Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Mass at Ice Station Zebra

With Celsius in the negative teens this morning, the furnace in our church decided to take the day off. When I entered for 7 am Mass, it was like entering a walk-in freezer with icons of Mary, Jesus, Joseph, and St. Anthony shivering against the far wall.

Lights were all but off as Father Chateau finished the Rosary. Bill the lector brought the lectionary out to the ambo wearing a fur hood like the lady in the picture. Bill did not look as happy as the lady in the picture.

Frank the server came out to light the altar candles. He was wearing mittens.

Behind me, my friend Ferde, who sometimes speaks overloud for being hard of hearing, all but shouted, “This is insane, man. Ten thousand dollars a week—” He didn’t finish the sentence, but I think he meant that the church collection of $10,000 a week should cover basics like heat.

I smiled at Ferde and he smiled back, somewhere between embarrassed at his outburst and knowing about his own beloved incorrigibility.

I turned back to the front and noticed for the first time Frank in the front row. This is another Frank, one of our oldest parishioners, pushing 90, who used to come to daily Mass but now, because of health concerns—his own or his wife’s he never says—he usually only comes Sundays. Today is Saturday, there was frost forming in the font, and Frank was here.

Not only that but Frank was wearing the same thin fleece jacket he wears when Celsius is in the plus teens. He had just completed his half-hour of pre-Mass prayers and was seated again. I walked up to his pew, slid in beside him, and put my arm around his shoulder.

“What are you doing here on a morning like this, Frank?” I asked. “You should be home under covers!”

He smiled back with that great toothy grin of his as if to say that was the craziest idea he had ever heard.

“It’s warm here!” Frank said. “This is warmest place in town.”

I hugged him again and shook my head as I retreated, shivering, to my pew.


  1. Heat in churches is a new fangled idea
    The faithful have been shivering for
    almost 20 centuries-to the rock i'm clinging
    thou tempests loadly roar
    How can I keep from singing !


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