Monday, January 04, 2010

Sacrilege

I was in attendance at a Mass, at a church which was a slightly larger version of St. Phillips Catholic Church, my first parish in Texas. Before Mass, I'd assisted the sacristan (who was crippled) in setting up the altar and laying out the vestments. In the short time that we had to set everything up for the new pastor, something had slipped through the cracks. When the priest arrived to say Mass, the congregation was all in attendance, and the church was packed with people. He immediately noticed what we had missed and had stormed out of the sacristy, leaving both of us wondering what was wrong. He drove his scooter over to the other sacristy to see if we had left something over there that needed to be in the main sacristy, and in the time that it took him to leave, the new pastor had come back into the sacristy. He was in a bit of a tizzy, and demanded to know if I was the head sacristan. I said that I was his assistant, and before I could get out anything else, he glanced across the altar through the open door leading to the sanctuary and demanded that the sacristan drive his scooter across the sanctuary and "Get back here now!". I got a small adrenaline rush, and was filled with anger towards this new priest, because he wouldn't let me explain that it was I who had set up everything and it was therefore not the sacristan who needed correction. So as the sacristan had to climb steps in his wheelchair to follow the priests directions, it took him longer than if he had taken his normal route.

Suddenly, the priest left the sacristy and announced to the entire church that this man (pointing at the sacristan who was now at the center of the sanctuary) was the reason why Mass would be starting late. My rage kicked into full gear as I heard the announcement, and I then stormed out of the sanctuary, grabbed the priest by his collar and slammed him into the wall. I yelled at him that I was the one responsible for setting up everything, and not the poor head sacristan. He said that it didn't matter: as the head sacristan, it was the crippled man's responsibility to see that everything had been taken care of, and since it wasn't, this was the best way to make sure that nothing like this ever happened again. I was at a complete loss for words, so I released his collar and slapped him across the face as hard as I could. I was seeing only red, but through this, I could tell that had an effect. Whether it was the desired effect or not was a different matter. The red subsided and I then saw that my action had not had the desired effect, as the priest was only madder than ever, and was preparing to leave the church altogether, thus denying the congregation the Mass for which they had all gathered.

I quickly apologized to the priest admitting that I was wrong in striking him, but following that up with a "but you shouldn't have...", effectively weakening the apology. The end result was we both got sent away from the sacristy, and the new pastor had to fend for himself. No lectors, acolytes, deacons, ushers -- no one wanted to work for him, and no one would step up to take the place of those who stepped down. He had killed the parish by stepping into it.

1 comment:

Verivox said...

Wow, that is quite fascinating. Glad that wasn't real.