When Things Go Wrong In Church - Again
....and so it started me thinking - a dangerous thing, I know. But I recalled the many weird, wonderful, happy occasions I had when I was a good little Catholic altar server. And the number of times I'd witnessed, or been a part of 'When Things Go Wrong In Church'.
The best piece of advice we were given as trainee altar servers, (y'know the little chaps in cassocks & cottas - no girls in my day! I mean, were any of the twelve apostles women? Okay - JC & Co. did walk around in long flowing robes, and were quite often concerned with the grocery shopping - loaves & fishes, water to wine etc - but they were still 'men'!) .....anywayyyyyy.....the best piece of advice we were given was - "If it all goes wrong - look 'holy' because 'they', (the congregation), don't know what's going on up here, (on the altar). " - and not a truer word was spoken. It's a sad statement to make, but church to some people was the only form of exercise they'd get all week with the 'Catholic Callisthenics'. D'you think that's where 'Simon Says' comes from? "Simon Peter says......KNEEL"......."Simon Peter says......JOIN HANDS".........."STAND UP!"......Ha - you're out - Simon Peter didn't say 'stand up' - go over in the corner with all the sinners!
But there were some classics. There was a guy whose cotta set alight when he walked past some candles - and he didn't know it. The flames wear huge and jumping up his back, when a friend of his jumped out from a bench and ripped the the thing off his back. He didn't know what was going on, and a fight nearly broke out. Very funny. Or one of my own favourite gaffs was during Benediction when using the thurible. It's an interesting device where incense is burnt in , and part of the service involves the priest 'topping up the smoke bomb' with incense. It's all matter of pulling chains to raise the lid of the metal incense dish, and to lower it again......lock them in position - (vital part of the procedure)..........and gently swing the Holy Hand Grenade to let the air flow through it to ignite the charcoal & burn the incense. Simple, right? Well, generally yes. Except..........Except one day after the priest had filled it up with enough incense to empty a lorry load of illegal immigrants, I went to the top of the steps on the altar, and turned to face the congregation to 'bless them' with the thurible. One gentle swing backwards...........then forwards.....and WHOOSH.......CLANG......CLANG.....CRASH....(SMOKE.....FIRE).........yup - the damn thing hadn't locked back into position properly and went flying down the steps and off the altar like a tear gas grenade breaking up a crowd of religious fanatics (ha !) . It was soooooooo funny & horrific at the same time. Nobody moved initially. Everyone was in shock. Then the 'Head Altar Server' signalled to me to get it sorted out.....quickly. Which I did. But where was the Health & Safety Regulations regarding 'Religious Incendiary Devices' when I needed it?
Needless to say I survived my youth as an altar server. I even got a trip to Rome to see the Pope. He was in at the time, which was nice :) It was the same year that Liverpool beat Borussia Moenchengladbach 3 -1 in the European Cup Final in the Olympic Stadium in Rome. What a game !
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