Sunday, April 25, 2010

Confirmation consternation

Aisling's Confirmation Mass at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish went very well on Friday evening. It was all very beautiful and my husband and I -- Meelyn too -- were moved to tears as we watched our youngest go forward to receive God's promise for her life, but also to make her promise to Him. The joyful solemnity of the occasion cannot be overstated.

After Mass, Aisling was glowing with happiness, giddy and excited, so we all went out for a late dinner to calm her down.

The picture to the left is of Bishop William Higi of our diocese, which is named Lafayette-in-Indiana, giving his usual excellent homily. It was nearly the same one as last year's at Meelyn's confirmation, but that's okay because it's a message we all need to hear over and over again: We can profess Jesus as Lord and Savior, but if we don't live that way, if the message of salvation is only in our minds and not in our hearts, then we aren't really saved. And other than that, all I can add is that Kayte's son Matt is the altar server on the very end there, looking so much taller and broader than the last time I saw him, which was in the fall.

Before the Mass started, however, a couple of very strange things happened to us. They were those kinds of things that Carol, Susie and I have discussed before, i.e. the tendency in our family to attract oddballs of different sorts. Sometimes people come up to us and speak random remarks that are inapropos to anything that's happening. Or they do weird things that end up getting them in trouble - boy, does Carol have a story about that. It seems to be some kind of family heritage: my own father has what my mother has referred to as "a ministry to the naked," due to his stumbling upon the undressed in several awkward situtions and being forced to render aid to them while modestly averting his eyes.

Thankfully, I didn't have to experience any nakedness on Friday night, but I did encounter one of those folks who has an urgent need to tell you Too Much Information, whether you want to hear it or not.

I was in the nave of the church, having walked into the narthex with Aisling to find her group from our parish. I left her there with some friends and went back into the church, where I was arranging some hymnals on a bench to reserve seats for my husband, Meelyn and myself. While I was placing hymnals at a comfortable distance, I heard someone behind me say, "Excuse me? Ma'am?"

I turned around to find a lady about my own age standing on the other side of the aisle. "Yes?" I said pleasantly, smiling at her.

"Do you know where the confirmands and their sponsors are supposed to meet?" she asked.

"No, I'm afraid I don't," I replied. "I just took my daughter out to the narthex to meet with her group, but other than that, I don't know anything."

"Oh," she said, crestfallen. "See, I'm a sponsor this year and I wanted to make sure I got everything right this year? Because last year, I was so confused and I stood up at the wrong time and sat down at the wrong time and my friend, the one I was sponsoring, she was, like, 'What is wrong with you tonight?'"

"There is a lot to it," I said sympathetically. "These big, complicated Masses...."

"Yeah," she agreed. "Last year, I started my period on Confirmation day and I was bleeding like a stuck pig and I had the most horrible cramps...."

"Oh," I said faintly, trying not to shoot my eyes back and forth to find the nearest exit.

"So I told my friend, 'I am nearly DEAD from these cramps and I'm worried I'm going to leak blood through onto my dress so I just don't have much brain left over to think about when I'm supposed to stand and sit,'" she continued in an we're-all-girls-here-together manner that I found very disconcerting. I mean, I'm sorry about her cramps and all, but I just wanted to put the hymnals on the bench and go on back out to the van where Meelyn was waiting without having to explore the intricacies of someone else's menstrual cycles, y'know?

It didn't seem too much to ask.

But it seemed that she had the desire to continue talking to me, perhaps attempting to engage me in a discussion over which feminine hygience products I find the most efficacious, but I was not going down that road. With a hurried, "Excuse me," I went out the side door of the church as if I had wings on my heels, leaving her there to see if she could discern the onset the onset of this month's Untimely Visitor without me there to help her.

Once I got back to the van, Meelyn and I went to run a couple of errands, and by the time we got back to the church for Weirdness Phase 2, all the confirmands and their sponsors were seated in the nave and being given their marching orders by a man with a clipboard and a headset, which reminded me of Jennifer Lopez in The Wedding Planner, so I immediately dubbed him The Confirmation Planner.

As Meelyn and I sat down, a blonde woman in front of us, a sponsor, turned around and said, "Are you bystanders?"

Bystanders? I thought. What a strange word to use. As if we have the habit of stopping by random churches to observe how their practices for Confirmation Mass are organized? "I'm a mother," I answered her. A bystanding mother? A mother who stands by? Who knows?

"Oh. Well, then, you're not supposed to be in here. They just made the announcement that all people who aren't part of the Confirmation Mass need to leave. You're all banned from the church until 6:30, and then you can be seated. So I'm afraid you'll have to go out to the narthex now," she said loftily. She tossed her sleek, pageboy haircut just a little and pursed her lips in a smile that reminded me uncannily of a tiger baring its teeth -- unfriendly and a little bit predatory.

I gave her a level look and said "Oh," in a cool voice, and glanced around at about twenty other people sitting in the pews around us who obviously were not part of the Mass. One was an elderly gentleman with bowed head and closed eyes, leaning forward on his cane; another was a girl of about ten who was reading The Thief Lord and chewing gum. I decided that Meelyn and I would stay put. So it would be better -- friendlier and more helpful -- for the lot of us to go and stand up in the narthex for nearly an hour with nowhere to sit and perhaps say our prayers? I don't think so, sister.

Talk about bossy! I wanted to give her a boop on the nose and say, "Who died and left you in charge?" but I didn't, of course. I was sure thinking it, though, and decided that if anyone came up and told me to move, I'd tell them that I was slightly handicapped and couldn't stand out there on the tile floor of the narthex for an hour, and then if they gave me any more grief about sitting in the house of God, I'd pull up my left pant leg and show them my gnarly six inch scar.

At least she didn't tell me to move because she'd just started her period.


Kayte said...

So beautiful...such a nice thing to think that A has reached this age already. Matt didn't think A was A as he had not seen her in awhile and he said, "She was tall and skinny...all grown up, I didn't think that was her!" The altar servers, starting with Matt near the wall, are Matt G, Brendon C., Stephen M., Colin A., Jack B., and Matt J. Just in case you wanted it for your scrapbook and all.

Katie said...

Oh geeze! Weird people!

I love Bishop Higi, and grats to Aisling!

Amy said...

Playing the handicapped card, huh? :) I'm glad the Mass was beautiful, despite the weird start.