I was adamant about attending church on Christmas Day – no, not that I’m a C+E churchgoer or anything, it’s just that traveling in foreign countries present more obstacles.
So here we were, in the small town of Palermo, on the island of Sicily. Small town – meaning, few expats and nonexistent church services in English. Most of the town is Catholic, so it seemed; a few inquiries later, we ended up in a small Catholic church near our hotel.
‘Adeste fideles’ – this I recognized, from a certain 9th grade choral concert. Who knew, that this would come in handy years later? The only other phrase I recognized, from my related Spanish, was “salvador al mondo.” We had arrived five minutes after the service had started, and we were in the back – it was standing room only.
Now – I’m not Catholic. My most recent religious ties would be Baptist, but more accurately I’m Presbyterian. I had never attended a Catholic service before – but, as media exposure would have it, the incense, the altar boys, and the hymns were somewhat anticipated.
A young boy, maybe about 11 years old, whispers to his friend, another boy about the same age. He looks a bit like Diego Luna – except Italian, and just a boy. I recognize a woman who must be his mother, hissing at him to hush up, as he and his friend snicker to each other during the service.
The experience took an unexpected turn when my friend witnessed an old man sneaking in close to sniff a certain woman’s hair. The dirty cad had sidled up from behind us in the crowd, pushing in closer and closer on us, until, finally, he was standing right behind me. I shifted, mistakenly thinking that the church was filling up with more attendees. My Aussie friend gave him a good look to let him know she had her eye on him. He leaned in to do some hair sniffing. When the majority of the service was winding down, I turned to look over at my friend, now about three people to the side (not sure when or how we got separated in the crowd), and signaled for our egress. Once we were outside, she explained the dirty-old-man (DOM) deeds she had witnessed.
Come on, people! On Christmas Day. In a house of God. Really?!