Parish lifehacks (n. life hacks, life-hacks)

Friday 16 October 2015 — Homeport: Falmouth Harbor — Dictionary Day

As we all know, dear readers, the newspaper column, “Hints from Heloise” has proven to be an international success. The daily column is syndicated to more than 500 newspapers. “Heloise” is the pen name of Mrs. Ponce Kiah Marchelle Heloise Cruse Evans of San Antonio, Texas.

Since no newspaper publishing company has yet approached me to syndicate “The Ship’s Log,” I’ll try another strategy. This, dear readers, is the premiere column of my new venture, “Parish lifehacks.” 

There are more than 60 dictionary definitions for the word “hack.” I’m only addressing one — lifehacks. “Lifehack,” in the common parlance, means a helpful hint, a tip, or a simple, efficient way of doing some day-to-day task. A lifehack solves a minor but annoying problem. It makes daily life a bit easier.

After 40-some years in the priesthood, I’ve accrued a lot of parish lifehacks. I’m happy to share them with my faithful readers. I have, in fact, already received several queries. 

Reverend and dear Father Know-it-all, (my nome de plume),

How do I keep the altar cloth from slipping while I’m celebrating Mass?

Father Velcro

Dear Father Velcro,

This has become a problem since the custom of using three altar cloths, one on top of another other, fell into disuse. It’s exacerbated by polyester blend fabrics. The solution is to drive to Rhode Island Huge Lot, go to the carpet department, and purchase a small roll of those rubber pad thingies people use to keep area rugs in place. Cut the pad to size. The problem of the slipping altar cloth is solved.

Reverend and dear Father Know-it-all,

Altar candles are expensive. The more beeswax they contain, the more they cost. We go through cases of them in our parish. How do I get my money’s worth? I was thinking of buying the church candles from the Christmas Spree Shop.

Sally Sacristan

Dear Ms. Sacristan,

In the Sanctuary, it’s best to use the highest quality candles your parish can afford. To make your altar candles last longer, store them in the freezer. If your pastor should complain you’re cluttering up the rectory freezer, cheerfully point out to him that you’re saving the parish lots of money. Most rectory freezers, anyway, are filled with items that should have been tossed decades ago. Your candles will last longer when pre-frozen. Also, make sure the altar servers refrain from lighting candles until a few minutes before Mass and that they extinguish them immediately following Mass. These hints will cut your candle budget at least in half.

Revered and dear Father Know-it-all,

I notice that, especially at Easter and Christmas, the potted plants in the Sanctuary eventually begin to emit a terrible order. The more I water them, the worse they smell. Last year, on the Fifth Sunday of Easter, the pastor nearly swooned from the noxious fumes. On the Sixth Sunday of Easter, to mask the smell, he used so much incense that people could hardly see the Sanctuary.

Mrs. Euphorbia Pulcherrima

Dear Euphorbia,

The problem isn’t the potted plants. The problem is the foil with which the plastic pots are wrapped. If you must use foil-wrapped pots, carefully turn them over and slice the foil before setting them in saucers. This will allow water to drain. The stench is caused by stagnant water. The added benefit is that your potted plants will last longer. The main cause for the premature demise of indoor plants is overwatering. I gently suggest you forego foil altogether and disguise the pots with something else — perhaps fabric or artificial greens. 

Reverend and dear Father Know-it-all,

I’m an ordained deacon and I have a problem. My shoelaces are always coming untied. I often trip and fall while performing my Sacred duties. It’s very embarrassing. Once, I tripped while incensing the priest celebrant. The live coals burned holes in the Persian carpet. The altar server extinguished the smoldering rug with a handy bucket of holy water. The priest started jumping up and down. Seems a burning coal had landed on his foot. Unfortunately, he was wearing his Franciscan sandals. Am I just a klutz?

Deacon Knot Tiedwell

Dear Deacon Knot,

Not to worry, deacon, you are not a klutz. The problem is that you are not tying your shoes correctly. It’s hard to believe, but most small children are taught to tie their shoes improperly. Look down at your shoes. Are the bows facing vertically or horizontally? My guess is that they are vertical. To stay tied, they need to be horizontal. You would do well to relearn the basic task of tying your shoes. You’ll find a helpful instructional video on YouTube. 

So, there you are dear readers — the launch of my new column, “Parish lifehacks.” Now, I’ll sit back and wait for the newspaper syndicates to phone. I wonder which will call first: the New York Times, the Washington Post, or perhaps the Wall Street Journal. It would make a lovely feature in their Sunday editions.

This may be a long wait.

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

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