The Mass Deposit
James R. Aist
This cute little story took place in June of 1972. I had just completed a postdoctoral research study in Zurich and had the unique opportunity to travel around Europe for about three months before starting my new job as an Assistant Professor at Cornell University. My wife and I had an eleven-month-old daughter, Beverly, who was our first-born and our pride and joy. After a brief stay in the Swiss Alps, we headed for Paris to begin our tour of Europe. Being the faithful Roman Catholics that we were, we were determined to attend Mass on the coming Sunday morning. Since we also planned to take a guided tour of the prestigious Louvre Museum after lunch, we found a church just across the river Seine from the Louvre and attended Mass there. This was a very old, smallish, rather ornate Catholic church that, from the outside, gave the impression of a mini-cathedral. Everything about that Mass was done in the high-church tradition, if you know what I mean. The Sanctuary was only about one-third full, and most of the worshipers seemed to be very devout, and very serious, little old ladies. Both the Sanctuary and the proceedings were quite formal and dignified, and we stood out as obviously being American tourists. Or so it seemed to us, anyway. We were determined to be just as formal and dignified as the others, so as not to draw attention to ourselves and distract from the very somber and serious tone of the Mass. We knew that would be a tall order, what with our baby daughter and all, but we were hoping that her generous breakfast of mother’s milk would keep her satisfied, at least until the Mass had ended. But we were definitely not prepared for what happened next.
Everything was fine until about mid-way through the Mass. Beverly began to get fidgety, as one might expect of a young baby, and we had no other way of keeping her from “crying out loud” (literally) than to let her down to the floor so that she could crawl around a bit. We were reluctant to put her down, however, because that floor was visibly dusty and dirty as one might expect in such an ancient church with limited finances for upkeep. We were afraid that she would get dirty crawling around on the floor, and we didn’t want to have to take her through the Louvre looking like that. Besides, what would those dear little old ladies think of us if Beverly would happen to get away from us for even a moment and begin to crawl up the center aisle, creating a spectacle? But we had no choice really, so down she went. I was sitting next to the center aisle, so it fell to me to keep her corralled. Everything seemed to be going just fine at first, so I began to pay more attention to the Priest than to Beverly. Next time I checked on her, she wasn’t there! So I wheeled around in the pew, and there she was in the middle aisle on her hands and knees about half-way back to the front door of the church. When she saw me looking at her, she turned around and began crawling back to me. So, as inconspicuously as possible (relevant factoid: I’m six feet-five inches tall and weigh well over 200 pounds!) I crouched down, got slowly out of the pew, quietly made my way back to her and picked her up. And that’s when I saw it. There was a trail on the floor behind her consisting of five or six little brown balls that had bailed out of her diaper while she was crawling back to me! Needless to say, I had a mixed reaction to this development. On the one hand, the scenario – all things considered – was hilarious beyond belief. But on the other hand, I didn’t dare even crack a smile, much less laugh out loud, for fear of creating a scene that would seriously compromise the solemnity and dignity of the Mass. So, as quickly and as quietly as possible, I returned the little darling to her mother, secured a couple of facial tissues from the “baby bag”, and retraced my steps to the scene of the “crime” and retrieved the “mass deposit” that Beverly had innocently left in the center aisle for all to see. Little did I know that it would be Beverly who would make the floor “dirty” and not the other way around! And, I could see from the looks on the faces of all those devout little old ladies that it was all they could do to keep from bursting into laughter themselves.
I have to admit that we were eager for the Mass to end, so that we could get out of there and give vent to our pent-up laughter; it really was a hoot! And God still laughs to this day every time I tell this story. If you listen carefully, you can hear Him now. He’s the one with the deep-pitched, booming laughter.
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