My grandmother used to warn me every so often about the third columnist priests that the communists snuck into the seminaries during the '20s. They were responsible, she was sure, for many of the problems in the Church, and any day now they might try to take over the whole thing.
It's not that I doubted that communists might have tried to infiltrate seminaries during the '20s, or that (assuming that happened) that wouldn't have done real harm. But the thing that struck me in hearing this in the '90s was: That was seventy years ago. If they snuck in during the '20s, they're dead or retired.
It's certainly not seventy years yet since the silliness of the '60s and '70s, but it's getting to have been quite a while. We were visiting with friends for brunch on Easter Sunday, and as we were talking about the occasional flare-ups of bad Easter liturgy, I was reminded of The Egg Sermon.
The Egg Sermon is a not-so-fond memory of my days as an altar boy (circa 1988 to 1995). Just after I became an altar boy, we got a new associate pastor in our parish, Fr. Tom. Fr. Tom was what seemed in the mid to late eighties a very typical 'young priest'. (Given a seven year preparation process, 'John Paul II priests' weren't hitting the streets yet.) Fr. Tom was not, like his forebears in the 70s, a radical of any particular sort. He was just very, very nice, and not (or at least not willing to appear) terribly deep. Fr. Tom's sermon's tended to be aimed at the children in the congregation under age 7, and they usually involved a prop or puppet. (This was tricky, because it meant that at masses for the parish school -- at which he was invariably the celebrant -- the intended audience for the sermon was kindergarten age or below, and the rest of us tended to feel silly.)
One way or another, every altar boy ended up serving pretty much every day out of the triduum, so three years running I ended up serving Fr. Tom's Easter mass, and each time he gave the same sermon. The sermon was based around his Easter basket, and the question: Are you a good egg? Some of us, he explained, are hard boiled. (Out comes a hard boiled egg.) We're hardened, we don't care about others, but when bad things happen (he drops the egg on the marble floor of the sanctuary and it cracks) we just crack. Some of us are scrambled (out comes a ziplock full of scrambled eggs). We're just all mixed up. (He pours the scrambled eggs out on the floor.) Others look really good on the outside (a hollow chocolate egg) but on the inside (he crumbles the hollow egg in his hand) we're hollow.
It went on like this for a while, with more explanation on each egg, and then when Fr. Tom returned to his chair, a couple of us had to come forward with a whisk broom, dustpan and paper towels to clean up all the mess. (You can see why by the third year, this got old.)
As I was telling this altar boy horror story, I found myself saying by way of introduction "Fr. Tom was your typical young priest". And then I realized, that's no longer the case. Fr. Tom was ordained twenty years ago. And as opposed to being a 'typical young priest' he must now be in his early fifties.
Odd to think of...