For some reason, my family went to Christmas Eve Mass at midnight, or as I regard it, the wee small hours of the morning. As my brother asked as we climbed the stairs into the house of the Lord, "What is the point of midnight mass? To see who can stay up the latest? Why not 2am mass?"
I think my mother got it in her head that the cool kids would be at midnight mass, making it hipper and thus, more palatable to my brother and me. But really, it was just regular mass held 5 hours before dawn. It wasn't nearly as thrilling as the big holidays masses from my childhood, packed to standing-room only with all of the kids I knew from various after-school activities. The communion march was used to display one's outfit and check out all the good Catholic boys in the congregation. I actually looked forward to those masses.
None the less, there I was on Christmas Eve, standing in a tall line of sleepy Spotswoods. Towards the end of mass, which went on 14 minutes longer than the internationally agreed upon 60-minutes, the main priest started to wrap it up by thanking everyone involved in putting together Christmas services. Repeatedly, he mentioned a "Barbara" who 12 people seemed to be very familiar with. The remaining 200 of us who attend mass twice a year looked around at one another. Who the hell is Barbara, we all seemed to be thinking. Clearly, Barbara was the humble genius behind the scenes. I decided the priest kept bringing up this Barbara person to make all of us lapsed Catholics feel out of the loop. If you showed up to mass regularly, you'd be best friends with the amazing Barbara. Inside joke about Barbara. Oh, that Babs. There wouldn't be Christmas without her.
My mother applauded for Barbara, obviously knowing who she is. My mother is very much in the loop.
On and on, the priest went, thanking the choir, the church staff, his back-up priest standing next to him. He even thanked the congregation, without whom there would be no reason for mass.
I could see the end in sight. We were almost there. After the thank yous, it's be the final prayer, a couple of versus of "Joy To The World" and we were home free. Then suddenly from the left side of the half-full church came a bellowing female voice.
"And thank YOU, Father!"
Everyone begrudgingly clapped as my brother leaned over and whispered, "What a brown-noser."
There is nothing wrong with thanking the priest. The bellower was probably caught up in the magic of this very holy holiday.
Already tired and cranky, the bellower made me unreasonably riled up. I wanted to march right over and scream in her face, in church on Christmas Eve (excuse me, it was now 1:13am Christmas Day), "Well, I guess we all know who will be flying straight up to heaven! You must be SO excited to DIE."
I didn't say that, of course. I merely held a silent protest during Joy To The World, said a prayer for gay marriage and women priests, and made my way to the parking lot without incident...