Leopold Bloom watching a Catholic Mass

Something going on: some sodality. Pity so empty. Nice discreet place to be next some girl. Who is my neighbour? Jammed by the hour to slow music. That woman at midnight mass. Seventh heaven. Women knelt in the benches with crimson halters round their necks, heads bowed. A batch knelt at the altarrails. The priest went along by them, murmuring, holding the thing in his hands. He stopped at each, took out a communion, shook a drop or two (are they in water?) off it and put it neatly into her mouth. Her hat and head sank. Then the next one. Her hat sank at once. Then the next one: a small old woman. The priest bent down to put it into her mouth, murmuring all the time. Latin. The next one. Shut your eyes and open your mouth. What?Corpus: body. Corpse. Good idea the Latin. Stupefies them first. Hospice for the dying. They don’t seem to chew it: only swallow it down. Rum idea: eating bits of a corpse. Why the cannibals cotton to it.

He stood aside watching their blind masks pass down the aisle, one by one, and seek their places. He approached a bench and seated himself in its corner, nursing his hat and newspaper. These pots we have to wear. We ought to have hats modelled on our heads. They were about him here and there, with heads still bowed in their crimson halters, waiting for it to melt in their stomachs. Something like those mazzoth: it’s that sort of bread: unleavened shewbread. Look at them. Now I bet it makes them feel happy. Lollipop. It does. Yes, bread of angels it’s called. There’s a big idea behind it, kind of kingdom of God is within you feel. First communicants. Hokypoky penny a lump. Then feel all like one family party, same in the theatre, all in the same swim. They do. I’m sure of that. Not so lonely. In our confraternity. Then come out a bit spreeish. Let off steam. Thing is if you really believe in it. Lourdes cure, waters of oblivion, and the Knock apparition, statues bleeding. Old fellow asleep near that confessionbox. Hence those snores. Blind faith. Safe in the arms of kingdom come. Lulls all pain. Wake this time next year.


Charles ParnellJoyce seems to be projecting his misgivings about the Catholic Church onto Bloom. It’s an interesting perspective as Joyce himself was a former Catholic and Bloom is Jewish.  I read the graphic biography James Joyce Portrait Of A Dubliner ( available here ) which pointed to an encounter with a prostitute as the beginning of his departure from Catholicism. Alfonzo Zapico does a great job of making some of the more dry parts of Joyce’s biography interesting. You can also follow him on Twitter ( here ) His book is definitely worth the read if you enjoy graphic novels. I also found an interesting short article that points out the parallels between Joyce, his father, and the politician Charles Parnell, and their counterparts in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. ( source ) Parnell had a lengthy affair with a married woman and when the news of it became public the Catholic Church abandoned him as an ally, an act for which Joyce’s father and eventually Joyce could not forgive. It’s clear here that Bloom see Christianity in modern terms, as an “opiate of the people”.