Readers of this blog will recall that I had a maddening encounter with a rude, inconsiderate, sanctimonious jackass of a priest at my grandfather's funeral back in July.
This shouldn't come as news to anyone, but it turns out that he isn't the only one of his ilk.
Before I get into the body of this story, there are two bits of background information you will need to know in order to appreciate it:
1) My mom is a life-long Catholic with 12 years of Catholic school under her belt and all her sacraments in order. She learned how take communion in the pre-Vatican II era (no chewing, no talking with the host in your mouth etc.)
2) In the 25+ years that I have known her, my mother has only ever worn her hair one way: in a long braid hanging down her back to her waist.
A few weeks ago, Mom attended funeral services for her aunt, Lucy, at St. Pius X in Wolcott, CT. During the service, the priest said several pointed things about the sanctity of the Eucharist and how only Catholics who were "without substantial sin" could receive communion. Fine, whatever. A slightly odd argument to bring up at a funeral, but the family thought he was targetting one of Lucy's sons, who has become an Evangelical Christian. I don't know that it's strictly necessary to scold someone publicly at his mother's funeral, but then, I'm an amoral atheist, so what do I know?
When it came time for communion, the grieving apostate remained seated (why would he want communion anyway?), but Mom got up and waited in line with her cousins, aunts, and siblings. She shuffled forward in line, held out her hands for the host, and put it in her mouth while turning away. As noted before, she did not chew it, having been instructed in childhood not to chew the Jesus.
As she started back down the aisle, she heard the priest yelling something, but had her mind on other things. She paid him no mind until he bounded down the aisle, seized her by the braid, and arrested her movement. "What did you do with the host!?!" he demanded, "Where is it!?!"
Stunned into uncharacteristic meekness, Mom just opened her mouth and pointed (remember, no talking!). The priest huffed and turned away — without an apology, I might add.
Of course, this incident was the talk of the repast. The waitstaff at the restaurant assured Mom that they get a lot of business from St. Pius X funerals and that she wasn't the first person who had been assaulted by that particular priest during communion. Several of my mom's cousins are eucharistic ministers — they tried to explain that the priest hadn't seen her put the wafer in her mouth because she was turning away as she did so and wasn't visibly chewing. That still doesn't explain the hair pulling to my satisfaction.
What the hell is this jerk's problem? Has he been on high alert since Cracker Gate? Even if the priest is paranoid enough to believe that middle-aged women are infiltrating funerals in order to steal consecrated wafers, what on earth would possess him to pull someone's hair in order to get her attention? Then again, I thought it was inappropriate for a priest to interrupt my reading and scold my cousins during Papa's funeral, so I am obviously not privy to the deep well of compassion that compels such pastoral behavior.
A PSA for all Catholic priests in Connecticut:
I have a boatload of elderly Catholic relatives who will, unfortunately, pass away over the next decade or two. I will attend many of their funerals. Let it be known that I will not stand for this fuckery again. If you decide to embarass a grieving relative, turn your homily into a rant on school prayer, or touch one of my family members in a non-comforting way, I promise that I will cause a scene (again). But next time, there will be less bursting into tears on the dais and more screaming at you as I storm out of your church and slam doors. Fair warning.