[Edited for language because I've decided I'm that prissy. The punctuation is not my fault.]
Chickens Of Unusual Size
January 14, 2018
The 1969 Easter Mass Incident
Content Warnings: Religion, food, symbolic cannibalism, symbolic gore, penis mention, Blasphemy, SO MUCH BLASPHEMY, weapons, war mention. Mind the warnings and your health always comes first. Its a HILARIOUS story, I promise.
As always, all the names have been changed to protect people’s identities. This is a long one, so Press J now if you want to skip it.
When my dad was a young man and still a practicing catholic, he participated in a small church communion that nearly got him and six other people excommunicated.
Father Patrick ran a small church outside of California Polytechnical and tended to be... rather more liberal in his interpretations of scripture than most of the church was, which made him something of a hit with the local students and liberally-inclined populace. Pat went to all manner of civil demonstrations, condemned the s#!+ out of the vietnam war and the politics that lead to it and so on. In January of 1969 a series of incidents lead him to start exploring “nontraditional” means of holding Mass as a means of reaching out to his community and exploring his own faith, which ultimately culminated in the 1969 Easter Mass Incident.
For those of you who weren’t raised catholic, Communion is this ritual where you become one with Jesus by eating a really horrible bland wafer cookie and taking a shot of wine (called hosts), which then *literally* become the flesh and blood of jesus in your mouth, allowing him to become one with you. It’s big McF---ing deal, and you have the opportunity to take communion at every mass. All this had to be explained to me second-hand because after this and Dad’s 51 days in the army, Dad decided he wouldn’t inflict religion on any children he might have in the future.
“Hey dad,” Six-year old me asked the first time he told me this story after my practicing friends were talking about getting wine at church. “Isn’t that cannibalism?”
“We’re getting to that.” He waved.
The First Incident in January when, due to a serious cock-up by the church, all the hosts Father Pat received were moldering and spoiled and probably would have killed someone if he’d actually fed anyone them. But it was the first mass of the year, when a peak number of people came in after vowing to got to church more for new year’s. He couldn’t NOT have communion.
“I’ll bake.” offered Maria, the parish secretary and probably the best baker in the county. “So we have hosts. Jesus will understand.”
Father Patrick, not one to pass up the chance at Maria’s cooking, immediately agreed.
A Host is supposed to be composed solely of unleavened wheat flour and water, which is why they taste terrible. It’s a theological point of some importance relating to Exodus or something but Maria had an important theological counterpoint: Jesus both divine and loves all his children, ergo, Jesus would neither be a nasty bland cracker nor want his children to suffer as such and so instead, she made Mexican wedding cookies.
They were a SPECTACULAR hit. Many praises were heaped upon father patrick for the Much Better Wafers and that they’d be sure to show up next week as long as Maria kept making them. Father Patrick figuring that hey, anything that gets people in the doors is good and really, if it was turning into Jesus once inside the parishioner, did it really matter what the wafers were made of? So he continued to let Maria bake the Hosts, and encouraged her to try out new flavors, like nutmeg and cinnamon.
This went on swimmingly for a few weeks until The Bishop showed up for a surprise visit the same week Maria decided to experiment with rainbow sprinkles.
Dad remembers hearing the bishop through the windows roaring “THE HOLY BODY OF CHRIST DOES! NOT! CONTAIN! RAINBOW! SPRINKLES!”
The matter went clean up to The Archbishop, who decided that while Pat was probably right to not feed spoiled hosts to his parish, he should attend some remedial classes to remember what Communion was all about, so that if it happened again, he’s come up with a more suitable substitute.
Father Patrick returned in late March, full of spite and some fascinating new ideas.
“Is this where the Cannibalism happens?” Six-year-old me asked, eager to get to the good parts.
At his remedial classes, the teacher had stressed the importance of transubstantiation, aka “That bit where the wafer and wine, Actually, Literally, become the flesh of Jesus Christ and we expect you to swallow.” Also on the syllabus was understanding the importance of Christ’s suffering and sacrifice.
