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For Your Marriage

Dennis and Mary Jo Weiss have been married for more than 30 years. They write about a shared love of nature, prayer, and their children and grandchildren from their home in Hamburg, New York.

“Responsorial Psalmnesia” and Other Catholic Disorders

The children were having way too much fun in church that Sunday. It all sprang from a conversation we had about Mass, when I let it slip that I had difficulty remembering our part in the Responsorial Psalm some Sundays at Mass. I resisted using the Missal because I preferred to listen.

Oh, I am fine if the response is a simple one, like “Lord, have mercy” or even “Save your people, O Lord.” But anything longer than that, and the disorder which I have come to call “Responsorial Psalmnesia” kicks in.

It was not a surprise to them, for they knew that I have some short-term memory issues, such as remembering the weather forecast. In fact, I am part of the target audience for the end of the broadcast when the news anchor says, “Mike will be back in a minute to update the forecast.”

So, why were they having fun? Well, once they knew of my disorder, I used to catch them at that part of Mass looking out of the corners of their eyes to see how much of the response I could remember. And on this particular day, there was a level of excitement and anticipation in the pew akin to Christmas morning once the lector announced the response.

“God mounts his throne (easy enough)… to shouts of joy (challenging, but achievable)… a blare of trumpets (uh-oh)…for the Lord.” (I’m sunk!)

To my credit, I gave it my best shot. By the third stanza I even had the Lord solidly on His throne. But things went downhill from there. By the end, there was something about noise…and an instrument of some sort…a timbrel and harp perhaps?

After that, I could see other children who were obviously more devout attending nicely to the next reading. But in our pew, out of the corner of my eye, I could see my children’s shoulders shaking with silent laughter, and some nudging of elbows that seemed to indicate, “That was a good one!”

Heathens, all of them! Heathens with young brain cells!

In my defense, I think that I could do better if I were not the object of such scrutiny!

Oh, but I am not the only one in this family who suffers from peculiar religiously themed disorders. In the raising of this Catholic family of ours, there have been many other unusual phenomenon. Here are a few of our favorites:

Misguided Devotion Disorder

After a get-together with the extended family, I was clearing dishes and went to change the tablecloth. There, scratched into the finish of the dining room table were the words,
“God is here”!

Since there was only one young nine-year-old girl seated at that spot earlier in the day, the finger of guilt pointed to Shannon. Dennis and I told her that, while we were pleased with her awareness of the presence of Our Lord in the midst of family, she was not allowed to deface our furniture! We still tease her about this, because it is still there many years later.

Come to think of it, that budding graffiti artist was the same one who used to make the sign of the cross to head, heart, and one shoulder, then say, “I like to tuck the Holy Spirit under my armpit.” We told her no to that, too.

Holy Term Confusion Syndrome

Eight-year-old Peter’s eyes were as big as the saucers on our lunch table at a restaurant located next to the runway of the Buffalo airport. On the wall near the tables were headphones where you could listen to the control tower direct the plane to land.

Peter was glued to the window, as he watched planes coming and going, and when we encouraged him to take a break to eat, he said in amazement, “I can hear Pontius Pilate!”

Dirty Bread Blessings

Attending the blessing of the Easter breads on Holy Saturday, a local tradition here in Buffalo, I filed into a pew with a few of the children, our delicious Easter breads tucked into a cloth covered basket. Even Caitlin and Cara had a bread that they each helped to make in separate little baskets.

During the ceremony, a little classmate of Caitlin tapped us on the shoulder from the pew behind and said, “Is that your bread back there?”

Sure enough, Caitlin’s perfectly braided bread had slipped out of the basket and was lying on the floor several rows back! We sheepishly retrieved it.

When the priest came to the actual blessing of the loaves, this same little friend tapped us again on the shoulder and said, “God bless your dirty bread!”

Mother Teresa once said that if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. I’d like to add that in addition to that, there is probably a lot of Divine amusement in the raising of our children in the Faith. I am hoping that someday, as we are reviewing my life together, He will nudge me with a gesture that says, “That was a good one!”