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Simcha Fisher: How Catholic parishes can help an under-served community

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A liturgical rating system using tambourine icons would help Catholic ‘jerks’ like Simcha Fisher, she says.

Our pastor recently distributed pencils and slips of paper, and humbly asked us to write down what the parish could do to help bring us closer to God. He promised to read them all and pray over them, and do what he could.

I can only imagine that he got a wide range of answers, depending on who was responding. Parents of small children probably wanted crayons, changing tables, and an ally in the pulpit. College students almost certainly asked for a late Mass so they could sleep off whatever wretched thing they did on Saturday night. Singles probably wanted to feel like they weren’t forgotten; people with special needs surely asked for more accessibility. And these are all reasonable requests, and things the Church ought to be able to supply.

But you know which community is grievously under-served? You know which group of laymen is consistently overlooked, neglected, silenced, and marginalised?

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The Jerk Community. Yeah, that’s right. We jerks are children of God, just like the rest of youse, and we have our needs. My jerk children stole all my slips of paper and I think they may have eaten the pencil, but if I had another chance, here is what I would tell my pastor that jerks like me really need:

Liturgical nonsense ratings system

You know how Thai restaurants have little hot peppers next to various menu items? One pepper means it’s spicy by farang standards, two means you’ll need a tall drink to wash it down, and three means, “Please, sir, we don’t need an international incident today.”

Well, Catholic jerks demand the institution of a similar ratings system on church bulletins next to the Mass times, to alert us to just how jingly jangly bingly bangly hey nonny nonny and a ha cha cha the liturgy is gonna be.

One tambourine means there will be a freaking tambourine. Two tambourines means there will be a freaking tambourine, plus either a freaking banjo or a freaking harmonica, and one of the musicians will keep shaking his head from side to side as if he’s somehow brought to ecstasy with his own execrable playing.

Three tambourines means the most generous donor in the diocese owns a set of bongo drums and if the pastor is really serious about getting all the asbestos out of the church basement . . . well, jerkos, get ready for some freaking liturgical bongos.

No touchy touchy

You know, I am reasonably prepared to pour myself out in libation for the salvation of other people’s souls, but not if it means I have to touch them. I know it’s highly meaningful to include the sign of peace at Mass, but there are ways of managing it to make it more jerk-friendly. We used to belong to a parish where the priest would invariably say, with audible commas: “And now, my dear brothers and sisters, let us offer each other the sign of peace by bowing our heads and silently praying that almighty God will give us peace, and health, and happiness, today, and during the remainder, of the year.” And that took care of that. No massive strep throat outbursts under Fr Stan’s watch, and no Knights of Columbus-sponsored rotavirus, either. You keeps your hands to yourself and you keeps the peace. I don’t even want to talk about holding hands at the Our Father. If jerks want to hold hands, jerks will enter into a sacramental relationship with someone who will spend the next five decades making them very unhappy, thanks.

Let bathrooms be bathrooms

I believe that God is with me always, lo, even when I sit down to relieve my bladder — or, more likely, even when I spend a good portion of Mass down in the basement bathroom with four-year-old who really isn’t dextrous enough to put paper on the seat, but also isn’t rational enough to accept help. I believe, as I say, that God is with me even there. But I don’t need my church bathroom to be festooned with religious decorations. It’s just weird, and I don’t like it. I don’t need tissue paper holders with little shiny crosses embossed on them. I don’t want to be inspired by ornate, calligraphic psalms of praise when I’m struggling with the soap dispenser. And I definitely don’t want to stare down the Holy Family when I’m on the throne. The only exception I will make is that one church bathroom that had a framed print of the words, “BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD” right over the toilet. I don’t even get the joke, but it made me laugh like a hyena every time.

For the love of God, when is Mass?????

We, the jerk community, would like the Mass times to be printed right on the front of the bulletin and published right on the home page of the website. The reason we want this is because we want to know when Mass is, so we can go to Mass when there is Mass.

Also, everyone wants this. Not just jerks. All the people. All the people want this. Every last single one. There is not one single person who does not want this.

And now you know something.

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From the dour, humourless and morbid Christians, spare us O God of happiness!

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