THE 'ALTER' BOY!
When I was an altar boy many years ago at St. Joseph the Worker parish in Hagerman, NY, I was coaxed into joining by my best friend Jerry Murray. Jerry lived a few doors from me and lived in a Irish Catholic family, while I was an Italian, and we had many types of small rivalries, including: his Giants and my Dodgers, Irish vs. Italians, who had a more witchy sister, and those kinds of things. But above all, we were best friends and did a lot together, including joining Little League and joining the altar boys.
Jerry was a year older than me, and so had a leg up on life. When he went away to Pius X to junior high to begin a journey to the priesthood, he came home for Thanksgiving and immediately introduced me to cigarettes! Off into the woods we went with a stolen pack of his mom’s Winston cigarettes, where I had a few puffs and ran home to puke my guts up. This was after a rather large Thanksgiving dinner, and my folks became suspicious that a few hours later I was very hungry again.
Many mornings we would get on our bikes when we were in elementary school and serve 7:00 a.m. mass. If the priest were not yet in the sacristy, we would take a sip of the wine, just a sip, but the Mass seemed a little livelier than usual at 7:00 a.m.! Many were the night we would do a novena and on the way home get shall we say: “Distracted” from the best and most direct route to our home.
One night we decided to cut across a landfill that had piles of dirt, stone and pebbles that covered a direct path to our street. It was fenced off and so we decided we would climb the chain-link fence, cross through the property and scale the fence once more to get to the other side. As we dropped down on the ground, suddenly a spotlight started to scan the property, slowly moving across the hills and piles of dirt, sand and pebbles. The flat light would crawl across the ground, climbing the piles, in search of two intruders. This became adventurous and thrilling to Jerry and me. It was pitting us as a team against some unknown, and we were bound to get away or face the horrors of a wooden spoon and a belt!
Following the pattern of the light, and the systematic way it was moving, we figured out we could get around it and scale the fence before we were caught. I nudged Jerry toward another hill to hide behind, he moved and so we moved that way until we reached the fence, where with one quick movement, we began to climb the fence, just as we could feel the presence of something moving in our direction. A sense of urgency overcame us both, as we moved up and over the fence. As we landed on the outside of the fence, did we hear the deep growl and barking of a massive German Shepherd, which took my breath away!
Some altar boy! Today they are called servers, because in my church, they are mostly girls!