Where we live the Catholic churches are all thirty minutes apart. We had no time to rest this Sunday and were forced to attend what used to be the 5:30 LifeTeen Mass in our local parish. I guess the teens have grown up. We avoid the local Sunday Masses as much as possible because they’re offensive to to God and the Faith, but the late Mass is usually the worst of them all. The last time we tried it, the Pastor stopped during procession and tried to pull off my poor wife’s mantilla.
So I was surprised when the 5:30 Mass was almost Catholic yesterday. We had a visiting Salesian priest, but he didn’t act like one. He didn’t say too many ridiculous things about St. John Bosco, and even though the band was stuffed into the sanctuary and in front of the priest and deacon, they weren’t so terrible at all. They didn’t sing anything holy, but they didn’t sing anything ugly either. I saw people there I hadn’t seen in a while. The Church was pretty full.
I was looking forward to riding home knowing I’d survived, then it happened. No final blessing was in store. We were trapped. The smarmy rah-rah professional youth director slipped in the side and started being funny, yelling at people from the pulpit, making wisecracks, and forcing us to keep raising our hands to say how much we liked hugs. He had a new program we were all supposed to follow and take home. It was a contest to see who could hug the most people during the week.
Next our notorious pastor appeared to hug the youth director twice and the two loudmouthed compadres teamed up to steal the last bit of Holy peace from our hearts before releasing us. They let us know they were available for hugs in the back of the Church where you could also sign up for the contest. The top huggers (I could already guess who they might be) would get a free copy of Rick Warren’s “A Purpose-Driven Life.” That’s a Protestant book but hey, who cares! They hug too. It’s all about Jesus, see.
I looked up from my stint peering deep into the void to hear the final blessing. Then I waited for the final number to hit some crescendo, gave my wife a haggard smile, and headed for the doors, then guess what?
I had been musing earlier about how when you get ready to leave a dog alone in a house it gets excited because it thinks it’s going with you. It just doesn’t want to consider the fact that you’re leaving it there alone. Why even dream of the bad news? Dogs have hope. That must be why I was so surprised to find one of our 86-year old deacons blocking the exit like a bride at the end of a wedding. I waited my turn in line and tried to shake his hand instead. I was half-joking, but I really didn’t want to hug that old guy. My wife hugged him first then I cried, “I don’t wanna!” but it didn’t matter because he did wanna. So I hugged and then I heard, “We’re huggers around here, OK?”
Nice. Hug or stay out, you bastard. Mother regularly asks me why I don’t become a deacon to which I respond, “That would mean working for a pastor and a bishop, right?”
It was an ecumenical moment of religious unity. The NewChurch of Huggers shared a surprising merciful encounter of warmth and closeness with one of those Catholics (for whom hugs are selective). All that was required was for the Catholic to honor and embrace the Hugger faith for no sin against unity to have occurred.
This is all about attracting the lost sheep, yes? It’s not about driving away Catholics, no!
In few years, when our parish church is a mosque and we drive an hour to the new megachurch near the airport, please tell me it won’t be like this.
I made it to 13:10. “Oh, fer cute!”