“So, I was thinking about Easter Service.” Said father Patrick one afternoon while dad was doing his computer science homework at the church because his dorm was a barely-standing fire hazard and the library was where you went to have sex.
“Well, we do re-enactments for christmas. Why not on easter? Why not re-enact the crucifixion of Christ right here? Make it real for everyone. Trauma’s great for bonding a community together.”
“Who’s playing Jesus?” asked Maria, always one for a good laugh.
“That’s the thing- A Host, it doesn’t look much like flesh, right? Doesn’t look like much of anything, really. Not great for reinforcing one’s belief.
What if, instead, we- and I mean you, Maria, I can’t cook to save my life- make a man-sized loaf of bread, maybe in the shape of a T, and we have some of the boys dress up as romans and whip the bread and we pour the wine on so it’s bleeding and them- then we make a big wooden cross and actually nail the bread to it with, I don’t know, railroad spikes, more wine all over. And we raise the cross, all while telling the story of the crucifixion.”
He paused to take a drink, Maria slowly crumpling onto the floor in horrified laughter and Dad now thoroughly distracted from his homework.
“Then we lower the cross, and invite everyone who wants to take communion up to tear a hunk of Jesus off. Just descend into his corpse like vultures. I think that’d really be a good bonding experience for the church.” he nodded thoughtfully. “The hard part, I suppose, will be finding enough romans.”
“I WANNA BE LONGINUS.” bellowed my father, barreling into the room.
And so, the plan was hatched. Dad hit up every other guy in the Church and eventually rounded up four more romans, three of them from the Education Department of Cal Poly, and one guy from Chemistry, who just liked to watch things burn.
This, being a play, naturally meant that there was a rehearsal, and test Bread jesus. Maria had decided that if they were going to start being extra-literal, she needed to make the most lifelike Bread jesus possible, and made a distressingly buff and human-proportioned Jesus by Advanced bread-braiding, complete with plaited hair, quail’s-egg-and-raisin eyes, bready muscle groups, and an eight-pack because why not make the lord completely shredded?* She also made the important theological decision that since Jesus loves everyone and was happy to die in spite of all his suffering, he should be smiling, and had a toothy corn-kernel smile. He was Wonderful and Terrifying all at once.
“Maria,” asked Father Patrick after a few minutes of delighted and horrified cooing over Jesus’ toothy grin and abdominals. “Why is he wearing a tea-towel?
“Well, he’s the Son of God. A Man. With all that entails.” She said, pointedly staring at Father Patrick while everyone stared at the suspiciously lumpy tea-towel. “And he might have... burnt, slightly.”
Everyone nodded and agreed that the tea-towel was the best course of action. The rehearsal goes splendidly and everyone agrees that this is the most delicious Jesus they’ve ever had.
Easter Sunday arrives and the Church is PACKED, from the more lapsed Catholics showing up for a high holiday, parents visiting for spring break and a whole horde of newcomers who had gotten wind that something was up and they ought to come.
Dad is a lanky as hell 21-year old composed mostly of technical jargon and acne but he is STOKED to be playing Longinus, the roman that speared Jesus on the cross, because he gets to do the BEST technical effect in the whole parade. Since he came in at the end he missed a good portion of the sermon, but did hear the “oooh” from the crowd as the massive cross was dragged in by the other Romans, followed by horrified gasps and high screams and a discernible “What the F - - -” as they brought in Bread Jesus 2.0, whipping him enthusiastically, and hammering him into the cross, the sound of wine splashing onto the floor loud in the terrified silence of that Parishioners.
Finally Father Patrick gets to the part about Longinus, and Dad comes sprinting down the aisle as hard as he can, because in order for Bread Jesus to be seen by everyone, his middle had to be about 10 feet off the ground, so Dad had to run, shrieking latin curses, down the length of the church, with a big honking spear and take a flying leap at Jesus in order to spear him in the gut.
