My first job during high school was working after school and on the weekends at our church. I know, I'm such a good girl. I'm glad you think that, because you are about to see how I screwed up and made a liar out of a perfectly good priest.
During the week my evening hours consisted of answering the phone and taking messages. This usually turned into me transferring the call to the wrong person, because I never really figured out how to get the transfer part of the phone to work.
I figured as long as the person got to someone's voice mail box then things were good because the offices were so close to each other they could really just shout down the hall and deliver the message to the correct person. I'm sure they seriously appreciated my handling their phone calls in that manner.
We also stuffed envelopes and got 4,004,493,000,930 bulletins stuffed and ready for church each week. OK, it may not have been that many, but when you are sitting in a freaking quiet church office after regular hours, well let's just say things get a bit long and monotonous . I mean, I totally had the Lord with me, but for the most part it felt super quiet and alone.
The weekends were an extra special time. It meant that I got to open the church up at the butt ass crack of dawn using a skeleton key. In case you are not familiar with skeleton keys, they are a special kind of key that don't actually work.
There were a series of things you needed to do in order for the skeleton key to actually work and keep the doors opened. You had to tap something and bang on something like The Fonz and then use the key and wah la! I'm not as cool as The Fonz, so I don't think that I ever ever ever ever once opened the doors successfully. Sooner or later someone else with a skeleton key and a Fonzie-esque nature would show up and open the door for the people gathering in wait to enter the church. But each week, I dutifully went to every.single.door and thought I was correctly unlocking them.
Next, we would prepare a few things for the upcoming Masses. We needed to make sure that wine and communion wafers were present and ready to bring up for communion. We also, and here's where it got tricky for me, check this special little area of the church, called the Tabernacle, where any remaining consecrated communion wafers were put if they were not used during a mass.
If there were no Eucharist in the Tabernacle, it was a sign that we needed to send up more than usual in the plate that was brought up during mass.
In my head, I got that a little wrong.
This one particular morning I checked, and there were no Eucharist in the Tabernacle. So I went back to the office, grabbed a bag, tore it open and put some wafers in the Tabernacle. If there are any true blue Catholics reading this you already know what I did wrong.
So the morning moved along and several masses took place. Hundreds of people received communion, which in the Catholic church is a very big deal as we believe it actually becomes the Body and Blood of Christ.
Afterwards I asked the priest if there had been enough communion to distribute, and he answered yes. He said that there were Eucharist in the Tabernacle so it had not been a problem, when he ran out he just brought those out.
I said, "Oh, I know. I put those in there because I saw it was running low."
This is when the priest just stared at me. He asked me to repeat what I just said.
Apparently.....the Tabernacle is a very special place. The ONLY thing to ever reside within it's walls are consecrated communion wafers, meaning they have undergone transubstantiation which is the complete change of the substance of bread and wine into the substance of Christ's body and blood by a validly ordained priest during the consecration at Mass. It's pretty big stuff.
So, thanks to me, a large percentage of the Catholics who went to Mass that day, hoping to receive the sacrament of communion, basically received a plain wafer that I had torn out of a plastic bag that we ordered in bulk. In other words, I ruined it.
The priest at first looked perturbed, then he just laughed and said there was nothing to be done about it now. He then asked that I please not leave the church unlocked like I had the previous week. Stupid skeleton key.
So, there you have it. That has been weighing on my conscience since I was 15.
Well, that and the time I was 5 and tried to steal a pack of fruit stripe gum by putting it down into my tank top while shopping with my mom after I saw Daisy Duke put stuff down her shirt on the Dukes of Hazzard.
And that, my friends, is what Catholic guilt is all about.