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The Way it Was: More church stories from younger years

by John Straka Published: October 5, 2016 12:00 AM

When most people were illiterate, churches used statues, paintings and stained glass windows to tell biblical stories. Some of those windows have faces of people in them, while others are just artistic arrangements of pieces of glass of different sizes, shapes and colors.

I like to think of such a window as representing some kind of community, such as a parish. When I do that, I must decide which piece of glass represents me. I am always a vertical rectangular piece, near, but not in, the center, and of a medium shade of blue. Where would you be?

I like this true wedding story: the bride had been thinking about her wedding day ever since grade school. She pictured her bridesmaids walking down the aisle toward the altar, followed by the cutest little girl spreading rose petals in the bride's path. Her wedding gown was gorgeous. The church was nearly full, and all eyes were on the bride as she approached the altar. There were vases full of fragrant flowers, beeswax scented candles and music. Just about everything a bride could want.

In those days, only when the bride and the groom were both practicing Catholics, could they be married in the church near the altar. A mixed marriage (one Catholic and the other not) would be performed by a priest, but not inside the church. So, the bride and her non-Catholic husband were married by Father Joe in the parlor of his home, about a quarter mile from the church. No flower girl, no wedding gown, no candles, no music and only the two witnesses. What this lady remembered most was the priest's housekeeper rattling dishes in the kitchen and a dog barking.

One time years ago, at a church wedding, a priest had an altar boy bring extra cloths out of the sacristy, so the bridesmaids could cover up their low cut dresses.

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The little boy was preparing for his first Holy Communion. Every day at religion time, he learned more about sin, confession and forgiveness. Soon it was time to rehearse for his first confession. It was important to not only confess a sin, but to say how often that sin had been committed. For the practice, the class was instructed to just make up some kind of sin. So he confessed to killing his brother -- three times.

I can't explain this story, but I was there and saw it happen: the men of our Holy Name Society volunteered to serve as altar boys at funerals. Andy's assignment was to light the incense burner. When he lit the little charcoal briquette, a spark jumped into the box of maybe, two dozen of them, and they all lit up, creating a dense cloud of white smoke. He extinguished the flames, but the smoke filled the sacristy.

The white cloud slowly went out into the sanctuary, made a right turn, and drifted out above the small group of maybe six or seven pews of mourners. Then it just hung there. It didn't rise up to the ceiling, or swirl around, or continue to some other part of the church. I was busy helping with the Mass, and don't remember how it disappeared.

I remember a time when our church had an early Mass on Sunday. Maybe like 6 a.m. or earlier. If a woman was expecting company for a big dinner, she had to get going early, because such a meal in those days was made all from scratch. Dumplings, pies, stuffing an d just about everything else, were all made by hand.

One lady didn't want to wake the whole family, so she got dressed in the dark. She got her hat out of the closet without turning on a light. Then she wondered why people were looking at her in church. It wasn't until she got home that she found she had put on two hats, one on top of the other.

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Our parish had a top-notch kitchen crew. When Don was chairman of a big dinner, he made sure everyone in the kitchen knew the secret to his delicious sauce was that he put only one egg in it. More than one would spoil the taste.

What he didn't know was that when he wasn't looking, other members of the crew would add a second egg, a third and a fourth. By the time the sauce was served, it must have had at least a half dozen eggs in it. Of course he took all the credit for the great flavor because there was only one egg in it. I'm sure he never knew the truth.

When on special occasions a Mass is celebrated with three priests, that is known as a Solemn High Mass. Here is an old story with a reference to such a Mass.

A police officer stopped a car with three priests in it, for going a bit over the speed limit. When the driver was asked why he was going that fast, he said they were going on a sick call. The officer said there is no need for three priests for a sick call. That's when the priest said theirs was a Solemn High sick call.

Another old joke is about a priest ramming his car into the back of another car. When the Catholic policeman recognizes the priest, he asks, "Father, how fast was he going when he backed into you?"

Editor's note: Straka can be reached via email at wenceslas88plus@gmail.com.


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