After more than a week of near perfect seas, Good Friday dawns grey. The rolling of the ship prevents Father from standing to give Communion. As I am qualified to administer, I offer to distribute the hosts.
As I stand there with ‘chalice’ in one hand and host raised in other, the first in the line of communicants is a pious, white-haired, elderly lady with hands clasped and tongue out ready to receive the sacred host. I am feeling somewhat conscious having never placed the host on the tongue before, as the usual practice is to place the host in the hand.
At the very moment, host raised, tongue out, my shorts drop to my ankles!
What an embarrassment! In my haste to get to the Good Friday Observance on time, I’d skipped my belt.
The pious lady recognizes the sheer horror of embarrassment on my face, which by now is colouring, and contorting to suppress an involuntary fit of laughing.
The lady’s piety is replaced with good-natured mirth, as her eyes travel down past my non-girded loins to see pants around my ankles, while ripples of muffled laughter continue down the line of communicants standing-ready.
Speaking to Father later in the same theatre, I seek his understanding and ‘absolution’. Humorously, as quick as a whip, he responds,
“Shouldn’t your penance be to drop your pants again right here? “
And he went on to quote Gilbert & Sullivan,
“Defer, defer, to the Lord High Executioner! . . . o let the punishment fit the crime. . . “
At the Easter Vigil Mass, the people clap me as I walk down the stairs into the Theatre. I also have the opportunity to meet the lady at the head of the line on Good Friday, my new best friend Lucy from Phoenix, and hear her version of events. Lucy says,
“I could see in my peripheral vision something had happened, but I had three younger brothers so that didn’t bother me. You displayed great presence and self control; you paused and put the chalice down on the table; pulled your trousers up; and allowed yourself to laugh while having the discipline to continue, whereas others would fall apart.”
And with that, Lucy’s husband, Bob chimes in saying that friends on the ship have told them that this, my dropping my pants, was the high-point of the whole cruise!