The detail that keeps coming back to me as I think about this extraordinary Twit fight with Katrina vanden Heuvel is that she had two priests come to the house every Wednesday to prepare her for First Communion.
Wow. I can count the time that we had priests come to the house on one hand. For example, when my grandfather was dying and couldn't get to church, the priest came for a living room Mass. We had such a living room Mass said by a young priest once when I was in college in a big house we rented with lots of students. When I was in pregnancy bedrest for months with my son, a priest came to administer me communion and reconciliation. A priest coming to your house -- what an occasion! I think in the entire time we were growing up, perhaps Father came to dinner at our house once -- we just weren't Worthies, as my mother used to call the people on the parish council who had that kind of relationship with the clergy.
So...instead of clumping along with 50 other kids with scuffed patent leather shoes to the church for long spring afternoons languishing in Communion lessons and practice, Katrina had two priests all to herself to come to the house to prepare her for Communion -- it seems like an untold luxury, like a doctor's house call, like a special delivery. It tells you something about that Church's relationship to power and privilege of the sort Katrina, who grew up in a wealthy and privileged family, is herself ready to criticize. Perhaps there was some special circumstance, perhaps life in an embassy in a foreign country. But in any event, it was special!
I remember when I wanted to play with the older kids on the roundabout in the school yard and I ran and tried to jump on, and instead got dragged underneath. A heavy bar hit the back of my head, and I got a nasty cut. Terrified older classmen took me to the nunnery; the sisters were in the middle of their heavy noon-day meal, and we were surprised to discover this luxury -- roast chicken on big platters and gravy tureens, while we had liverwurst sandwiches and school milk in cartons.
The nuns were so shocked and repulsed at the crying kids and my bloodied head that they couldn't move. One efficient nun with the manly name of Sister John Mary who we thought was cool because she wore an actual jackknife on her belt along with her rosary and was sometimes the handyman in the school, had the presence of mind to grab me and hustle me into a small bathroom off the kitchen, and try to wash my head with miles of harsh paper towels. She carried me carefully into a couch in the front parlour and put me on a fancy embroidered settee.
The last thing I remember before nearly fainting in terror -- my best friend, distraught, on the playground, had told me I was going to die -- before my mother arrived from work, pale and worried, in a taxi -- was Mother Superior fretting that I might get blood on their couch -- and horrors, might miss my First Communion, which was coming up that very Sunday. The prospect of either sin of commission or omission seemed terrifying indeed.
My mother took me a mile up the hill to the doctor's and had me stitched me up, then set me on the porch with the strict order not to move. With wobbly legs and a heavy head -- it felt funny to move -- I made it to my First Communion at St. Michael's, the church in the small upstate town of Penn Yan, NY, fearful that I might in my weakened state commit that most serious of blasphemies, dropping the Host on the floor.
Yes, that was the Church to me -- the kindness and practicality of Sr. John, on the one hand, and the fussiness of Mother Superior, on the other, and the different aspects of this institution built on the Rock of St. Peter.
So, yeah, priests coming to the house!
Lots more to say about this but I'm busy now -- so read the Storify and I will be back later.