Growing Up Catholic/ The Ship Song/ Nick Cave has Given me Courage to Talk About my Catholic Upbringing and Spiritual Beliefs

Essay by Luke Foster

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

New Testament John 3:16

Some of my fondest memories as a child was going to Avalon Catholic church on a Sunday morning with mum. Mum used to bring little envelopes of cash for charity and that has made an impact on me as an adult.

The church was adjacent to a park called Dunbar Park and mum would give me some money to cross the park and go to the grocery shops to buy bread and milk. While I was doing this, she would sit with her friend Mrs Tuite and they would gossip and chat for about twenty minutes. While I was walking to the shops, I would ruminate on the teachings from the bible presented in church that day and mainly the parables.

My brother Mark is two years older than me and when he reached the age to go to 5th grade at an all-boys Catholic School at Brookvale called Saint Augustine’s College mum sent him there and I followed two years after.

Some of the friends that I met at that age are still my closest friends and although they live hundreds of kilometers away, we still text and talk on the phone often. One of them Brad now Ashraya follows the Hari Krishna faith and is in India at the moment and is now a grandfather. Another has a daughter and his name is Michael and is happily married and lives in the inner west of Sydney working as a librarian. These are kind loving friends and they have sage advice when I am having difficulties.

To be honest the best thing about high school was surfing at Bilgola Beach after school every day and on the weekend with Nick until he moved to Balmain nearer to the city. I also loved the challenges of study for my final years of 11 and 12 especially in the subjects of English, biology, ancient history, and art. I also liked geography and first heard about the phenomenon of the greenhouse effect in 1988 or 1987.However I had to drop geography as I took on advanced three-unit studies in ancient history and art.

However, it was in my ancient history class that I had Sheryl Bremner and it opened me up to the amazing world of the ancients particularly ancient Egypt and ancient Greece. More importantly she taught me how to write essays and I enjoyed doing that then as much as I do now.

However, I need to backtrack a bit to the 8th grade and I have story of a sort of mediation where my best friend Nicks father who was a previous SAS soldier sorted out a conflict where we had ostracized one of our previous friends and Nicks father Frank got us to cut it out and take Brad under me and Nicks wing and be friends again. As I mentioned earlier Brad or Ashraya is now one of my closest friends and we still hang out sometimes and listen to our favorite records and watch some of our favorite usually arthouse DVDs.

I also enjoyed art but I now find my HSC major works which were drawn with crayon on board were tacky and the colors garish. However, it was the topics of my art that haven’t changed a lot. One was sort of a self portrait by me as an old man in a church with the stained-glass window behind me titled contemplating death. And as if it was a prophesy my best friend Nick died in a work place accident the following year.

Two years before finishing school my mum paid for me to do a drawing workshop over the Christmas holidays at COFA where I would go onto study at. However, I loved it so much that I realized I just needed to cruise through my final years as I didn’t need great marks to go there just a strong art portfolio. However, considering I didn’t study a great deal and my main obsession was surfing I got a TER of 86.5.

For the next few decades after school, I kind of lost my way and only with the help of friends, shrinks, doctors and psychologists I am starting to get back on track in the last year or so.

It’s partly because I have been studying Tibetan Buddhism and the teachings of the Catholic Saints and my mind is pretty scattered to read but I do a lot of research particularly quotes on the website Brainy Quotes.

I wanted to talk about my current spiritual beliefs in the conclusion of this essay but rather I shall talk about what has brought me back to studying the teachings of Catholicism especially the saints and it was because when I last visited my mother in her nursing home in Sydney when she only had a short time to live that she said she had been praying with one of the Christian nurses and also asked me to get her some rosary beads from the Vatican in my coming Europe trip. So, it was only a few days ago that I realized mum was not just searching for solace on her deathbed but also trying to comfort me when she passed leaving me alone and not telling me to get solace from Catholicism but leading me to the realization gently. However, in hindsight after just writing this conclusion that I realized that in the past twenty years I have been finding solace in Catholicism on and off mainly in my drawing with text and also when I was in Chennai India in 2001. Some of the times I have returned to the teachings of the bible is because I love Nick Cave and in his books, and interviews and online he is very candid about his obsession with the bible and many of the lyrics in his songs allude to the parables. I also love how he is part of a band that is very democratic with creative decisions and is not an island.

HSC major work: Contemplating Death.
Me and Nick at Byron Bay.

The rug that mum had on her when she passed and the rosary beads, I got her but I was too late.
Nick Caves Ship Song.