Monday, May 20, 2013

Were You Slapped by Your Bishop?

In honor of Confirmation season, go over to First Things, read Brian Doyle's piece, which I quote below. Read the rest and laugh your head off. Norman Rockwell would have mined the scene like a treasure trove. 

I will have my print issue in the mail soon.

"The day I was granted the Sacrament of Confirmation and was admitted with full rights and privileges to the Church Eternal got off to a slow start, because the bishop was late. There had been a rain delay at the Mets game, but His Excellency couldn’t just leave the stadium, because the Mets were playing the Pirates, and this was the Pirates team with Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell and Dock Ellis (who would pitch a no-hitter a month later while stoned out of his mind), and anyway the Mets were coming off their shocking championship the year before, so who would leave on account of a little downpour? 
We waited in the school auditorium as our parents and grandparents and disgruntled brothers and sisters rustled in the searing heat of the church. It was a roaring hot day and someone in the choir fainted. My dad said later he could hear a hole exactly the size of an alto in the choir’s subsequent performance, but we think he was teasing us. Finally the bishop arrived, having left the game in a huff when the Mets made their fourth error of the day, and the ceremony started.
Our older brothers and sisters, who had already been Confirmed and were pretty smug about it and claimed there were secret rituals and code words they could never reveal to us on pain of death, had filled us with stories of the bishop slapping kids in the face as part of the ancient Sacrament, and while none of us could figure out why exactly a slap figured in a ceremony that seemed to be about welcoming new members to the army, we were suitably forewarned, and there was a lot of loose talk about slapping the bishop back, and ducking his hand, and bobbing and weaving like Muhammad Ali, or catching his hand as it came hurtling toward your face and leaning in companionably and whispering not this time, big fella, and remarks like that, mostly from the boys, although two of the girls, I remember, were coldly intent on slapping anyone who slapped them, and one girl said she would accept the first blow and turn her other cheek for a second slap, but we thought she was just trying to impress Sister Marie."


  1. One of my big sisters gave me the business about getting slapped. I was Confirmed at ten years old and she is almost 4 years older than me, so yeah, I was expecting a good smack. :)

  2. I don't recall. It was so long ago, but I recently watched my niece get confirmed and the bishop didn't slap. He did explain the slap in the homily, but in the ceremony he just put his hands on the kids' heads.


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