribly frustrated and angry, loses his temper, and tells his son something he has never confessed to a soul, not even to his late wife, the boy's mother: that he shot and killed a priest just as the priest was about to celebrate the instant when Catholics believe the very essence of the Creator incomprehensibly enters a scrap of bread held high in the air.
The son covers his face with his hands as the father, shouting, says he never regretted that shot for an instant, and that he never made such a fine shot before or since, and that the priest and his fellow conspirators got what they deserved, just that, only that, exactly that.