Please take moment to imagine you are some normal god-fearing catholic who has decided to visit little bobby or maybe patricia at college and you’re all going to church together like a nice family and this F- - -ing madman has decided to go all Silence of the Lambs on mass and now there’s some sort of underfed translucently pale man in ill-fitting Roman armor and cape flying at a horrifying glutinous effigy of your lord and savior, with an actual f- - -ing spear, screaming like a madman. Don’t you feel yourself drawing closer to God already? Defensively, perhaps, like an octopus trying to ooze itself into a crevice against the horrors of the ocean.
However, two things happen that were not planned on
1. Dad misses. In his defense, Bread Jesus is close to but not quite the size of a man- more like the size of a doughy teenager, and his middle is a small target 10 feet up in the air and dad is has a computer science minor, not an athletics scholarship. He misses by about 8 inches and instead very solidly stabs Bread Jesus right through the groin, leaving a big hole in Maria’s tea-towel and the spear jutting out at a decidedly… attentive angle, as Bread Jesus’s Bread Dick drops to the floor with a splat. Nobody notices this, however because
2. In rehearsal, Dad had managed to get the spear right in jesus’s navel but neither Father Patrick nor the other romans could get the wine up there to make his middle appropriately bloodied.
Maria come up with the Genius solution that since wine is made of grapes and Jam is made of grapes, she could make a jelly-filled Jesus for Dad to stab. There was a normal-sized test loaf and when dad stabbed it on the table, it had a nicely gooey dribbling effect.
However, this time the loaf was torso-sized, still hot from the oven and upright, so when dad speared the very end of the loaf, all the steam-pressured jam had collected at the bottom and a spray of lukewarm smuckers exploded out from bread jesus, turning the first three pews into a splash zone of symbolic entrails.
There was a hot, sticky minute of complete silence in the church after that.
Then, Father Patrick indicated it was time for the cross to be lowered, and continued on with the normal preparations of the Host, he himself covered in hot smuckers, as though nothing particularly ordinary was occuring, quietly kicking the bread-dick under the altar. At the end of it all, Father Patrick and invited everyone up with the Last Oration:
“Thou, O God, has kindly allowed us to have a part in this Holy Sacrifice; for this we give Thee thanks. Accept it now to Thy glory and be ever mindful of our weakness. Amen.”
...And everybody came up, shuffling like terrified zombies, pinching off tiny bits at first but then the madness took them and they began tearing apart bread jesus by the handful, weeping as they partook, scattered prayers and begging for forgiveness. The whole congregation was kneeling about the altar, tearful and united in their guilt and their need for God.
“IS CHURCH ALWAYS LIKE THAT?” six-year-old me asked, absolutely stoked. I’d convert on the spot if I got a show like that.
“No, it’s normally bland wafers and lots of chanting in latin.”
“Well that’s boring as hell.” I remember muttering and Dad snorting the coffee he was drinking out of his nose.
As people filed silently out of the Church to a gloriously sunny California afternoon, faces wan and smeared with wine and jam, Father patrick turned to Maria and asked “You don’t think that was too much, do you?”
“No.” Said Maria with a sarcastic deadpan so intense it was hard to tell from sincerity.
It was the exact same tone she used when the Archbishop and Six other high clergy showed up, clutching a letter someone had written, Livid and almost foaming at the mouth, demanding to know if such blasphemy had transpired.
“No. That’s crazy.” She said, staring down the archbishop like he was an idiot.
“Such imaginations some people have!” Said Father Patrick, much less convincingly.
“And you- you didn’t... Spear an effigy of our lord and savior?” the archbishop demanded of my father.
“Do I look like I can jump that high?” Dad asked, having in the interim been drafted for 51 days then nearly died of pneumonia from it, and therefore no longer afraid of the Church, the Law or God.
Somewhat relieved that he’d only received the extremely detailed ramblings of a doddering parishioner, the Archbishop sat down and complemented Maria on her most excellent Mexican Wedding Cookies, may he please have another plate for his nerves? Perhaps the ones with sprinkles?
Dad went on to help build the internet, Father Patrick converted to Buddhism and Maria became a Nun.
*For those of you wondering, Jesus was made of Challah.
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