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Where There’s Smoke, There’s Incense

Posted by on January 7, 2010



Were you at the Pittsburgh Oratory on Sunday morning? That fire alarm during the processional hymn was great, wasn’t it?

I set it off. You’re welcome.

It wasn’t entirely my fault, though.

Alex usually sits still for about half of mass before needing to be taken to the back of the church. This week was different, though. For reasons unknown, he started fussing before mass even started, so I took him back. The back of the Oratory chapel is really outside the doors, though. By the time I usually get back there, though, they’re open and there are other “exiled” parents crowding the hall. Since mass hadn’t started, the doors were still shut. If they stayed shut, we would be unable to participate in mass, which I could hearĀ beginningĀ as the organist began chanting something appropriate for Epiphany. I figured someone had to open the doors, so I decided to be that person.


Apparently, they’re kept closed at the beginning of mass for a reason. Before processing to the altar, the priest and servers stood at the back of the chapel (just outside the sacristy) and lit the incense. As they did that, smoke began trickling out into the hall. They stood there for what seemed like an eternity, and as they did the trickles became thick clouds. I watched as it rose toward the notoriously hypersensitive smoke alarm in the ceiling.


I knew what was likely to happen. Panicking, I waved my arms wildly and blow furiously. I must have looked like a lunatic. My efforts were for naught. What I’d feared would happen happened. Thankfully, Fr. David knew what to do and did it without disrupting mass too badly. He sprang into action at the first sound of the buzzer, flying down the aisle and out of the chapel. As the congregation sang “We Three Kings”, he hit the right buttons and called the right people to make it all stop. He then ran back up the aisle, a blur of fine vestments whizzing past the confused singers, and returned to the altar. Mass continued from that point without missing a beat before the hymn even ended!

I’m indebted to Fr. David for keeping my embarrassment to a minimum. I suppose it could have been worse, though. Alex could have actually pulled the fire alarm. It’s child-accessible thanks to building codes.

Oh, crap. How long before Grabby Grabberstein finds that shiny red handle? Life could get really interesting with a toddler…