I used to be real holy when I was a kid. My friend Danny and I were going to go to Commie China and get martyred. It was quite the rage in those days. This was all pre-puberty.
Ellen and Chris are Catholics, too. I'm sure they were not as holy as me when I was a kid, but this husband-wife team was still moved spiritually for some reason last weekend. Parishioners at the Church of St. Philip and St. James in nearby Phillipsburg, NJ, they decided to seek solace on Holy Saturday in the warm embrace of Holy Mother Church. Around noon, they walked inside the church and sat at a pew in the back.
Why they were thinking about God instead of an Easter ham dinner is any one's guess.
Well, Rev Msgr Michael J Corona straightened them out. He was at the front of this large church with a group of people. He spun around and evicted Ellen and Chris with these very Christian remarks.
"We're closed! You have to leave. You have to get out."
Apparently, he had more important things to do than put up with a bunch of losers who wanted to waste a nice day praying. They should have been golfing or buying ham at Wegmans or something.
I decided to check things out, called the church, and got a recorded greeting that started right off with "God bless you!." That's nice. I then listened to about twenty different options, including one that told me to press "8" for Bingo information. I was waiting for the Powerball number when I finally spoke to the operator, Tracy, and asked if she would put me in touch with the Monsignor.
I was put on hold for about five minutes, but I didn't mind a bit. I was just blessed by God, and now a relaxing Franz Schubert piano sonata was playing in the background. I was nodding off when Deacon Bill, who is also business manager, popped on the line. He took my phone number and told me that the monsignor, a very busy man, would call the next day. I promised to wait for him before writing anything.
Amazingly, about an hour later, I received a telephone call from Deacon Bill. Instead of saying "God bless you," this time he told me he would be recording our conversation.
- "You mean, you're asking for my permission to record this conversation?"
"I don't need your permission."
God's representative on earth explained he was taping this call because he wanted to make sure that what I report is accurate. Whatever happened to the good old days? Back when I was a kid, I was convinced that a lightning bolt would zap me or I'd be automatically excommunicated me if I strayed from the Word of God. But the modern church has replaced the Spanish Inquisition with tape recorders.
Ain't progress grand?
Deacon Bill probably doesn't know this, but in Pennsylvania, where he called me, both parties must consent to recording a telephone conversation. In the process of covering his ass, he may have burned it.
Oopsie. Don't worry, I won't dime God's representative on earth.
Monsignor Corona was apparently too busy with Monsignors Budweiser and Michelob to speak with me directly. Deacon Bill served as Holy Mouthpiece. Apparently, the Monsignor and a bunch of other holy rollers were in the midst of cleaning and decorating the church for the Easter Vigil, another biggie, when they were rudely interrupted by a couple who wanted to pray. Parishoners Ellen and Chris were ordered to leave, but there's a chapel in the back of the church somewhere where people can pray anytime they want.
- "Did the monsignor tell these folks they could pray in a chapel?"
"I don't know. I wasn't there."
- "Well, do you see that this is why the Monsignor should be talking to me? Do you think Jesus would tell these folks to get out? Maybe you can clue me in. I'm not a monsignor or a deacon. I'm just a lousy Catholic. Maybe there's something I don't know, but I always thought Jesus wanted people in his church."
Deacon Bill may have had a tape recorder, but he had no answer. Jesus does. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in ... ." I'm pretty sure Monsignor Corona earned no brownie points at the front office with his Holy Saturday eviction.
As for Ellen and Chris, they'll be pulling their daughter out of CCD this week. My brother, who ditched the seminary for a wife, has one piece of advice for this couple. "They can pray anywhere they want. They don't need to be in a church."
Maybe he should have been a priest after all.