The Priest’s Underwear
Dad had been interested in genealogy for years. Before the popularity of ancestory.com he spent hours on internet genealogy boards, searching old cemeteries records and traveling the area exploring old government records for family connections and leads he could follow.
After years of hits and misses he received an email from someone who was also searching the Irish name Hilley. The man said he was in contact with an old Irish priest living in New Zealand that was also researching the name Hilley. He said the priest was not of his line, but thought he might be connected to us.
Dad contacted the priest and they started comparing notes. In the end they decided , they were indeed related. Father Pat was just a few years older than my Dad. Their grandparents were brother and sister. My dad’s grandfather came to the states and Father Pat’s Grandmother had stayed behind in Ireland. The siblings lost touch after Dad’s grandfather arrived in the US.
After they had been in touch for a few months, Father Pat told us he was going to visit a niece and her family in North Jersey. He thought that they could drive him down to us and he could stay with us for a few days before traveling on to Ireland. Dad was excited and Mom was thrilled beyond words. Mom is old school Italian. Having a Priest in your home was like having a celebrity. It was a very big deal. She called all her relatives and even contacted her local Priest. She arranged for Father Pat to say Mass at her church and invited the entire family to witness her moment of “I have a Priest staying in my house glory.”
He wasn’t coming for 2 months but Mom started cleaning right away. She redecorated the guest bedroom with framed Holy Cards and a big crucifix. I even caught her cutting up a Funeral Mass card to get the “Beautiful picture of The Sacred Heart of Jesus” to put in a frame. The statue of the golden naked lady in the dining room went into the closet and a picture of the Pope appeared. There were scapulars placed on each headboard and rosaries strategically placed around the house. I came home one night to find a Mary on the Half-Shell statue in the flower bed. Mom was ready.
For the first time in years I was living there too. I had sold my townhouse and was waiting while my new house to be built, so I had to live with this priest too. Lets just say I was not as excited as my parents. We didn’t know this guy. Suppose he wasn’t a real Priest? Supposed he was some crazy person? My Mother was too excited to even worry about that.
The night he arrived we took him to the neighborhood diner for dinner. My parents were mesmerized. They introduced him to the diner waitress and some guy in the next booth from Dad’s Order of Knights of Columbus.They even introduced him to complete strangers. My parents were in their glory!
When we got home from the Diner, Mom asked Father Pat if he needed any laundry done. He had traveled from New Zealand to California to Newark,NJ. He said he did have a wee bit of laundry and my Mother smiled ear to ear. She was going get to do Priest laundry!
He came downstairs with a pretty big pile considering he only had a small suitcase. It must have been everything in there. Mom decided to put the first load on that night and do the rest in the morning. She was very tired from the long day and all this Priest excitement. She sorted out all Father Pat’s underwear first. She told me later it was a bit worn and she had decided to whiten it up with a few sprays of SHOUT stain remover. She used quite a bit because she wanted it to her Priest to have the best underwear around! She would let it soak overnight and then throw it in the dryer in the morning.
Things were a little bumpy in the morning. Mom offered Father Pat and English muffin. There was some confusion about Thomas’s English Muffins. I don’t know what a English muffin really is but Thomas’s is not it. And it seems Earl Grey is not breakfast tea. Who knew? Mom started to panic and excused herself to got put on another load of laundry.
She opened the washer and started pulling the underwear out. Her heart dropped. The underwear fell apart in her hands. There were big holes in every single piece! What in the world happened? Then she looked at the SHOUT bottle. It wasn’t SHOUT. It was Clorox spray cleaner. At least the remaining shreds of underwear were very white.
OMG. How could this happen? What would she tell the Priest? He didn’t even have a pair for today! Would the Priest have to go commando? Was destroying a Priest’s underwear a sin? Did she need to go to confession? Shit!!!!!
Eddie!!!! Come in here!!!
