Hacienda Heights

Odd moments in Mass

Spanish language children's choir at St John Vianney

I realized that I have very few digital photos of events in the church or even outside the church, but I have memories. Re-posted below is something I wrote for the old blog about some of the oddest moments I ever experienced at St. John Vianney. Two involved the founding pastor, Msgr. O’Callaghan (RIP), and all occurred during the average Sunday Mass. The photo above is from a Christmas concert with the Spanish language adult and children’s choir around 1988.

weirdness in church
04.19.05 // 9:58 p.m.

Growing up, I never missed Sunday Mass. Even if we were out of town or on vacation, my parents would find a Catholic church in the area and make us go. I saw a lot of interesting and weird things happen during Mass.

Once an altar boy named Eric whom I knew from catechism and high school got sick during the consecration of the host. This is one of those times during the Mass when the assembly (or congregation) is supposed to kneel. The altar servers kneel at uncomfortable kneelers on the wooden steps of the altar. Anyway, Eric stood up to go to the bathroom in the sacristy. He didn’t make it. All I saw was Eric’s breakfast fly out of his mouth in a stream that went remarkably far. Yeah, that was weird and kind of gross.

In another instance, Monsignor O’Callaghan snapped me out of my reverie when he mentioned my favorite band at the time, the Smashing Pumpkins. He railed against the lyrics “Emptiness is loneliness, and loneliness is cleanliness / And cleanliness is godliness, and God is empty just like me.” That was weird too.

The third weird occurrence involved Msgr. O once again. This was a few months after the child molestation scandal broke out in Boston. I guess there had been some debate about allowing gay men to be priests. I was really surprised that Msgr. O wasn’t at all opposed to the notion of a gay man serving God in this role because he was rather conservative. He didn’t mention anything at all either about the incorrect notion of gay men being more likely to molest children. In the middle of the homily a woman five rows from the lectern stood up and started loudly proclaiming that homosexuality was a sin. What made me even sadder and more disgusted was that her young son and daughter (about 8-12 years old) stood up and joined in her opposition to gays. I felt like I was in the twilight zone though, because Msgr. O didn’t back down from his position. Instead, he argued with her a little and then the woman left the church.

This was a Sunday Mass. There were plenty of families there. People clapped when she got up and left. Msgr. O asked people to quiet down. He asked the assembly to pray for this woman, and ask God to open her heart. I was with my mom, and later when we got in the car she broke her silence on the outburst, “You know, it’s really sad that people still think like that. You would think that these days they’d be more open minded.”

Needless to say, I was dumbfounded.

Going to Mass almost every Sunday for 24.5 years straight will give you some strange stories to tell. I’ll be back with the weirdest. It has to do with colonization, imperialism and the Church.

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3 thoughts on “Odd moments in Mass

  1. Tacosam says:

    Great post. I went to Catholic School for 12 years, and I, too, have tons of stories. My son is now enrolled in Catholic Pre-School.

    One of my favorite stories: My friend Chris was an altar boy at Christmas Midnight Mass. The mass where they turn off all the lights in the church for dramatic effect and only light a few candles. He was holding a lit candle, and since it was already past midnight, felt sleepy and dozed off. He was leaning forward against the lit candle. As you can imagine, his altar boy robe caught on fire… that woke him up real fast. He rolled on the floor and put out the fire real quick. And was quickly expelled from the Altar Boys by Monsignor.

  2. Enjoyed the post! The Msgr. O sounds like a wonderful priest – you are blessed to know him. I look forward to reading more about your memories/experiences. I did not grow up Catholic – long story, so I am Catholic by choice now. I do plan to instill these traditions in my baby though. I do love the Catholic Church despite the scandals, and I am willing to defend my faith, and pray for those who do not understand why we do what we do.

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