At my church (let's call it Our Lady of Perpetual Sobriety), we have a small parking lot that is always being used by non-church folks (or, as we refer to them, poachers). I first ran into this problem one year on Ash Wednesday, when the parking lot was so crowded that I had to park someone in, figuring I would run right out the moment Mass was over and release whoever it was. To my surprise, three people were already standing by the car when I dashed out of Our Lady of Perpetual Sobriety (OLPS) the moment the priest gave the final blessing. How did they beat me out here? I wondered, failing to notice that they did not have ashen crosses on their foreheads. One man was very annoyed and said to me, "Is this your car?" I said yes, sorry, I got out the moment Mass was over. (I couldn't understand why he was so annoyed, since it had JUST gotten over.) He said to me, "Who the *@$# parks likes that?" and I said, "You know, sir, maybe you should consider giving up being a jerk for Lent!" His two friends laughed, and to my surprise so did my friends when I told them this story. They were the ones who first clued me in about the fact that I had undoubtedly parked in a poacher.
Since that day, I have been very protective about OLPS's parking lot and have chased many a poacher away. (My favorite Mary is Our Lady of Guadalupe, who looks like she could kick your @$$, and I'm sure you've realized by now why that is!) So this morning I was railroaded into teaching catechism for Richard Bonomo, who is presently on a plane to Japan, although many other people were available. I regularly taught for a number of years at OLPS but for the last two years I've been enjoying sleeping in. So this morning I dragged myself out of bed, drove through a snowstorm, and was peeved to find the OLPS parking lot completely full. On a Saturday morning?!? I spotted a guy who was clearly a slacker, with an African drum slung over his back, and I asked if he were there for church business. He replied that he was there for parking business, since it was a public parking lot, so I pointed to the sign that clearly stated it was only for people on official OLPS business and reiterated my question: "Are you here to go to church or to teach catechism or something?" He wanted to know if he should move, so I said yes, unless he was planning to teach. He told me his father was a preacher so he could do it, although he was not Catholic. So I told him he'd better.
When I came into the school building of OLPS, where we teach small Mexican children to be good Christians, the DRE told me that another regular teacher had not shown up, so he was putting that class in with Mr. Bonomo's. Nothing like having 23 small bilingual children staring at you! But to my surprise, my hostage did show up to teach catechism, and he wasn't half bad! The DRE took me aside and asked who he was, so I explained that this was his penance for poaching in our parking lot. Captive Catechist (Mr. CC) told the children the most whacked-out version of the Temptation in the Garden that I'd ever heard, but since it was basically correct, I let him do it. I was pleasantly surprised to find out he knew some Spanish (as do I) so the small Mexican children realized they couldn't pull anything over on us. One boy also has Downe's Syndrome and was bouncing all over, but Mr. CC got him engaged with a beach ball globe. He literally had the whole world in his hands! The other kids enjoyed playing on the drum, and then we took them over to the church, which somehow survived the post-Vatican II wreckovation that ruined so many other churches. Mr. CC's breath was taken away.
"This place is gorgeous!" he said in amazement. (The small Mexican kids and I were more used to OLPS's incredible beauty, since we get to see it at least once a week.) Then we sang some Advent and Christmas songs while Mr. CC played his drum and the Downe's Syndrome kid played with the whole world. We prayed a decade of the Rosary, went back to the classroom, and played Catechism Trivia and Catechism Hangman, which Mr. CC had the clever idea of showing Jesus on the Cross. Luckily, one of the kids realized the word was "Advent" before Jesus was crucified! Then the bell rang for Angelus, meaning class was over. I had survived my enforced teaching, and so had my hostage! He even said he enjoyed it.
So a word to the wise: if you plan to park illegally in the parking lot of Our Lady of Perpetual Sobriety, don't be surprised if I force you teach small Mexican children to be good Christians.