Mom showed him what was left of Father Pat’s underwear. He frowned. This was not part of their plan but Dad is always one to just keep moving forward. He turned around and went to have a talk with Father Pat. He hadn’t taken a shower yet, so he was good for now. Mom jumped in the car and made an emergency run to Boscov’s. She came back with a big shopping bag of new underwear in one hand and her asthma rescue inhaler in the other. Father Pat took it all in stride and was very gracious about it. I really think he didn’t want to continue talking about his underwear anymore and I reminded my parents later that he did get all new underwear out of the deal.
We had a few quiet days after that. My parents drove him up to Lancaster and he was fascinated by the Amish. They visited with family and he said Mass. He was only going to be with us another day or two. Then it happened.
Catholic Priests have to spend a certain amount of time everyday praying some kind of special Priest prayer from a special Priest Bible. They call it “Saying your office.” It was lunchtime and Dad was sitting on the front porch to give Father Pat some quiet time to pray. Mom was in the kitchen and my year old dachshund Vinni was running around the house. After a while Father Pat put his 40 year old leather bound Priest Bible down on the sofa and went out to visit with Dad on the porch. About 15 minutes later Mom walked into the family room and saw a big mess on the floor. What in the world was that on the floor? There were little pieces of paper everywhere and a brown lump of something.
She bent down for a closer look. OMG. It was what was left of the Bible. The worn leather cover was torn off and chewed. Most of the tissue thin pages were torn out and those little ribbon page markers scatter around. Vinni poked her head out from under the sofa with a bit of the Bible still in her mouth. OMG OMG. Father Pat said he received this Bible on the day he was ordained. OMG OMG. Mom grabbed for her rescue inhaler!!
Eddie!!!! Come in here!!!!
When Dad walked in, Mom was trying to shove wet pieces of bible pages back into the distorted leather cover. “What is that?” he asked. He was staring at the mess but couldn’t make out what it had once been.
Its Father Pat’s bible!!! OMG! We’re all going to hell!
Eddie, What are you going to do? I can’t believe you let this happen!
Now we’ll never get out of Purgatory!
Eddie, this is all your fault!
What? My fault! I want even in the room!
You invited him to stay with us! Now we’re screwed!
Don’t expect me to even talk to you in Purgatory!
Dad remained calm. Isn’t there a religious supply store in Cherry Hill? We’ll take him over there an buy him a top of the line Priest Bible. Maybe some other priest supplies too. We’ll get him a bunch of Priest stuff to make this right. I bet there are Priest things he didn’t even know he needed. I’ll go talk to him now.
Again Father Pat took the news with grace. They went to the religious supply store and Dad bought out the place. Mom made him a nice lunch and then hid in the laundry room and called me at work.
Karri? I want you to know that because of you and your dog we are all going to Hell!
Mom, I’m busy. You’re going to have to be more specific that that, I answered.
She told me what happened.
Ma, It seems like he took well and it all turned out ok. Calm down.
I tried to use logic on her. I don’t think you’ll go to hell if you bought him all that Priest stuff to make up for it.
She snapped, I just want you to know if your father and I are going to Hell, you and your dog are coming with us!
OK, OK, Ma! Why don’t you put father Pat on the phone and I will apologize for Vinni.
She walked the phone into the kitchen and put Father Pat on the phone. I made a sincere apology (Mom thought a good Act of Contrition would have helped too but I skipped that part) and he was very understanding. He said he had given Vinni penance and she will serving out her time in her crate.
Mom got back on the phone.
I tried to lighten things up and said “Well Mom, maybe now that Vinni has the word of The Lord in her maybe she will be reborn!” Mom didn’t laugh. I decided to skip my next line about Vinni pooping out the word of The Lord of the next day or two.
In the end, we brought Father Pat to the airport with lots of new underwear and Priest stuff. He turned out to be a kind man that has visited us many times since. Mom still worries about his underwear and going to Hell. I guess its all pretty normal for our house.