“Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!”, my platinum blonde friend, Christine squealed in a loud, surprised pitch. Four of us us were standing in a wooden pew when her cry erupted.
It had been a fairly normal day in our world. Donors dropping off supplies; volunteers stopping in to complete projects; the pregnant women heading in various directions for classes and appointments. We were all live-in volunteers in a community for homeless pregnant women a few blocks away and attending noontime daily Mass was one strategy for coping with the high-drama environment. Those who were available piled into the broken-down car that was used for errands and dashed into “our spot” in the expansive downtown church a few minutes away.
The abbreviated daily Mass progressed, as usual, through the various stages: the reading of Scripture, a brief reflection, the Eucharistic prayers. During the Our Father, we held hands as we joined together in the rhythmic words that spoke of what sustained us: “Give us this day Thy daily bread” and “Forgive us our trespasses.”
Our hands dropped to our side as we said “Amen.” The priest invited us to turn to neighbors and offer the customary sign of peace, a ritual reminder to reconcile with our brothers and sisters whenever needed. As friends and housemates, we offered one another a warm hug, not simply the standard handshake.
At my side, Christine had a glamorous flair. Her nails were freshly painted and sunglasses were perched on top of her head. I offered my curvy and boisterous roommate an embrace. As our arms released and she turned to the person next to her, I noticed her sunglasses slipping down the back of her head.
With overeager helpfulness, I lunged to catch the sunglasses and rescue them on their descent downward to the floor.
But, I’ve never been a great catch.
Instead of the glasses, I caught a fleshy handful of her buttocks, in a pointedly vulnerable area.
The sunglasses clattered on the hard cement floor.
She squealed and grasped her backside.
I blushed and muttered a few uncomfortable sounds.
For a few moments, we suppressed our giggles and twitterings, attempting to think holy thoughts and avoid eye contact. The pressure mounted.
I pressed my hand into my mouth and tried to take in a deep breath, kneeling with my head bowed and gazing at the curve of the pew in front of me. As the holy words echoed around the walls of the Church– “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”– and the priest reverently raised the Blessed Host high above his head, the laughter erupted out of me.
I squawked the odd noise of laughter attempting to be contained.
Once noise was emitted, Christine lost control as well.
In this most sacred of moments, we sputtered and croaked, desperately trying to stop but unable to regain the prayerful silence proper to the moment.
Our efforts to contain the hilarity only spurred it onward. One small noise sent the other into fits and starts. Christine’s face turned red from the efforts to hold the laughter in, and happy tears ran down my face. Other people in the Church glanced at us out of the corner of their eyes, trying to understand what was happening without turning their heads.
We did battle with our laughter through the remaining minutes of Mass.
As it blessedly came to an end, we were released from the hold of sacred silence in holy space. We pressed our weight into the large door at the back of the Church and walked into the light of street life and bright sunshine.
Among the small group of women gathered on the elevated landing, the clucking began: storytelling, teasing, retelling, analyzing.
And the release of happy laughter.