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English: San Fernando Mission Church Interior,...

English: San Fernando Mission Church Interior, San Fernando Valley, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Christmas is a time for good cheer, happiness … and laughter.

And part of that laughter, unfortunately, is often at the expense of other people.

I try not to laugh, really I do.

But it used to be that when my Mom and I sat next to each other, it was all we could do not to laugh at some of it.

Today I want to focus on the Catholic Church. Raised in a Protestant religion, I also had a lot of Catholic relatives and friends. And over the years this has led me to be at a lot of Catholic services. But that doesn’t mean I know all the ins and outs of the services.

To begin with, there was the Lords Prayer. We had lots more words to say at the end of it all.

And I did. Out loud. Once. People laughed.

My friend Texas Linda reminded me of the story of a time long ago … at the San Fernando Mission in California … when she agreed to go to midnight mass with a young man she had started seeing at the time.

Classic. I’m sure it has happened in more than one place.

In this case the young man, full of Christmas cheer and reverence, came into the Church. On his arm was my friend Linda, dressed to the nines and totally clueless as to the ways of the Roman Church.

It was her opportunity to impress not only him, but his family and friends in the Church. As she walked in, proud of her nice new outfit, she glanced around at all the other people. They were looking at her. As they should. She looked good, after all.

The young man approached the pew, knelt, and crossed himself … as is the custom in the church for Catholics.

Linda, busy looking at the crowded church of parishioners did not see him kneel. And yes. She tripped. And went “ass over teacups” as she so eloquently described, and landed flat on the ground next to the young man she was so trying to impress.

They laughed. Far too many of them.

The other story of Mass attended cluelessly, involved a friend of mine over twenty years ago. I was newly divorced as was he … and a small group of us who were all alone on the holiday eve, decided to get together and attend the Midnight Mass held at the large Cathedral in the center of town.

However, all of us were Protestants by trade, so to speak.

We went from house to house, gathering all of us in a few cars, and made our way to the Cathedral. It was packed to the rafters, and smells of holiday greenery and incense were in the air.

The spirit was contagious. The mood was uplifting.

Then the hymn singing began. Turns out in this particular Catholic Church on this particular night, they sang hymns just a little bit differently than we Protestants did.

English: O Come All Ye Faithful The Christmas ...

English: O Come All Ye Faithful The Christmas morning service in St Mary’s Parish Church. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I believe the hymn was O Come All Ye Faithful. Which we knew by heart.

My friend was feeling better than he had as the music began. He, knowing all the words, proudly stood with us all, and sang … loudly … as we joined in the familiar words.

Then came the second verse.

His voice rang out clear as a bell as he sang the first words of the second verse. Very loudly.

Except he was the only one singing.

Seems they only do one verse of the hymns. Or at least they did that night.

Yes, people laughed. So did he. And he relished telling the story for years to come.

Years later, as he was relating the story to some other friends, I overheard him begin the story. And the laughter was expected as he reached the punch line, and didn’t fail to deliver.

The part I didn’t know until then, which he finally shared, twenty years later, was that he was on the verge of suicide when our small group of friends got together to go to church.

You just never know when a little laughter can make a big difference.

Tomorrow … Part Two … children in church for Christmas.