Post 69

Mass Time: In Defence of the Latecomer

Not right, Father,
For you to scold them


You gave a speech
‘Fore Mass started.

You told us
You’d speak again
When they arrived.

You said you thought
The main perpetrators
Of parking crimes
From that group,

Those violators!
That nameless, faceless group
called Latecomers.

‘Twas what you said.

I was there.

I was on time.
‘Though one of ‘them.’

You could call me ‘a spy.’
(But please don’t.
‘Twouldn’t be fair.
‘Twouldn’t be right.)

Ah – instead –

Call me a lawyer
“For the defence.”

Allow me to defend
That group
That group you did malign
When they had not yet
Even arrived.


Mass began
Some came in
(Defamation in the label.)
Brothers? Sisters?
(There, now that’s better.)

True, yes,
I concede
I agree
One minute late
Five minutes late
Ten minutes late
Fifteen minutes late!
(Brave souls, them!
Brave souls, we!)

Do you remember
How it was, Father?
Do you remember
Gray-haired Father,
What it meant,
To be late for Sunday Mass?
Do you remember,
How it felt?

Well then,
let me remind.
Let me tell.

It feels yucky.

Fifty eyes.

As you try to decide,
Where to sit.

A hundred eyes,
As you try
(Good luck!)
Try to slip

Into this big group
This ‘good group’

Of those on time.

‘Tisn’t quite so easy
In your church,
I must say.

Big Basilica
Good Basilica


Pews at the back,

Pews on the side,

No, at this church
The ‘custom’ is

Those who walk in late
Go to the top!
The very top!
Up in front!
Near the priest!


(Dare you
Come to the Basilica,
Good Basilica,
If you’re late?)

Climb the steps
With your children
All in tow.

Those children!
How does that mother
about her young group?
A nameless, faceless group?

Those Latecomers!
(As if the children actually
had a choice!)

Does mother smile
As they take a while
As they make a fuss
Way up on top
Way at the front?

Or does she sigh?
Does she hope
That they don’t cry
That they don’t squeak?
(Not one peep, please.)

Think well on that,
Think well on that.

What does it mean?
Family planning…family size…those eyes..
Those eyes at church.
(Honey, let’s stop at three.)

Already on display
Now please, child,
Let’s not be heard

Hush baby, hush.
Don’t make a fuss.
Here’s a toy,

Oh dear.

Please don’t say it!
Oh no oh no!
Please don’t say it!

Cold sweat now.
How can we go?
How can we not go?
He needs to go,

How many steps
From here to there?

How many eyes

How many eyes
Will despise

While we walk by
Slowly by
(Excuse me, sorry)

Now we proceed.
Child, take my hand.

Yes, look all, yes!
Feast your eyes on

Going downstairs.

Don’t mind

Do you know
What that feels like

Do you know
what it feels like
To be a

Be merciful now
To the mother
To the father

You know not how
They came to be late

You know not where
They ultimately could park

Maybe they circled the block
Maybe they parked really far
Maybe they walked some
From their old beaten-down car
(Wheels not paid for by the church.)
Dad carried little one
Heavier-by-the-minute son
How do you know?

You don’t.

So please don’t say –
Please don’t place the blame –

Let me roar:

Your general word
To those that heard
About that bad bunch
Called Latecomers

Was misplaced.
Very misplaced.

[And ‘by the way,’ Father – as they say,
Your timing – oh me oh my
You said it again during Mass!
The very Mass
was a little obscured,
by your words,

More scolding before the final blessing –
Host just consumed
Some scolding, explaining, some anecdote –
Who said what about some cars
Make it stop!
Some story about some license plates –
Shoot me now,
Some lady called the parish and she said such-and-such –
Shoot me now,
I can’t listen.
Not during the Mass,
not to this.
What bad timing!

Please not again, Father.
Not during Mass,

Tell me,
What is worse?
A car in the wrong zone
(whoopie stink)
such words during the Mass?
(let me think, hmmm)

Both may be out of place
But which one is worse?
I’d rather ‘offend’ the city officials
(poor things)
And fill the city coffers
(another ticket, another dollar, for them!)
Than the Word
Who made the Mass.]

What your parish needs, please
Is a new view
About those late few
Who still come in

Huffing and puffing
But willing to come still
Willing to be ashamed,
Because it’s the best
The best that
They could give


Those who arrive just as you like
Nice and neat and all on time


What they do

Have you seen?

Spread out their coats
Purse way over there
What do they care?

They were there first!
Is what they think

(Self-satisfied, some.)

(Many’ll leave early though.
Going where? Can’t say I know.
But I bet they’ll be on time.)

Running on time but
Taking two seats
Right on the pew’s end
Who can get by?
(Not the Latecomer –
he’s much too shy now.)

The parking spots
They claim the best ones
‘Though they could’ve walked some
And been none the worse for wear.

It’s all upside down
It’s all mixed up

Make a new rule
At least a suggestion
“If you come early
How about this –
Make some room
in your pew
(and in your heart)
for your tardy
brother and sister”

[Anybody want
These seats up top here?
A nice view,
a change of scene here,
you could say.

You could promote it
As another way
One can be kind.

Call them ‘the bleachers’
Call them the ‘nose bleeds’
They’ll think you’re funny.

Take my joke
Take the credit
I don’t care
I don’t need it

I’m in the dug-out
Nobody you need know.
At least not for now,

You’d say,
“As for your brother
Your sister too,
Fellow children of God

They’re coming soon
They’re delayed
They’re on their way”

You’d say,
“Save some rear pews please
For those who’d rather

Save the pew ends please
For those who’d rather

of caring not
the Holy Mass.”

Usher’d say,
“Squeeze in a little bit more
Let’s all shuffle down some
Like a sold-out show down at the Fringe.
Like a sold-out show, some sorry stand-up act.”

You’d say,
“Save the best parking spots
For the last ones
Who might arrive

Who did decide

They loved the Mass more
Than how they appeared
To the rest –

To that good group,
That so-on-time group –

To the priest
(reserved parking)
To the usher
To the parish office full-time full-paid worker
(reserved parking)”

God bless
the Latecomer

Blessed Latecomer


[A portion of the first reading for that Mass was as follows, and in your homily you made reference, Father, to Nathan’s confrontation with King David. I wonder how Nathan felt about addressing God’s anointed.]

As Jesse and his sons came to the sacrifice,
Samuel looked at Eliab and thought,
“Surely the LORD’s anointed is here before him.”
But the LORD said to Samuel:
“Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature,
because I have rejected him.
Not as man sees does God see,
because man sees the appearance
but the LORD looks into the heart.”

In the same way Jesse presented seven sons before Samuel,
but Samuel said to Jesse,
“The LORD has not chosen any one of these.”
Then Samuel asked Jesse,
“Are these all the sons you have?”
Jesse replied,
“There is still the youngest, who is tending the sheep.”
Samuel said to Jesse,
“Send for him;
we will not begin the sacrificial banquet until he arrives here.”
Jesse sent and had the young man brought to them

1 Samuel, Ch. 16 (the “Latecomer”).
(First Reading for March 6, 2016
during Mass with Scrutiny = 4th Sunday of Lent – Year A)