My Catholic faith has “always been at the core of my being”, stand-up comedian Frank Skinner has said.
Despite leaving the Catholic Church during his late teens, Skinner, 64, revealed that he never stopped believing.
“When I was 19, I left the Catholic Church, which was a major family turmoil,” he said during a recent appearance on BBC’s Songs of Praise.
“I left, not because I stopped believing, but I had doubts about the Catholic Church, about papal infallibility and about many other doctrines which worried me, so it was sort of a bureaucratic reason for leaving.”
Skinner told interviewer Sean Fletcher that he read every anti-Catholic book he could find to convince him that he had made the correct decision.
However, “that didn’t work”, he admitted.
“Eventually, I went to see this old priest called Fr Stibbles and I told him all this and he suddenly went ‘Come back, come on’,” he said, motioning with his hand.
Joking that the priest had carried out “a drive-by confession”, the comedian said he returned to Mass the next day and has been a “regular churchgoer ever since”.
Speaking about his recently released Comedian’s Prayer Book, Skinner revealed that prayer is very important in his life.
“I’m very interested in prayer,” he said. “I pray twice a day as a standard thing and a bit more when I’m in the bookies,” he joked.
Speaking sincerely, he continued: “I would say prayer is the only area of my life where I am completely free, honest, there’s no act, there’s no front.
“Even with your loved ones there are things where you are sensitive to what you say and what you don’t say.
“Just to have that place where you are as profoundly you as you can be.”
Skinner recalled a moment when his college class were asked by the lecturer to raise their hand if they pray. However, no hands rose and the comedian didn’t want to be the only person to do so.
“Afterwards it really nagged at me that I hadn’t put my hand up. In a way I’ve been trying to put my hand up ever since,” he said, admitting that his book is another example of this and he is not ashamed of it.
Skinner said there are two sides to his faith – having “God as a handrail” to get through the tough times and having God watch over him.
Likening God watching over him to a form of CCTV, Skinner said: “I like to think consequently it’s made me, at the very least, a good natured man.
However, admitting he has failed on this front in the past, he added: “It’s at the centre of everything and it’s partly a support but mainly it’s a challenge because you’ve got to live up to it.
“People say the true sense of freedom is to dance like there’s no-one watching but, for me, there’s always someone watching, so I live my life according to that gaze.”
Picture: Frank (right) pictured with BBC’s Sean Fletcher. (BBC).