Friday, May 19, 2006

Here We Go

Chunky Photojournalist Barbie arrives early at a Catholic Church to photograph a First Communion mass. She checks in with Father Ken, who is, upon first impression, seemingly easygoing, young, and handsome. She introduces herself, runs through the usual questions about protocol (same as always), using a flash during mass (please don't; no problem! especially with amazing new camera), then asks where the children are lining up for mass or their procession (downstairs in the social hall.) Great!

CPBarbie shoots almost an entire 512 MB digital card of adorable and possibly portfolio-worthy shots of children about to receive first communion. She knows the ones of them, nervous, lining up just outside the sanctuary, hands folded, in bright light streaming in from the open doors and stained glass windows will be great for A1 next week.

Mass. The usual. Stand up. Sing. Sit down, etc. Chunky Photojournalist Barbie sings quietly along to one of her old favorites because it's really just a beautiful song.

"This is the day that the Lord has made./ Let us rejoice and be glad in it./ This is the day,This is the day...."

Nonetheless, CPB is not participating in the service, because even if this was still her chosen faith community, she is here as an observer. She wouldn't kneel or get in line for communion, even if she were still a genuflectin,' sign-of-the-cross makin,' sacrament takin' king of girl. Which she's not anyway.

The church, like most Catholic Churches, has a long aisle with pews on either side of it. At the of the aisle, there are four or five few steps up to the altar where the priest stands. On one side of the center aisle, these is a lower platform, with two or three steps, where there is usually a statue of Mary, a line of candles, a kneeler. In this church, there is an unadorned platform on the other side. This particular church comes in extra-wide variety, with side aisles and more pews up against large stained glass windows in the wings.

Because this is a Saturday mass just for Skipper and her friends taking first communion, only the pews adjacent to the center aisles are full. So Chunky Photojournalist Barbie places her camera bag and other things on one of the outer pews and stays off to the side (the unadorned platform side) with her telephoto lens, a good 50 feet from any parishioners. She sits occasionally, but mostly stands around quietly to, you know, work.

She checks her watch, because even though she is here to take photos of first communion, she needs to get to the marina on the other side of town where a different priest is blessing the local fleet, starting in... eek! 18 minutes.

The digital card of great images is now full. Around the time of the Sign of Peace, CPB puts in a new digital card. The sign of peace is one of the best parts of the Catholic Mass, hands down. Everyone stops to shake hands, hug, introduce themselves. It's really just lovely. She fires off a few frames, watching a little girl squeeze her mom's hand, and thinks about how she used to like to run her fingertips over her own mother's perfectly smooth, always painted fingernails in church. She thinks about her friend, the one coming to the end of his battle with a terminal illness, who always used to flash her a peace sign in church during the Sign of Peace, when they were 12 and 10 and their families were in the habit of going out for breakfast after mass.

The priest begins blessing the communion wafers and wine. Everyone kneels. This has got to be the last shot, even though there won't be photos of Skipper and Friends actually receiving their first communion. Still, it will be communion-y enough to round out the story.

She is standing off in the wing, right by the unadorned platform, still 35 feet from the nearest parishioner. Instinctively, Chunky Photojournalist Barbie steps up onto the bottom step of the low, side platform, to get just a little higher angle. She's looking through her telephoto lens at a child kneeling in the front pew.

The rest of this story happens really fast. She hears a loud noise over the church's public address system, but it doesn't register. BANG! Father Ken smacks his body mic. She looks up, and he is POINTING right at her! He yells,"GET!"

Get? She freezes.


Wha? Oh, God. The step to the unadorned platform. "NOW!"

Bright red, CPB gets off the step. The parents' video cameras continue to roll. A CCD teacher mutters an apology. She grabs her things from the side pew. She flees.

Mortified, she cries in the parking lot. It's really just humiliating more than anything. She starts to drive to the marina for the Blessing of the Fleet. It's a rabbit's warren of streets around here, and seven minutes later, she's still crying, reaching for the map, when she sees children in First Communion clothes running down come steps. She smiles, thinking what a nice shot that would have been if she'd been assigned to THAT parish, when she sees SKIPPER.

She has driven in a big circle. Father Ken is right there on the sidewalk. CPB takes deep breathes, fumbles with a tissue, approaches him to apologize.

CPB: Look, I just (hic) wanted to apologize. I was just going to go, but I really wanted to say I'm sorry.
CPB: I'm sorry, I didn't know...
FK: You need to THINK! You need to respect people's RELIGIONS! Would they let you up stand on a step to a platform with your camera at your SYNAGOGUE?!?!
CPB: (Bewildered and weeping) My...syn-? I'm sorry?
FK: What on EARTH would you STAND during the Eucharistic prayer?
CPB: Well, I wasn't *participating*, I was standing way off to the side, behind that pillar... and
FK: You were totally distracting the entire time! I tried to catch your eye a few times.

