It’s odd what provokes a memory.
My maternal grandmother was raised in a Catholic orphanage in the Scranton area; it was not a positive experience for her, thus neither she nor her children remained in or joined the mother church. Her youngest brother remained in the faith however. It was her brother Tom’s death that delayed my coming out to my parents for a week or two. Tom’s wife, Aunt Mary, remained pretty faithful until a child molesting priest was transferred to her local parish in order to remove him from his previous assignment. Mary told the church officials that she would neither contribute nor attend mass as result of them harboring this man. Aunt Mary died a few years later and guess who the Monsignor decided to send to lead the funeral.
Most of the people in attendance at the funeral service were my grandmother’s children and grandchildren there may have been only three Catholics there. Father Pervert arrived at the funeral home smelling of cigarettes and cheap whiskey for an 11:00 AM service. He had to be reminded of Mary’s name and he knew absolutely nothing about her.
The good Father’s altered state only enhanced his lisp and inability to say the letter R, he kept losing his place, forgetting Mary’s name, referred to her son Tom as Thomas (no one ever called him that) and was so confused by the fact that the entire room said a different version of the Lord’s Prayer that it took him a good minute or two to regroup and continue the very rushed service. The funeral director was less than amused, my mother and her older sister had steam coming out of their ears and my sister, brother and I just kept giggling.
There was no mass so after the words at the funeral home we went directly to the cemetery. My father and I stood to the back of the crowd so my aunts and uncle could be up close to be near the immediate family. Father Pervert again messed up on Mary’s name, lost his place because the wind and rain kept flipping the pages of his book and the worse things got the worse his lisp got and now he sounded like the priest from the Princess Bride. My giggles became chuckles; my father would not look at me because he knew he would crack up too.
To my left was a very old man, no doubt and old friend of my great aunt. Father Pervert said something stupid so I looked away from my dad at the old man who took that moment to unleash some of the loudest flatulence that I have ever heard in my life and not just once but a whole series of them. That was it, my quiet chuckle became very loud whoop and uncontrollable very loud laughter. My mom and her sister turned around and glared at me and looked to my father with a “Why can’t you control him” look. I looked at my father and he was bright red and his shoulders were moving up and down as he was trying to suppress his laughter. I could not. I ran away and tried to hide behind some large tombstones but it was no good. We were in a part of Easton Heights Cemetery that was a fairly narrow valley and my whoops and gasps for air just echoed off the hills and the tombstones. I remained hidden behind Mr. Gerstel’s tombstone until almost everyone had left.
With tears still streaming down my face I climbed into my father’s car with my sister, parents and two aunts. “What was that all about, I cannot believe you have such little self control and discipline?” I explained and soon the entire car was bouncing up and down and the windows steamed up from the tears and laughter. None of could even look at each other at the luncheon because we would all just break down and fall into mad and foolish laughter.
Maybe it was our sadness from losing a much loved family member or maybe it was our frustrations at having Father Pervert make a mockery of Aunt Mary’s funeral but that day laughter was the best medicine for our healing.
· Today’s announcement that the much maligned Cardinal of Philadelphia was resigning as a result of his inability to properly deal with Father Pervert and his kind is what brought this memory back.