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What I do to avoid grading papers

The dateline "Indianapolis" on a news-program this morning made me recall the one time Ive been in that city. I was attending Sunday Mass, I believe in the cathedral, at which a priest read the Gospel in which Christ indicts the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees. Where the priest should have read: "They have widened their phylacteries," he said instead, "They have widened their prophylactics"which gave quite another image!This led me to recall another memorable moment in the pulpit, only this was in my seminary days, in what passed for a course in homiletic. ("Tell a story!" our mentor would repeatedly admonish us; "Long after theyve forgotten what you had to say, theyll remember the story!" Advice I didnt and dont agree with and have happily ignored for forty-five years.) Anyway, one of my classmates was giving a practice-homily for the feast of the Circumcision of the Lord, the name then given to the regularly changing feast celebrated on January 1st. The classmate, who has since gone on to greater things, began by giving us a little lesson in liturgical theology, to the effect that the liturgical feasts give us an opportunity to participate in the mysteries of Christ. "Today is the feast of the Circumcision," he went on somewhat solemnly, "and it reminds us that we must cut off the old man!" Well, the whole audiencemales only, of coursewinced and instinctively covered our vital parts.After we had stopped laughing, the priest-mentor said that we had to be careful in our use of language, as also in our pronunciation. He described one priest who spoke of Peter, during Christs trial, warming his hands at the brassiere.Anyone else have malapropisms to share?

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Today is the feast of the Circumcision, he went on somewhat solemnly, and it reminds us that we must cut off the old man! Well, the whole audiencemales only, of coursewinced and instinctively covered our vital parts.Aha! Was it such anxiety that caused the Feast of the Circumcision to be suppressed? I had thought it was too much of a reminder that Jesus was Jewish.

Nothing as good as widening the prophylactics or warming ones hands at the brassiere, but I got these:"I am defiantly a good communicator," wrote one kid. My guess is that "definitely" was misspelled and he chose the wrong alternative. In any case, it somewhat deflated his claims as a communicator."Some reporters lead with an antidotal story," wrote another, perhaps because "anecdotal story" would be redundant. Certainly I would like to read an antidotal story to see if it cures headaches and whatnot.I have my grades in. Haha!

A local hospital proudly announced on an expensive sign that it had transformed its "previous baron" roof into a beautiful garden. I guess there is more to life than noble blood.

NOt as good, but I remeber fondly the guffaws from a learned congregation when one of the more pompous lectors rose to read from "St. Pauls's letter to the Phillipinos."

Just remembered this, though not a malapropism. It's from a Bronx parish, with a lector blissfully unaware that he has an accent. He got to Rom 8:15: "a spirit of adoption as sons, by virtue of which we cry, "Abber! Fadda!"

A student told me once that he thought that I was such a good teacher, I would "go down in the anals of history."

David's post reminded me of a fellow student who was a lector at our Catholic college (a philosophy/theology double major, no less) who very confidently announced at Mass one day: A reading from the letter of St. Paul to the Titans.

I had a student write a paper in which she claimed St. Paul is "full of carp." In the same paper, she wrote that "Thomas Aquinas opposed sexual relations because he said they clouded his thinking."Unfortunately, malapropisms abound in my student's papers. Most of them indicate how oral communication has completely overwhelmed the written word, because almost all of them are the result of trying to write down something one has only heard on a rare occasion.

Joe, yes, I used to see this more when I taught English Freshman Comp. There were "hammydowns," "arrowdynamics" and "let's get down to brass tactics" among many others my office mates and I used to keep on a list.Unagidon, going down in the anals of history reminded me of a student who appealed a grade I'd given her to the department chair. In her grade grievance, she wrote, "I have been trying to see you for two days about this matter. Do I have to keep a virgil outside your door?"The appeal was denied.

In the old days, when the Passion was read silently in Latin in the background and English translation was read aloud to the assembled, our Pastor of beloved memory was trying to inject some 'passion' into his reading of the Passion. However, after passionately proclaiming for the leaders of the Jews that they wanted Barabbas, he rolled on to explain, "Now, Barabbas was a barber." After a five second pause, the whole assemply erupted in laughter.

Some years back, a new curate was scheduled to preach at my parish, and a friend and I made sure to attend to see how he would do his first time. He did not seem nervous at all, and was a wonderful speaker. The problem was, he repeatedly referred to King David commiting adultery with Beersheba. The two of us, fortunately in a back pew, must have looked like we were both having some kind of attack at each repetition, as we struggled against laughing aloud. We didn't have the heart to mention to him that his homily had covered what must have been the wildest party recounted in Scripture . . .

Sadly, Father Komonchak, your own words undo you: I shall always remember these stories. Then again, I've never heard you preach, and that may be just as memorable. So what do I know? Back to grading....

I was occasionally a student lector at my high school's daily Mass, attended mostly by some Marist brothers and lay faculty. Early one morning during the Easter season, I read a passage from Acts of the Apostles that mentioned a certain group of Jews who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. A Queens native, I spoke of the "Sa-DOOCH-ees"--as if they were one of New York's "Five Families." Those present kindly kept their heads down and bit their lips--a work of mercy, indeed.

Speaking of the "Families," a lector in the Bronx, reading from Romans, proclaimed Paul's counsel: "let the one who has the gift of extortion, extort!"

My wife informs me that once at Mass she was treated to a reading from the Book of Elasticus.

Joe PettitIsn't Danube carp a traditional Jewish favorite? Perhaps your student was more subtle that he realized.

Back in 1964, before the advent of lay lectors, our assistant pastor was reading a passage from the Old Testament. I was an acolyte at the Mass, in the 7th grade. Father read a passage regarding the "fiery darts of heaven" as "the diary farts of heaven." I and a number of folks in the pews began to chuckle. Father stopped reading abruptly, realized his mistake, then read, more loudly, "I mean the diary FARTS of heaven!" Then the whole congregation burst out laughing.

Joseph Gannon: As I understand the current status of historical/critical analysis of Paul, the proposition that his mission got far enough north for him to enjoy Danube carp is currently an outlier.

One time (and only one time) after the Consecration: "Let us proclaim the mystery of death".Two biggest fears (not actual mistakes, but fears):Preface Christian Death I (P77): "The sadness of death gives way to the bright promise of immorality."Anytime the word "prostrate" is used.One priest/high school teacher whose company I shared at a meal a few weeks ago told me that one student explained during an essay exam that we no longer need capital punishment in the USA because we have a strong penile system.

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About the Author

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.