A priest’s holy card from his ordination

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This holy card came into my possession through an old Catholic book, I think.  I forget which book it was, but I always thought this was a pretty card.  The cross was a little plain for my tastes, but I appreciated the Marian theme (Fiat, Magnificat, Stabat).

Up until today, I hadn’t known anything about this priest, but I ended up doing a Google search for him.  I stumbled across this hilarious anecdote from him:

It was my first celebration of First Communion.  Pentecost Sunday, 1961.  At Communion time, I piously processed to the west end of the Communion rail but, upon my arrival there, found the first two children kneeling well beyond the votive stands.  What to do?  Certainly don’t disturb the already trembling children.  I have a ciborium in one hand.  Can I lift the votive stand with the other?  I doubt it.  And, anyway, I don’t want to create a scene (famous last words!).

So I carefully leaned over the votive rack and gave First Communion to the first few boys.  As I continued on to the fourth or fifth child, a commotion caught my attention.  There was Sister Pauline charging down the side aisle behind the communicants like a raging bull, hissing a stage whisper in her Irish brogue:  “Faaaather!  Yeeer on Fiiire.”  With those fateful words, she tripped on the step at the head of the aisle, and fell flat on her face.  Meanwhile, I am nonchalantly glancing over my shoulder at flames licking at my earlobe, and I utter the understatement of the decade:  “Oh!?”  The children all continue to kneel piously in their places.

Before I can utter another “oh”, a man in the congregation – evidently with great athletic ability – bounded over the prostrate Sister Pauline, vaulted over the rail   –  and the children  –  and started beating me up!  So, I’m standing before the mesmerized sixth First Communicant, holding the ciborium in my right hand while giving my back to this stranger who is pummeling me with his hands and arms.

When he finished, we nodded to each other!  He went away and I continued with the First Communion children.  Some in the back of the church had not seen the fire.  All they saw was this man beating up the celebrant. I often wondered why no one budged!

After distributing Communion to the children and the rest of the congregation, I finally turned around to go back to the altar.  The gasps were audible!  I, of course, could not see, but the congregation now could.  The vestment was hanging in tatters down my back, the alb was torn through as was the cassock.  The undershirt was singed.

So, I have always remembered my First Communion celebration at St. Francis.  It was so liturgically correct!  Pentecost Sunday – the coming of the Spirit in tongues of fire!  The perfectly trained children, never moving a muscle, while this unrehearsed side-show took place around them.  Unfortunately, many expected this every time they came to Communion thereafter, but I was unable to oblige.  I was just grateful that Father Daly did not ask me to pay for the vestments.

Father Charles E. Maher was born in Connecticut and attended St. Pius Elementary School, LaSalle Academy and Providence College. He graduated from Our Lady of Providence College Seminary in Warwick before completing his seminary studies at the American College, Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium.  Father was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop McVinney on June 4, 1960 in the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul in Providence.  He served as assistant pastor at St. Francis de Sales, Wakefield; St. Benedict, Warwick; Cathedral of SS. Peter & Paul, Providence; St. Sebastian, Providence; and Our Lady of Mercy, East Greenwich.  Father Maher was pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Providence from 1979 until his retirement in 2001.

 

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