Oh, joy

Wednesday 30 April 2014 — Homeport: Falmouth Harbor — Last day of Holy Humor Month

I had a lot of fun during Lent and Holy Week. Fun is not something normal people associate with Lent. Perhaps, dear readers, I’m not normal? Perish the thought.

It began on Ash Wednesday. Father Peter John and I decided to walk next-door to Betsy’s Diner for a little something to eat. We wanted a light lunch. Father Peter John decided on the macaroni and cheese. I got the clam chowder. “No soup for you!” the waitress blurted out. Then she sheepishly explained, “You see, Father, the chef puts a small strip of bacon in the kitchen soup pot. Of course, you can order it if you really want to,” she said. Far be it from me to break the Lenten regulations. “No, no. I’ll just have the mac and cheese. Thank you.”

As we were leaving the diner, there behind the counter stood the owner, the entire wait staff, and the chef — all with broad smiles on their faces. “We hear our waitress saved you from sin, Father.” Then they broke into uncontrollable laughter and ran off. Even on Ash Wednesday I couldn’t remain straight-faced. 

After lunch, it was back to the church for the distribution of ashes. I’m never one to skimp on religious signs and symbols. None of these thumb prints for me. As I was copiously distributing the blessed ashes, I began to hear suppressed giggles percolating from the people in my line. I realized the generous cross of ashes was especially obtrusive on bald-headed men. How am I to know where their foreheads end? 

On the next Wednesday in Lent, I skipped Betsy’s and drove to the Dippin’ Doughnuts instead. At the service window I ordered coffee with a bacon, egg, and cheese wrap. Suddenly a voice blared over the loud-speaker. “Father, did you forget this is a Lenten Wednesday? Don’t you want just egg and cheese?” “That’s only on Ash Wednesday,” I answered, “not every Wednesday of Lent!” I couldn’t commit a sin in the Town of Falmouth even if I wanted to. 

Finally the Easter Triduum arrived. At Morning Prayer on Holy Thursday, the sanctuary was stripped, the tabernacle empty, and the bells silenced. As we sang the ancient psalms, the steeple bells rang out. Wait a minute. I had forgotten to shut off the darn bells. Oh well, better late than never. But we searched high and low and just couldn’t find the key to the bell control cabinet. The problem of the lost key was solved when Father Peter John quickly picked the lock. No, I didn’t ask where he had learned this skill, but I considered inquiring. 

Then we had another problem. The antique gold chalice used only on special occasions was locked away in a safe. We open that safe so infrequently nobody could remember the combination off-hand. Again Father Peter John saved the day. He cracked the safe. OK, that’s it. I won’t ask the question because I really don’t want to know the answer.

In the afternoon of the Vigil of Easter, Father Peter John and I set up the floral displays with the help of the local florist and placed all the implements that would be required for the complicated rituals of the Easter Vigil. We were careful to set out our special aspergillum with which to sprinkle the assembly. It looks like a small broom with a short handle. It was given to me by a priest who had brought it back from Eastern Europe.

Late in the afternoon, I went back into the church for final inspection. There I found a member of the parish group who call themselves the “Altar Angels.” They come when nobody is around to tidy up, dust, and polish. “Father, Father,” the elderly angel said excitedly. “Somebody left a little old broom behind and it’s just the right size for me to sweep the floor.” “How nice. Where is it now?” I asked nonchalantly. “Oh, I put it back in the broom closet so I know where it is next time.” I didn’t have the heart to tell her it was our special aspergillum

Our aspergillum was none the less for wear. That “old broom” splashed plenty of Holy Water on Easter Sunday. We didn’t miss a single person. I know because I asked the congregation. Nobody had more fun than the little children, who laughed, giggled, and chanted, “Do it again! Do it again!” It really was great fun. Come to think of it, I probably had more fun than the kids.

Joy is a sure sign of the presence of God. Part of our distinguishing characteristic as Catholics is the sheer joy of our faith. We can be solemn without being dour. We can allow ourselves to be human as we stand before Divinity. I bet God laughs out loud when we take ourselves too seriously. I bet God thinks it’s a hoot. Enjoy!

Anchor columnist Father Goldrick is pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth.

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