Laughter is stronger than death

By Father Dennis Meinen
View from the Scooter

Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face. – Victor Hugo

One of my first experiences with how helpful deacons are, or could be, occurred at my first parish assignment (1987-1990) during Mass as a priest.

When it came time for the Memorial Acclamation, the deacon (Hint: Baber’s Vis-Vita) introduced it by singing, “Let us proclaim the Mystery of Faith.”

I immediately sang, “When we eat this Bread…”

With reverential eagerness the deacon robustly twanged, “Keep in mind…”

It was then that I discovered my first disability-risibility. I fully realized that my main weakness was a low tolerance for laughter, which my deacon shared. I bit my lip, trying to think of death and other grim subjects.

St. Paul said, “Love is stronger than death.” He was wrong. Laughter is.

Why did I put the above quotation in this column?

Back in 2001, I received The Letter. What letter? The letter from Publishers Clearing House!

I could imagine the size of the award! Now I could buy the accessible van I wanted/needed before winter arrived! With moist palms and quivering hands, I slowly and carefully unsealed the envelope with its potential Fort Knox prize. I could see me renting a horse and riding to Publishers Clearing House, Port Washington, N.Y.

Now I slowly read, “Please accept our sincere condolences for your recent loss…” My face fell. I read further and found that they were talking about my mother, Rose Meinen, (who died on July 15, 2001), not the van!

I’m still in the running! (I hope Mom didn’t read this issue of The Catholic Globe in heaven, so she doesn’t see how low I’ve sunk.)

This last story involves two of the Staleys from St. Boniface, Charter Oak, Randy and Chuck and the term “city-slicker.” (A person raised in the city and accustomed to life there. This often leads to naivety in certain matters and sometimes unusual prejudices.) After the last Mass on Sunday, I would drive 64 miles from Charter Oak to visit my mother in Sioux City and drive back on Monday. One time (get your tissue ready) I wanted to find a shorter route back to Charter Oak. So, I took 120th Street, a gravel road that appeared to point toward Crawford County, 412 Cedar Ave., where I lived at St. Boniface Rectory.

Suddenly this “townie” discovered something Randy and Chuck knew quite well. Roads that start with gravel do not necessarily end with gravel. As I came over a hill, there on the downward slope was a mud road with dry-looking tire tracks. So, the city boy figured that if he slowly went down the hill and stayed on the dry-looking tire tracks, all would be fine. Wrong! My van went its own way as it slid off the dry-looking tire tracks, and suddenly the urbanite’s van was dead in the water, mud and muck.

Thank God for cell phones! I called Patty, my housekeeper, and she talked to her husband Randy. I could just imagine the conversation. “Do you know what he did this time?”

A half hour later I could see Randy, who had more sense than to drive his own white pickup down the hill, standing at the top, looking at me. (Chuck was conspicuously absent.) Gingerly, Randy walked down to the netherworld where I was stranded, turned around and told me to hang onto the straps on the back of his farmer’s overalls.

In John Wayne fashion he towed his cargo to safety. All the while mud was being flung my way, sticking to my black, priestly slacks. Unfortunately, I had a wake to go to 20 minutes after my rescue. Imagine me trying to project my clean-cut image while trying to hide the muddied leg from view.

For our farmers who struggle to complete the harvest: May they have favorable weather, safety in their work, sound equipment and a bountiful harvest and a pastor who never gets into trouble. Let us pray to the Lord.

Father Dennis Meinen serves as chaplain at Holy Spirit Retirement Home, Sioux City, for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in the diocese and Calix and Faithful Friar of the Garrigan 4th Degree Assembly of the Knights of Columbus, Sioux City.

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