Saturday, December 23, 2006

ALTERED BOYS


I awoke to the ringing of my windup Westclox. Another early morning getting ready to go out in the cold to do what I had done many times since third grade. Now in fifth grade I was getting restless and inattentive and felt drawn into an existence of repetitive nature.

That existence was the realm of the altar boy, the attendant to the Priest during Catholic mass.

I looked at the thermometer, it read 30 degrees, below zero and it was not even dawn.
Walking at 5:30 AM in that cold, made the snow squeak under my shoes as I walked to the church, steam locomotives on the other side of town sounded so loud, like they were coming right down the street. My breath clouding my vision, not a person anywhere to be seen as I squeak my way along.

Arriving at the church I heaved the side entrance door open to warmth once again.
I looked around the church and it was silent, votive candles flickering light from the very back.
The main door opened and several people came in, I scooted back to the vestibule and waited. Soon the bell ringer would show up to ring the church bell signaling that services would commence soon.

My partner Dave came in stomping the snow off his shoes, we had done this many times before and we knew the drill. Don the cossacks that altar boys wore and the foo foo white shirt, after trying on several we found ones that fit.

The priest showed up and walked through without comment. The church was filling up rapidly. After getting the cruets filled with water and wine and set out, we were ready for Mass.

This is where it got real boring, repeating Latin following the priests lead, yawning begins, followed closely by fidgeting and squirming, numerous stand-kneel-stand-kneel movements and finally after Communion, the whole thing was over and we all left the altar.

The priest thanked us and we left to return to the cold of the Minnesota winter. By now the Sun was rising and the real picture of the cold was painted, smoke rising from many before invisible chimneys and the sound of car tires squeaking on the snow leaving the early morning mass on that Christmas day.

I returned to my house, chilled but encouraged, I saw presents under the tree and mom was in the kitchen frying Christmas Sausage, Dad was reading the paper. How did mass go? mom asked, fine I said, can we open presents now? Soon she said, soon.

Seemed like I had been awake a very long time, Santa had come and gone without a trace except for the packages left under the tree. Actually I had long ago realized the Santa ruse was over but played along anyway. The smell of the Christmas Sausage fully engulfed the house top to bottom with it's delicious odor, I had forgotten about the presents, those thoughts were replaced by hunger. Breakfast was served, presents can wait for now.

Merry Christmas to one and all!!! Peace on Earth!!!

34 comments:

Gerald said...

What do I remember about my Catholic school years?

Two episodes are it.

The first occurred after our eighth grade graduation party and I had too much to drink and the nuns were going to rescind my eighth grade diploma. My parents had to show up and the nuns let me enroll into high school.

The second occurred in the eleventh grade because I mentioned to the coach that one of the nuns felt he treated the players too harshly. Of course he went to the nun complaining. The nun found out it was me and I was going to be expelled from school but since we lived in the parish for years, I was given another chance.

I kept my nose clean in the twelfth grade and I graduated from high school.

Keeping my nose clean has pissed me off. Now, in retirement, I am a proud member of the KMA club. Yes, people can kiss my ?.

Gerald said...

The truth that's all I want

Gerald said...

That's what I really want for Christmas. Because I'm "sick and tired of hearing things from uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocritics. All I want is the truth, just gimme some truth."

Gerald said...

Let's put Christ back into Christmas

Gerald said...

"Murder is not a mission or a calling or a career. If you go to West Point or the Air Force Academy to get a degree in it, it's still murder. All the fancy words your superiors come up with: retaliation, extreme prejudice, overwhelming force, collateral damage, smart-this and pin-point-that cannot alter that all these words mean murder.

"Wearing a uniform does not to stop it being murder, doing it for your country does not stop it being murder. Clicking on an icon a thousand miles away does not stop it being murder. Sending a command to a robot does not stop it being murder. If your sergeant tells you to do it it's murder, if you are told by your officer to tell an enlisted man to do it, all three of you commit murder. It's murder if a court absolves you of all wrongdoing. It's murder if a man of God blesses the weapon you murder with. It's murder if you vote for someone who tells others to murder in your name. It's murder if the one you murder has murdered.

"And if you say God told you to murder - I say to you it is not God you are listening to.

"Thou shalt not kill. There are no exceptions."

That I believe, is the Christ we need to put back into Christmas.

Jeanne said...

Gerald,
What do you need to do to join the KMA club? I think I might be a candidate for such an organization.

Jeanne said...

Den,
When my brothers were alter boys my dad would forget them week after week and we'd have to go back and get them.
I remember after church going to Bridgemans for a malt. That was so good.
I remember the Latin masses. I love the latin masses.

Oh and I remember the 30 degrees below zero weather. Even the hot steam stops moving as it leaves the buildings. Your breath freezes in your lungs.

