So I mentioned that I grew up in the Catholic Church. Born Italian Catholic, a true Roman like Paul, I was christened Catholic, and served as an altar boy from 4th to 8th grade, made my conformation in 7th grade, and survived 8yrs of Catholic school. Well I go to a Presbyterian church now. Check reruns of Oprah, you might catch my testimony. The Presbyterian church is just like the Catholic Church in a lot of ways, the order of service and the Liturgy are the same. Presbyterian sermons are 3x as long as the Catholic version, but that’s another discussion. In the Presbyterian church you just don’t have to work as hard for the great beyond. Another similarity is the lack of outward emotion shown during the Mass or service. You won’t hear a lot of “amen’s” during the service from either congregation, you also don’t generally see a lot of hand raising during hymns or prayers, although our Presbyterian church has been moving in that direction. My brother, who won the religion pin in his glory days at St. Vincent De Paul Elementary, may weigh in at some point to correct my Catholic theological memory. In any event to boil it down, church on Sunday is pretty much a reserved, look forward, sing, pray, go home event. Bringing Frank into that has been a lot of fun.
Frank likes to sing. God cries when I sing so I’m not really qualified to judge, but I’m going to anyway. For a two year old he’s not …. well he’s not good. Also Frank is not generally concerned with what song or music is playing at the time. He prefers Living on a Prayer by Bon Jovi or More Than a Feeling by Boston but he’ll roll with most songs. He is especially amazed and mesmerized buy the guitar player on Sunday mornings. Matt also is the pastor in charge of music, not just the guitar player but Frank’s not hung up on titles, he just digs a good axe. Matt is very talented, he gets Frank’s undivided attention while he’s playing. In fact the first time Frank saw Matt playing he got extremely upset when the song ended. So upset was Frank, he was inconsolable and had to be taken out. Now to my Jersey friends and family “taken out” means moved to the lobby not the definition you may be used to. Anyway it wasn’t that much of a commotion as commotions go but just enough to embarrass Tracy for a few seconds. It was however, a prelude for things to come.
It was a Sunday I missed church, must have been a natural disaster or world wide emergency, I can’t remember but Tracy and Frank went to church for the first time without me. Of all the times I missed, again due to some catastrophic issue, this was not a good day to do so. Presbyterians take communion every Sunday just like the Catholic Church, well at least these Presbyterians do. Each pew goes up when called and go semi-circle around the pastor who then passes a dish with bread and then a dish with little plastic cups of wine or grape juice. Since I was not there and I don’t think we were putting Frank in the church nursery yet, Tracy took Frank up to communion with her. He was cool until Tracy went to hand the cup back. Nope. Frank wanted it. He had her too. Sitting in a pew at the back crying because Matt wasn’t playing anymore was one thing, standing at the front of the church in view of the entire congregation was a whole different story. I’m not sure Frank was aware of his opportunity. He could have had anything he wanted, well probably anything and everything he wanted. I’m sure he’ll regret that later in life when it comes up during therapy but for that moment when the world was at his finger tips in the arms of his mother who would give him anything not to make a scene all he wanted was the plastic communion cup. Had this been the Catholic Church where the bread and wine is turned to the body and blood of Jesus, Frank wanting the cup would make sense. I mean it would have some value. In this case it was just some Hi-C or The Kroger brand grape juice. I prefer kool-aid mind you but Jim Jones ruined that for everybody, look it up Kraslawsky. Anyway Frank made his play and got the plastic cup. But he’s not a one trick pony, he had an agenda.
Frank had his cup and Tracy turned and marched back to the pew. She was roughly in one of the last 3 pews, my sources tell me. Apparently I’m not the only back pew driver in the family. Anyway Tracy and Frank are back there with or behind a large contingent of University of Tennessee students who make up a bulk of our congregation. I believe the incedent occurred during the benidiction or final blessing that signals it’s time to leave. It is the one time most of the congregation will raise their hands. Frank digs that. When the benediction was done Frank raises his hands, thrusts his plastic communion cup heaven-ward and utters something akin to an Italian toast of “Salute” – during the most quiet moment in the service next to the call for silent prayer. Now the front of the church save a few, like an off duty pastor and former athletic director I know, would not laugh at Frank’s top of his lungs toast. The college kids in the back rows on the other hand… well safe to say they were in stitches. Little side note here: I have noticed that in a protestant church it is much easier to stop laughing than it is in a Catholic church. For some reason when you are in a Catholic church things only get funnier as you try to stop laughing; not the case in buildings born out of Martin Luther’s note that shocked the world. So the college kids quieted down pretty quick. Can’t believe I missed that. I have great sources but Frank has to be experienced live.
I happened to be present for the next incident. We were at a rare away game at a Presbyterian church in Lexington Kentucky. My brother-in-law Brad, a campus minister at Kentucky and a member of this church at the time, and Rachel his wife, were having their daughter baptized. No back pew for this, we were front and center, Frank included. He was great too, as he normally is in church. We have never had an issue where he acted up just to act up. He usually is responding to something. First Brad and I got Frank going unwittingly. When the pastor of the church reached for some water to sprinkle on my niece’s head the sleeve of his robe dipped into the bowl of water and literally scooped all the water out like a giant funnel. The dude is a pro though and went on like nothing happened. I saw it and started to suppress a laugh until I saw Brad who also noticed it and was biting back a smirk. Frank looked at me then at Brad and let out a quick ha ha ha. He quieted down pretty fast though. The kid spends his days with me, his funny bone is a lot more refined than to lose it over a simple thing like some water up the sleeve.
The funny part was provided by the pastor. As I said this guy moved on as if nothing happened even though a crap-ton* of water went right up his sleeve as he raised the baby up. Well he goes into his little verbiage about baptism and says some words about Brad and Rachel and then about Anna-Kate – I think I spelled that right Rachel.?.? After a while it becomes clear this will not be a short speech but is quickly turning into a mini-sermon. I’m a Roman so what do I know but that was way too long to talk when baptizing a baby only a few months old. Plus Frank’s antsy meter is staring to redline. But I love that kid and the following is one of the reasons why. As the pastor is rounding the bend towards the finish line of this monolog Frank stands up. As the guy finishes and turns to walk back to the altar, or pulpit I guess, when all is extremely quiet, Frank yells “yeah” and starts to clap; just like they teach you in Little Gym when a kid does something for the first time. My only thought – he’s expressing what the rest of us sinners in here are thinking, “Thank God he’s done”. You could feel the awesome.
Frank was born into a Presbyterian house but he may just be a Roman at heart.*crap-ton – Local phraseology meaning slightly more than a metric ton. Commonly used to describe an extreme amount and normally uttered with appropriate verbal and physical exasperation whilst embellishing a story.