Editor’s Note: This is a true story told by a priest who would prefer to remain anonymous.
I was celebrating a wedding, the first wedding in the parish where I was assigned as a newly ordained priest. It was for a couple that was not particularly faithful and whom I had never gotten to know because I had just shown up at the parish. The deacon of the parish was to assist me by preaching since he knew them.
We walked in for the entrance procession and everything went just swimmingly well and we’re still singing the opening hymn of the wedding Mass and I notice a man who I had never seen before walk in.
I thought it was kind of odd that he was coming to the wedding late; he wasn’t wearing a suit and he really wasn’t dressed appropriately. I thought that it was kind of odd that he was coming to a wedding if he wasn’t invited. But then I thought maybe he was just coming to Mass, however he still shouldn’t walk right down the center aisle and sit in the front row ’cause the bridal party is there.
He walked all the way up the aisle to the sanctuary, genuflected and then went to the left to the side chapel where the statue of Our Lady of Fatima is kept. He approached the statue and I thought “Well gosh, I guess he really wanted to pray in front of the statue.”
But he didn’t, he immediately walked to the statue (which is about 4 feet tall) and picked it up off of the pedestal. We’re now saying the opening prayer. So I say to the deacon,
“What is he doing?”
“I don’t know!”
“Who is he?”
“I don’t know!”
“Why does he have the statue?”
“I don’t know!”
“What’s he doing with it?”
But at one point I’m thinking, “Is this some part of the wedding ritual in this parish that I don’t really understand?” After the man picks up the statue, he turns around and immediately walks out of the church with it. Middle of the Wedding. Just takes the statue out of the church.
We sat down for the first reading and I realize that the bride has to lay flowers at the statue of Our Lady – it’s in the program. And there’s no statue of Our Lady whatsoever because someone has stolen it from the church … during the wedding!
So I finally said the deacon, “You have to go get it, we have to have it.” And the deacon’s like, “Now?” and I say “Go! Now!”
So he goes during the middle of the reading and I can see out the back of the church through the window. He approaches the man with the statue in his arms.
And you can tell the deacon says, “Give me the statue.” And the man shakes his head “No!”
They’re fighting and gesturing and then the next thing I see – the deacon and the man are going fist to cuffs, there’s no other way to say it. He reaches for the statue and pulls it and the man pulls the statue back and I see all of this taking place whilst the cantor is singing the responsorial psalm of the wedding.
Finally the deacon takes the statue and pushes the man away. He processes in the church, down the center aisle, with the statue in his arms. He sets the statue on the pedestal where it belongs and walks immediately to the ambo and proclaims the gospel … without missing a beat.
The man decided that he wanted to pray the rosary with some friends in the parking lot because it would be a public witness for Our Lady of Fatima’s anniversary, but didn’t bother to tell anyone in the church that he was doing it and didn’t seem to care that there was a wedding.