My priest, who is a very good young priest, begins every homily with a joke; and some of them are pretty good. He always gets a hearty laugh from those of us in the pews. Here is my transcription of the joke he told us this morning in honor of the Lenten season that has just begun.
Back in the day, Catholics would live in neighborhoods surrounding their parish in what were called Catholic ghettos. In one of these ghettos filled with the Catholic faithful there lived a man who was not Catholic, but a Methodist. This posed no problem at all since he got along quite well with all of the Catholics and they felt the same about him.
But then came the first Friday of Lent. Late in the afternoon the sound of big juicy steak was heard as it sizzled after landing on a hot grill. Before long, everyone in the neighborhood began to smell the alluring scent of steak emanating from the Methodist’s backyard. As the tempting smell traveled throughout the neighborhood, the Catholics were just dying to get their hands on a big juicy steak. But it was Lent, after all, so they persevered through the temptation.
This went on for many years until one Lent the Catholics had had enough. They loved their Methodist neighbor, but this was just too much! They decided the only way out was to pray for the Methodist’s conversion. So they prayed and prayed, novena after novena, until one day the Methodist said “You know, I like you people and hanging out with you. I might as well worship with you on Sunday too”. So a Catholic he became. The priest blessing him with holy water said, “A Methodist you were born and a Methodist you were raised, but now you are a Catholic!” And the people rejoiced and praised God.
Well, the next Lent rolled around and on that first Friday the sound of a steak hitting the grill was once again heard. Perplexed, the others in the neighborhood wanted to see what was going on. As they looked through a hole in the fence they could see the newly christened Catholic sprinkling holy water on his steak saying, “A cow you were born and a cow you were raised, but now you are a fish!”
Oh, it made me and most everyone in the congregation laugh anyway. It’s probably one of those jokes, like most jokes, that are far better when heard in person. But have you ever noticed how priests are some of the best joke tellers? Must be one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit to those who are ordained.
On another sad but humorous note, you haven’t lived until see a guy use the holy water font to wet his hair so he can comb it. In the communion line this morning there was a guy in front of me – dark hair, Hispanic, early 40s, smelling of cigarettes, and wearing blue jeans, a jean jacket, and sun glasses. As we approached the Blessed Sacrament we passed by a holy water font next to one of the entrances. As we walked by he reached into the font, cupped his hand, scooped out some holy water, and then proceeded to wet his hair as he combed it down. The sight caught me so off guard and it seemed so out of context (for it was), that I could do nothing but laugh.
Of course, this is not the proper way to approach communion and certainly is not how the holy water font is “supposed” to be used; but there is something I find very admirable about this guy. It was obvious by the way he was dressed and his mannerisms, that he had not been to Mass in a very long time; and I can only assume that he is using this Lenten season to get his life back on track. And for that I rejoice and the angels sing for joy. What he did was done so innocently and unknowingly. I’d like to think that God laughs at such innocent things as using a holy water font to comb one’s hair.
This reminds me of one of Fr. Corapi’s stories of a lady who worked in a salon. A devout Catholic, she had brown scapulars patched throughout her barber’s chair and her spray bottle was filled with holy water! I guess the only difference is that she did know what she was doing – using her spiritual weapons at every opportunity – but the guy at my parish this moning, innocently, did not. Who knows? Maybe he’ll unwittingly bless many a people today with his sanctified hair!
I am sure there are many humorous strories revolving around the use of holy water. I bet a priest could tell you all kinds of good stories. I can only imagine the uses that some ardent and deadly serious Catholics could come up with for holy water. I wonder if there has ever been a swimming pool filled with holy water? Or a cup of coffee made with the holy stuff? I wonder if any Catholic has actually attempted to bathe in holy water – although, I can’t readily imagine how that would work. Imagine the possibilities! In fact, I wish I was more broad-minded in my use of holy water. You know, I’ve often wanted to seal my envelopes with a sponge dipped in holy water. I’m not sure why, but I sometimes have that urge. Now you know too much about me.