Jeanne said...

Sal,
That was a wonderful story. We have a Santa Cop program in my town and I like think it makes a difference. Your story, told so many years later, tells me it does.

Gerald said...

Jeanne, you can be any age to join the KMA club. Usually, some people wait to join until they are retired and more secure in their person. As a retired person I have no supervisor to control me or watch over me. I can say KMA if I have something bugging me and not worry about being fired from the job.

The KMA club is good for people who do not depend on an evaluation from some supervisor or who have the means to survive without the approval of another person. Usually a retired person may have social security and hopefully a pension to help with the difficult times.

But, feel free to join at any age! Your artistic daughter may already be a member of the KMA club.

Nazi America wants to take away our social security and our pensions so that there are no KMA club members in our fascist country. This will give the despotic rulers total control over our lives until we are ready to die.

Gerald said...

Praying for Peace

Gerald said...

A Course in Miracles says that God does not give us victory in battle; rather, He lifts us above the battlefield. Our greatest spiritual contribution to this moment is to remember, in the words of the Course, that "beyond this world is a world I want." Beyond this three dimensional reality where the horrors of war are raging, there is another field of possibility alive in the Mind of God. Our work as individuals is to claim that world beyond this one, with passion and conviction; it is a world in which Jews and Arabs and Christians -- and everyone else as well -- are united not through the body but through the spirit. Close your eyes and see with your Inner Eye what the newspapers cannot show you. See the light withinn every Israeli, the light within every Palestinian and Lebanese, the light within every human heart, emerge from the center of their souls and then merge into One. See this, hold onto the vision, pray that it become a reality on the face of the earth, and then surrender it into the hands of God.

Gerald said...

God bless Lebanon. God bless Israel. God bless every child of God. And God, please help us to live in peace. We need a miracle. And we need it now.

Amen.

Gerald said...

Have you ever known or seen a person more stupid than Hitler Bush?

Alan said...

Who knew?? I mean, that so many of 'us' are Catholic. I'm not, so... The friends I had growing up that were Catholic, especially the ones that had any experience at Catholic schools, were the wildest and most often in trouble. All that pent-up frustration looking for an escape route, and all that. My immediate neighborhood didn't have alot of kids to play with. Two brothers, one alot younger lived down the block, and a Catholic family slightly down the block and across the street had 4 boys approximately our (my brother is 2 yrs older) age. Two were older 'n than me, and two were younger. We could get a f'ball game going between just our two families. haha They also had several younger sisters, so as good Catholics you can see there were no birth control methods being used. A funny memory was my mom saying... "Those damn Catholics sin all week and repent on Sundays!" haha *ducks* (in case any of you guys are throwing things at me)

DEN said...

UH, Carrot top the non comedian?

You are right Gerald, we do need a miracle, of Biblical proportions, to get us out this mess, too many hungry, too many poor, too many dead.

I figure if God is watching us, he will know what to do. We might not like it though.

Humans living on Earth and turning his work into a toxic ashtray probably has not made any brownie points with him either.

Alan said...

Long as I'm in trouble already, I might as well give now my fav response at work when asked what I got for xmas.
I usually respond with...

I got a shirt and a piece of p*ssy... both too big.

lol

Gerald said...

I am a sinner. I would like to say that I'm a recovering sinner but I do not know if it is possible to be a recovering sinner. Since I am in a continious 12 step program for sinning, I am hoping some of the people that I have sinned against can read my posts and forgive me.

Carey said...

Den,

WHAT ARE YOU DOING UP AT 4:00am??

I had no idea so many of us were Catholics either. I'm not either but I was raised Episcapalian.

Instead of Christmas memories I'd like to offer a timely chuckle from Rosa Brooks.

Time For That Old Bush Magic

Waking up to a Christmas head cold I read the headlines "Generals Say More Troops Needed in Iraq". Say what??? The dictatorship is complete. Now the Generals acqiesce to the demands of the almighty chimpster?

Pray hard this Christmas. Bless the troops in those prayers which I know we will all do.

Thank you all for your Christmas memories. They're lovely and give me a warm feeling except for the freezing cold parts.

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Carey said...

Gerald,

Being in a 12 step program is no sin. It is redemption.

Carey said...

I actually spelled the religion I was raised in wrong!!! Episcopalian.

Actually, as I got older I was confirmed in a Methodist church at age 14. So I don't have any one religion.

Jeanne, I remember attending those Latin masses with my Catholic friends. I liked all the kneeling. You appeared very worship-like I thought. We did that in Episcopalian churches too.

º¿carol said...

The only reason I've EVER gone into a church after I graduated was for weddings and funerals. I figure with mass 6 days a week for 12 years, plus all the funerals during grade school I had to leave class to play organ for, I don't need to hear another mass. Heh.

