It was First Communion at church, and all the girls were dressed in these darling white dresses (symbols of purity) with little veils. The veils are a carry over from when all Catholic women wore hats or veils. Cradle Catholics of a certain age (ancient) will remember this.
When I was a kid, we weren’t allowed to go into church without something on our heads – and there was no exception. At a minimum, we had to have this little doily-like thing on our head. A doily is a round piece of lacey stuff about 6 inches across that old-timey people used for coasters, or, heaven forbid, decoration You still see these things in nursing homes. I never much cared for them, but that’s just me. Older women wore those long lacy things called matilda’s. Except I just googled it and they are actually called mantillas. All my life I thought they were matilda’s!!
The little bit of doily-like headgear we students wore was called a “chapel veil.” We went to Mass before school every morning except Wednesday, and if you ever showed up without your chapel veil, then your nun, who was as tall as the Eiffel Tower and wore a long black dress and massive headgear so you didn’t know what might be hiding under there, would bobby pin a piece of tissue to your head as she gave you a scowl that told you you had better not let it happen again.
Nuns back then were strict. They weren’t trying to be our friends, they kept us on the straight and narrow – they wanted us to be quiet and sit still while we learned and that’s what we did. We seemed to have a lot of fun, though, especially during the one-hour recess. But I’ve strayed off topic, which was the First Communion service I just witnessed.
The boys had on sports coats, slacks, and ties and the girls wore their white tea-length dresses with white, chunky-heeled shoes and ribbons and curls in their hair. They were paraded in front of the congregation as much as possible, which was delightful because they were really cute. So they came up to do the readings. They stood on a little platform, and put their mouths way too close to the microphone.
Which reminds me. I have to say one thing about the priest. After opening prayers, the priest, who was a substitute, asked us to spend a couple of minutes of silence to reflect on the topic of the day. We obliged by bowing our heads and the church got very quiet. At this precise moment, loud scritch, scritch, scritching came over the loud speaker. I finally lifted my eyes just enough to see what was going on. The priest had a determined look on his face as he fiddled with the microphone clipped to his collar. His fingers moving over its speaker was causing the noise, and surely he heard it too, especially when it got louder. Other heads lifted. By the time the “moments of silence” were over, he’d gotten it just the way he wanted. The only thing I had spent time reflecting on was what an id…. well, never mind.
So the first child, a girl, started reading and did an impressive job. She read such words as “Theophilus” as if it were Smith or Jones. A boy was next up, and he sounded like he had a mouth full of Corn Flakes. You couldn’t understand a word he mumbled. The third was also a sharp looking boy and he started off great but after a few words he paused, flinched, and then proceeded. This happened again, then again, and I realized he had the hiccups. The rest of the congregation caught on too, and we all chuckled softly each time he hiccupped. He’d swallow after each hiccup, which became more amusing as it went along. We were waiting for it, waiting and wondering if they had gone away, or if we’d imagined it, and then – pause – flinch – swallow. Don’t know why that was so funny, but there’s not much else happening in church so we, the congregation, would have been rolling in the aisles if not for decorum and sympathy for the little trouper and his parents. We kept our mouths shut to mute our laughs, and I saw several people with their hands over their mouths trying to hide their mirth. I almost applauded when he got done it had been such an entertaining show.
A couple of other things happened that I would share except I’ve run too long and there’s nothing above I’m willing to cut. Suffice it to say, the congregation en masse enjoyed this Mass.
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