Monday, February 27, 2012

I Am Plagued By Liturgical Disasters

As many of you probably know, last Wednesday was the cheeriest and cleanest of all Catholic holidays, Ash Wednesday. This year's Ash Wednesday mass in Howard, however, was a bit more eventful than most, seeing as I accidentally caused one of my friends to light her hair on fire mid-mass. This minor fiasco, while funny for most people involved, reminded me of just how bad my luck is with special masses. Ever since I was a child, it seems I've been consistently caught in the middle of mildly catastrophic liturgical events. Here, I will briefly outline a few of the more hilarious occurrences.

It all started at my First Communion. Unlike everyone else in my class, I sat in the pew alone (well, aside from the future delinquent and his mother at the other end of the row), because my parents were doing the music. While this wasn't so bad in and of itself, it did set the stage for a marvelously strange First Communion. For reasons I will never fully understand, they assigned the most squirrelly kid in our class a job that required him to walk up the stairs to the altar and, as is so often the case, walk back down them later. When it came time for our young communicant to descend the stairs, he tripped epically on the top step. Now, for normal children, this would have been a problem. This kid being who he was, though, he simply flew off the top step, soared gracefully through the air, and landed, perfectly, catlike, and straight on his feet, on the bottom step. I don't recall applause breaking out at this point, but it would've been appropriate. Furthermore, my First Communion led to a small outbreak of chicken pox among my second grade class. With the end of this outbreak, so ended mass-related disaster #1 of Sarah's life. 

The next liturgical fiasco came at my confirmation. We're all sitting there with our parents and sponsors, minding our own business, when all of a sudden, Bishop Higi keels over. That's right. The bishop fainted during my confirmation. Apparently, he did this at several confirmations that season, but that fact made it no less shocking for all of us. I mean, worry not, dear readers, the strangely large collection of medical professionals in the congregation immediately ran for the altar, the Higster (as my family affectionately calls him) was shepherded to the sacristy, and he made a full recovery. ...Although he did retire very shortly afterwards. You may do with that piece of information what you will. Whether partial cause of retirement or semi-isolated, strange incident, though, the mid-confirmation bishop-y fainting spell certainly qualifies as yet another Sarah Cahalan mass disaster.

Since arriving at Notre Dame, I've generally had better luck with mass. Sure, I had a minor nervous breakdown during campus-wide Stations of the Cross last year (thank you, astronomy), but for the most part, I've managed to stay relatively disaster-free! On Wednesday, though, my lucky streak came to a fiery end. You see, the liturgical administration of Howard Hall decided it was a good idea to have our Ash Wednesday mass solely by candlelight. While this idea is cool on some level, it's extremely dangerous on another. Those of you who know me very well know that I have a terrible habit of laughing uncontrollably in inappropriate situations. This tendency + good friends who laugh at my jokes + open flame = utter disaster. After communion, my unnamed friend and I were laughing at an earlier joke of mine relating to the difficulty of taking communion with a candle in one hand (THINK ABOUT IT, PEOPLE), and things started to get a bit out of control. As is my custom, I found myself completely unable to control my cackling. In my attempt to keep my laughter silent, I let out a few truly horrible squealing noises, which I decided to "cover up" with a fake coughing fit. The aforementioned unnamed friend apparently found this coughing fit hilarious, because it was at this point that she leaned forward in her uproarious silent laughter...and landed her hair smack in the middle of her candle flame. She ran out of the chapel - in an attempt, so I thought, to forcibly bring our laughing fit to a close - and returned a few minutes later, sweatshirt gone and frantically explaining that she had burned a small chunk of her hair off. Of course, it was completely unnoticeable to anyone who didn't know about the incident, and it had no lasting effect aside from a few hours of a vague campfire scent around said friend's head. Traumatic or not-that-traumatic, though, it is most certainly the current caboose of Sarah C's mass-related-disaster train.

The moral of this story, I suppose, is that if you want to avoid fainting, tripping, or getting your hair lit on fire, you should probably avoid me at mass. To those of you in Folk Choir who are forced to share a choir loft with me every Sunday, I wish you luck. I think we've all managed to evade my mass disaster wrath so far, but when the day comes that you fall off the back of the risers and leave your shoe trapped somewhere underneath the third row (just speaking hypothetically), feel free to blame me - because it was probably the fault of yours truly and her liturgical disaster curse. 

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