º¿carol said...

Gerald, I think Al's Lounge lost a lot of business when Fleetwood closed down. They hung on for many years, but ultimately had to give it up.

I got in BIG trouble freshman year at St. Francis Xavier. Me and two friends decided to skip stations of the cross one Friday during Lent. Got a call from a nun around dinner time, asking why I wasn't at stations. I told her Paulette got sick and we took her home. When they talked to Paulette she said we skipped! Shit!

When the three of us went back to school Monday we had to go to the office and Mother Superior told us to write an essay on the 8th commandment. None of us knew what it was and had to go look it up.

º¿carol said...

Den, Bob was an altar boy, too. He said the priest used to drink the wine in the vestry before they went out for mass.

Jeanne, your dad forgot your brothers? Today that would probably be called child abuse and he would be arrested and you kids would be taken away, blah, blah, blah.

º¿carol said...

When you Minnesota people talk about 30 below I am SOOOO glad we didn't move there in the 70s! Ten below here is already way too cold. I'm glad it doesn't hang at that temp very often. We're still cruising around 40°, very unusual for this time of year.

º¿carol said...

I was on my feet in the kitchen for about 6 hours today! Sheesh. Feels good to sit down at my computer. The kids will be here the next two days so I'll probably get behind but I'll read from where I left off. I don't want to miss anything.

Merry Christmas to all. Now I think I'll go get myself a beer. I deserve it. Oh, Gerald, don't worry, I won't get a glass for it.

OH, DEN! We got a gift from a guy Bob works with of ten bottles of different micro brewery beers. I put them in the fridge and tomorrow when everyone gets here we'll so some sampling. We'll all share each kind and rate them. That will be fun.

Gerald said...

Carey, I'm in the 12 step program to try and avoid sin that will lead to redemption.

Carol, the closing of an auto factory in the area was probably another reason for the closing of Al's Lounge.

Gerald said...

My kind of woman drinks beer from the bottle or from the can!!!

Gerald said...

Lay Down Your Weapons

David B. Benson said...

There used to be, years ago, lots of rabbits right around here. They seem to have gone and this past summer there were quail instead.

But it snowed last night and this morning there were some rabbit tracks in the snow. So at least one rabbit has stayed around or else move back in. :-)

Season's Greetings to one and all!

DEN said...

I hope every body can take a bit of time to sip some beers, that way I know I will not be drinking alone!!

Gerald, you are being way too serious , "tis the season to be merry" there will be plenty of time ahead to be serious. Tip back a brew and enjoy Christs day. I don't think beer is a sin unless you drink too much.

Carol, Jeanne, my kids tell me it is pretty mild weather for Dec. in Minn. Like Erlings' Norway, unseasonably mild.

Carey, I thought I was going to have to send the Highway Patrol out to look for you! You need backup.

Microbrews are interesting to try, lots have a high alcohol content and you will be zooming along in no time.

David, where there is one bunny, there are more, and more, and more!

One sorta shopping day left tomorrow, then relax, it's almost over!

David B. Benson said...

Den --- More and more bunnies? Good. Better than more and more squirrels, which are not native here.

Anyway, I am now going to go take your advice about supporting the price of barley. Slurp!

O'Reilly said...

Den,

You really took me back. I too served as an alter boy.

The cassoks and vestments and wine and water and ringing the bell to signal transubstantation - the miracle of faith.

Father O'Toole liked his wine unadulterated and repeatedly cautioned us before mass, "One drop of water will do it, no more!"

Father L kept his head still so his toupe wouldn't slip. In conversation, he listened to people so closely and so intently, it was a little disconcerting but he was a good man with a big heart.

Father Jim was only ten years older than us. He was good with adults and kids alike. He was intelligent and charming. So family families made a pointof welcoming him into their homes. We were all sad when he was reassigned. Stupid church hierarchy.

When I was in junior high, I was a go to guy for funeral masses during the school day. I guess because I always said yes. Usually, I didn't know the family or the deceased. After a time, I felt rather callous not having an emotional reaction to the death of the person or the loss of the family. I knew then it was time to pass on the requests to serve funeral masses.

I have delightful photos of first communions processions et cetera from our parish church.

Peace on earth, good will toward all people.

Carey said...

Is there some sort of relationship between liberal blogging and Catholicism? My goodness! You're all Catholics, maybe not all practicing, Carol, but still.

I'm definitely in the minority.

God Carol, can I relate to the standing too long.

°¿º arol said...

Funny about all the Catholics around, Carey, but it IS the one true religion.

Hey, I'm kidding! That's what we were taught way back when though.

Now that I've grown up and learned a few things, I have come to other conclusions about religion and god.