Wednesday, February 18, 2009

My Life in a Quasi Fanatical Paramilitary Organization.

Most boys join some organization as they grow up. Perhaps I could join the cub scouts, boy scouts, campfire girls, The civil air patrol, or some other paramilitary organization. I could learn how to march and get to wear a spiffy uniform.
My mom, the problem solver, had a solution. An Altar boy.
I guess it was a Mommy thing. Before I knew it I was learning Latin, wearing this black thing covered by a white thing. a later learn it is called a Cassock and Surplice. My mom wanted me to be a priest.
Her philosophy was: If Junior cannot be a priest, well, dammit, We will dress him up like one or if he is near one maybe he will change his mind and want to be one. So instead of learning how to march I was learning how to genuflect. To this day I am a great genuflector. I can do it with either knee. I am ambipodal. (Did I just make a new word?)
The deal is: Once a boy becomes an Altar boy he doesn't mind it so much. You get to drink all the wine you want, you get to smell incense a lot, the little white wafers are a nice little snack and you are in a para-military organization, more or less.
like most para-military organization you have to learn the special language. In the army it is marching song and the leader who says things you cannot really understand like "hev hazeeeeeeee". I think that is left face. The Altar boy leader who we will call "The Priest" say things like " et spiritui sancto".
There are also regimens and tradition that you have to follow such as when to kneel, stand up, lie down, when to sit, how much wine you could drink before the priest knew you were to drunk to serve on the altar.
The Latin Thing: You have to learn some Latin so you could respond to what the priest was saying. In the old days it would be the altar boys who would respond in Latin. Now it is the congregation that response in English. We would mess with the priest by responding in gibberish. It made a dreary job more interesting. When we were expected to show up for Novenas, Stations of the Cross during lent I started looking for an escape hatch. I joined another para-military. The boy scouts. My parents made me give it up. The meetings were held in the basement of an unused Methodist Church. My mother thought that would somehow corrupt my Catholic upbringing. So that quickly became history. Perhaps they had a different agenda.


  1. I remember the first time I went to an Ecumenical service in a (oh horror!) Protestant church. Just walking thru the door made me think that lightning would strike me.

    It didn't.

  2. My childhood best friend was an Episcopalian. She invited me to go with her while she went for confession. My mother warned me that I was not to even peek inside the doors of that church. As well, my mother almost had a cow because my husband and I chose to get married in a different Catholic church than the one in which I was raised. Oh, the horrors of it all!