Sunday, August 21, 2005

All God’s Children

In every Catholic parish to which I’ve ever gone, there’s one, and just one, and he’s always the same. A mentally handicapped man, no longer young—somewhere between 25 and 50, though the curious facial cast of Down’s makes it hard to say exactly. He’s always short and barrel-y, neatly dressed though his short-sleeved shirt ill fits him. His face is a little red, and he’s always got a haircut you could set your watch by.

His voice is always improbably deep, improbably flat, improbably carrying. He joins in every response, every song.

Even the ones he doesn’t know.
Especially the ones he doesn’t know.
And always—always—precisely four-tenths of a second behind everyone else.

And he always—in every parish I’ve ever attended—goes to the Saturday 5:00 PM Mass.

He is there in the first place because the Catholic Church has a strong pro-life culture. But his presence—specifically, his uncanny, musically-ruinous lag time—tends to lead choir directors to abandon that whole “still small voice” thing for a take-no-prisoners approach. When “On Eagle’s Wings” comes around—bitch, someone’s goin’ down.

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