Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Church Character Sketches


Let's face it: we all struggle with concentration sometimes. Especially at church.

   Now, maybe it's just me because I love observing people, but I'm pretty sure most of us have gotten sidetracked by some of the hilariously quirky, entertaining church-goers. At least, I really hope I'm not the only one.

   I can't help but giggle sometimes at the personalities we encounter at Mass, and I'm sure that these characters show up in just about every church. Here's just a few you might be able to spot in your own:

   There's the typical “Ann” character: 78 years old, average height, reddish dyed hair, and a no-nonsense, "gloom and doom" personality. She's also as blunt as they come. Just the other day, as we were praying in our pew after Mass, I saw her friend Vera walking down the side aisle to leave. Ann didn't notice this at first, but when she looked up and saw that Vera was almost out the door, she wanted to get her back to talk to her. But instead of quietly following her out the door, Ann simply stood in the middle of the aisle, waving her prayer book and coat in the air, and calling out “VERA, VERA!!!.... Oh she's so deaf... VERAAA WAIT.
After several minutes of hollering, Ann had the attention of every person in the church--except Vera herself, who was still calmly strolling toward the door. It went on for so long, I think everyone started questioning whether their name was Vera and she was actually trying to get their attention.

   Another time, she got talking to my dad about all the depressing and terrible things in the news lately, and she sighed and passionately declared, “I'm telling ya, it's Sodom and Gomorrah, that's what. We're headin' right back to there, mark my words!”

   Naturally, the discussion then led to all the depressing financial deficiencies in our own parish (as she dubbed them). Her solution was, "Well, I have an idea. Why don't we spend money on worthwhile and desperately needed projects and repairs instead of printing COLORED BULLETINS!!!" as she slapped the cover of the bulletin she was holding. For some reason, I feel like I will be an exact replica of her when I get to her age.
   Next is the put-together, stylish 70-year-old Judy, sporting the perfectly permed hair, hoop earrings, nice clothes, and ALWAYS high-heeled boots. A little prim and proper, she's not extremely warm, but cordial. She's something I call “consistent,” not only because she always dresses the same and sits in one particular pew, but also because she has the same routine each service. Right before the Sign of Peace, when we all shake hands with each other and say “Peace be with you”, she puts on an enormous glob of hand sanitizer. Often, she doesn't shake hands with people at all (because of all the germs, of course), but once in a while she gets really gutsy and gives a greeting to one or two. Either way, she squirts out an even larger puddle of hand sanitizer after the Sign of Peace is over, and rubs it for at least the next 5 minutes while saying the communal prayers as loudly as she can. Towards the end of Mass, she puts on one last dollop of sanitizer, for good measure. As my dad remarked laughingly, “How did the church ever survive this long without the invention of hand sanitizer? It's really remarkable.”

   Then there's the guy who says all the responses three times as fast as anyone else. He's usually about ten words ahead of the congregation at the Our Father prayer, so if you sit within two or three pews of his, be prepared to read the words from the book, because you cannot concentrate at all on where you are. We call him “the First Responder.”

    Mary is another blessed soul who is very devoted to the funeral ministry. But the thing is, she is a chipper older Irish lady, with an adorable high-pitched voice happier than a lark. She always sounds like she is on helium and is perpetually smiling, so I hate to say that being the reader for funerals probably isn't really her calling. When she starts out the greeting at funerals in a Minnie Mouse voice, with “Hello!! Welcome!! We're SO happy to have you here to celebrate the life of...”, it almost adds injury to insult.  Her misuse of words is the best though. My favorite of her malapropisms happened at the prayer intentions at one funeral, when she read, “In Baptism, Bill received the light of life. Scatter the darkness now and welcome him into the halls of the heavenly buffet. We pray to the Lord.” I almost burst out laughing. It was supposed to be “heavenly banquet,” but heck, buffet sounds way better to me anyway!

   Also, never sit behind the couple that are both seven feet tall, especially if you're somewhat short. Trust me, I speak from bitter experience. But it is quite entertaining, because the lady often wears very tight leather jackets, and so every time she moves, she creaks. If you weren't a bit distracted before, that does it. She is also a big fan of bowing at very random times (I guess when the Spirit moves her). I don't just mean a little head nod here and there. I mean slow-motion, full body bowslike a plank of wood, but with her hands still folded in prayerIf the pew ahead of her didn't catch her, she'd probably gently (but reverently) pitch right down to the ground. I have to control my urge to whisper “Timber!” every time she does it.

  So really, who needs to create fictional characters in a book when there's plenty of material right at church? Sometimes I think God smiles to Himself out of delight when He sees our little eccentric quirks, since He put them there in the first place.

   And even if some of them can be a little annoying at times, we can at least smile and remember that it takes all kinds of people to make a world!

No comments:

Post a Comment