Saturday, June 19, 2010

Father Nasty: An Amusing Interlude, Dream Inspired and Recalled

I think dreams are amazing, but my philosophy about them is the opposite of most who try to interpret them. Generally, my perception of dreams is to figure out what aspect of my life--what event, person, conflict, etc.--inspired them, and consequently, how I really feel about that aspect of my life through what I dream about in relation to it.

I had a dream last night about telling a story about my experience working as an altar server at my local church. I'm not sure what inspired it, but it did remind me of a great story from years and years back.

I come from a Catholic family, and when my siblings and I were growing up, every Sunday, we went to mass in the morning. Although this was not quite our favorite activity, I recall that we were pretty well behaved overall, mostly because we knew what the consequences would be should we step out of line. When I was around 10 or 11years old, I decided to become what our church called a "cross bearer." Basically, it was a way to get kids, particularly girls, involved in the mass. There was a legion of alter boys who directly assisted the priest, but at the time, girls were banned from that position. Our church thought it would be a nice to let girls lead the procession in and out of the church instead. A cross bearer would dress in the same robes as alter boys and would carry a large, brass cross in front of the priest, the alter boys, and the readers on the way up and down the aisle before and after mass. Cross bearers would sit, segregated off to the side of the altar with the readers, while the priest and the alter boys settled directly in front of the altar for the duration.

In 1992, Pope John Paul II changed this policy--girls could now serve on the altar with the priests. In response to this, and in order to include more young people in the mass, the altar servers were divided into groups of five. In each group of five, there were two altar servers, one cross bearer, and two candle bearers to accompany the cross bearer. The participants would rotate between jobs every week they were assigned, so everyone got a chance to serve in each of the available positions. The two priests that served our church were at the forefront of initiating these changes and training the female former-cross bearers for new responsibilities.

Fairly soon after the turnover, one of the priests was notified of a family emergency back home in Ireland, and he returned there for a few months to attend to it. To make up for the loss, the diocese rotated in other priests from other local communities.

One of these gained the nickname "Father Nasty."

Father Nasty was a short man, in his mid-sixties, who, at first, seemed to be a nice guy. My group of altar servers was the first to work with him. We all dressed in the same place, so he got to see the small band of five people, made up of two young men, one very young lady, and two older girls--myself and my friend, Cathy. After dressing, we saw to the general responsibilities before the mass, and it became apparent to Father Nasty that he wouldn't be working directly with the two boys on the team. Instead, Cathy and I were assigned to be his direct altar servers, and it was clear as soon as he realized this that he wasn't a big fan of his Holy Father's decision.

We processed in, and once we got to the altar, his dissatisfaction was clear not only to us, but also to the congregation as a whole. On top of it all, Cathy and I were both about four inches taller than Father Nasty, and I am sure this only contributed to his negative attitude. Nothing we did was right--nothing. When we set up the altar for the second half of the mass--the part focusing on the bread and wine--he literally rearranged everything we did. He took the Bible and literally plunked it down on the other side of the sacred service with a scowl. The worst part, though, came soon after. At one point, the altar servers must wash the priest's hands with holy water stored in a cruet on the side of the altar space. Cathy went to retrieve this item, and I met her where the priest was standing at the left side of the altar with a plate, to catch the water, and a napkin. Just as she started to tip the cruet to pour the water, Father Nasty hissed,

"GO get more holy water. There isn't enough."

Now, how he could have possibly known this was beyond both of us. Cathy and I had set the altar up before the mass started, and he hadn't lifted, let alone tread near, the holy water cruet at any point before or during the mass.

Cathy's face registered a combination of shock, surprise, and fear.
"Now?"

The subsequent look on his face was all the answer she needed, and she rushed down the side aisle and back to the dressing room to obey his instructions.

The mass was "on hold" for about two and a half minutes, and it felt like a lifetime. Needless to say, the mass couldn't end soon enough for Cathy and me. Fortunately for us, though, Father Nasty made no friends in our congregation by his actions. Somehow, this may have gotten back to him--or perhaps, he had some kind of divine revelation--because the next time we worked with him, although we were holding our collective breath the whole time, he was much more pleasant and even thanked us in the end.

Why did I dream about telling this story? I have no idea, but I woke up thrilled to have recollected it.

11 comments:

JUST ME said...

I dreamed I was dating both my boyfriend and George Clooney last night. It. Was. AWESOME.

Meg said...

It's weird the things that come back to us in dreams.

The villager: said...

A great story !

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Thanks for tewlling this story. It seems like Father Nasty did realise he'd overstepped the mark.

Nic said...

The thing that strikes me about this story is that it's yet another tale of supposedly-religious people being unremitting a-holes.

I'm glad someone saw fit say something to him about it.

Constructive Attitude said...

I have the randomest dreams about stuff. I dont know what to make of them when i remember them.

Sarah said...

Wow, what a story! I think I'll start trying to remember my dreams and see what comes of it.

Sarah said...

Wow, what a story! I think I'll start trying to remember my dreams and see what comes of it.

Chris said...

Were was I during this? If you and Cathy were there, then I most certainly was as well!

pilgrimchick said...

Since this was a regular mass, I don't think you were at this one. If I remember correctly, you were in another, different group of five that, I believe, included your brother. However, we did serve together several times, in particular at special, unusual masses. I remember one (Easter Vigil or Holy Thursday...) when there was a possible 9 readings, and no one told us how many there would be before we had to set up the altar and turn on the lights. It was so dark, that we couldn't even read the missle to figure it out.

Remember when your brother had a reputation for passing out on the altar? I certainly can sympathize--there was NEVER any air circulation up there.

Lana Gramlich said...

I'm glad to say I've had NO personal dealings with any sort of organized religion for years now. I'm sorry y'all got treated like $h!t. Not entirely surprised, but sorry nonetheless.