**** If this is true, then the Sign of Peace would have been the perfect time to quietly and discreetly approach Chunky Photojournalist Barbie, when everyone is shaking hands and hugging.*****

CPB: (tears really flowing now) Look, I didn't know. I'm just here to say I'm sorry. I'm not sure what I could have done differently other than- (His eyes widen with anger; CPB steers away from that one FAST)- For you to have stopped the children's mass on their special day to shout at me, what I did must have been really terrible and-
FK: It WAS! We welcomed you into our church, and you disrespected it! Would you do that in a synagogue?!?
CPB: Wait, I'm not.. I don't know what you're talking about...
FK: Were you raised CATHOLIC?
CPB: I'm not here to discuss my religion with you. I'm only here to apologize, sincerely. (His faces softens.) I'm absolutely mortified.
FK: (At that, he just gets a look on his face that can only be described as "Really Pissed Off.") Yeah, well...
CPB: So I'm sorry. That's all. (makes a movement to leave)
FK: (shrugs) You cooked your own goose.
CPB: (over shoulder, walking away, murmurs) Humiliating...

The worst part is, in her haste to flee, CPB left the full digital card, the one will the gorgeous, portfolio-worthy, A1 deserving shots on the pew. Numerous phone calls and a stealthy trip back to the church when Father Ken was tucked away in the confessional have, to date, unearthed nothing.


Julia said...

Ohh girl I'm SO sorry you had to go through that. All Catholic faith is lost (as if I had any left). And worse yet I can't believe about the photo card!

cindy w said...

Wow. Father Ken is an a-hole. I don't understand why he would presume to know your religious affiliation, and I'm sure I don't want to know.

But I do think that if he doesn't give you back your digital photo card PROMPTLY, you should sue his ass & take him to small claims court to get it back.

jillian said...

Are you serious??? Wow, I'm so sorry you had to deal with all of this. And to top it all off, you can't find your photos. It's hard to believe that First Communion could turn into such a nightmare assignment. Sending you hugs!

Frances said...

OMG. I'm so sorry that happened to you. Get those photos back - make a big stink and don't let that hole of a priest intimidate you!

Annie said...

Ang, I am HORRIFIED. "Cooked your own goose"?!?!?!?!?! It's so disturbing when people hide behind "God's work" and use it as an excuse to be huge asswipes. Take heart that the work you do is valuable and inspiring -- and that you are the kind of person who worried more about the kids themselves -- and the sanctity of their special day -- than a *@#*#&(ing inanimate step. Oh, and being mistaken for a Jew is *always* a compliment. L'chaim! L'Angie! mwah.

P.S. Will I see you next weekend?

Judy said...

I agree with Annie! Well said....Love, Mom

hefk said...

what a waste of liturgical space that guy is.
unpastoral, unhospitable, unreasonable.
Shame on you, Father Ken.

nemo said...

(Father Ken approaches the Pearly Gates.)
ST. PETER: Welcome to Heaven, Father Ken! We've really been looking forward to your arrival!
FATHER KEN: Thanks, wow, gosh, I'm just really excited to be here. To, you know, finally meet, you know...God.
ST. PETE: Yeah, yeah, we'll get to that. We're just always glad to get a pious man of the cloth such as yourself up here. I mean someone as humble and eager to serve his community and his God as you.
KEN: Yeah, well, thanks, ummm...
PETE: I mean someone as eager to actially LIVE by the Son's teaching of respect, love and forgiveness as CRAM it down the throats of others, really, it's an honor and a privilege.
K-DAWG: (Pulling at his white collar and reddening.) Um, thanks...?
PETEY: Hey, just for poops and giggles (pardon the expressions), let's run over our tape of some of your greatest hits. Hey guys! We're gonna watch the Poppa Ken tape!
(God, Jesus, and an assortment of angels gather together eagerly with popcorn.)
JESUS: Oh, man, this is gonna be sweet.
(The tape rolls to the encounter with our favorite Photojournalist Barbie. KEN starts looking nervous.)
KEN ON TAPE: Would you do that in a synagogue!?!
(Crowd goes "Oooohhhhh!")
JESUS: Man, good thing nobody here is Jewish. Oh, wait...I'M Jewish.
KEN: Urrrrmmmm...can I get some water?
GOD: (Throwing popcorn at Ken's head.) Pipe down, Chucklehead. We're almost at my favorite part.
KEN ON TAPE: You cooked your own goose.
(The crowd erupts. Angels cough under their breath: "uh-DOUCHEBAG...DOUCHEBAG" God settles everybody down.)
GOD: Wow, that was really something. Nice display of humility and compassion. No, no, really.
ANGELS: Ooooooo...
KEN: Ha,, thanks.
GOD: In fact, you are so good at dealing with the sort of Me-less heathens who deface Mother Church with their community service, and their charity, and their socially progressive attitude, I mean, you are so TOTALLY badass at showing these people what it truly means to be a Me-fearing Christian, that I've got a special assignment for you.
KEN: Me? Really?
GOD: Yup. I've got someplace for you where you can really use your gifts. Someplace that's just overflowing with people who need your kind of guidance. Your kind of shepherding. Your kind of full of crap, humorless, self-righteous, pompous hypocrisy.
KEN: My - wait, my WHAT?
GOD: Now, off you go!
(Ken is consumed by flames, writhing and screaming horribly. Everyone stands silent, staring at God who stares impassively. After a moment, He smiles and holds out his hands. High fives and hoots all around. They all turn and head back in the Pearly Gates.)
JESUS: Jeez, what a dick.

gwen said...


I am laughing too hard (at the little play, not the crap story) to say anything clever, so I'll just Anne's assertion that being mistaken for one of the chosen people is ALWAYS a compliment. Welcome to the mishpacha (family), my sister...