After many years of faithfully serving the Lord in the priesthood, I’ve decided to relinquish my vows and leave the church. Touching the horrid mouths of these four grotesque parishioners while feeding them Communion wafers has simply left me too emotionally and spiritually traumatized to continue in my ministry. I’m so sorry.
1. The old man with a dead tooth
When I saw this pitiful man hobbling toward the altar, licking his chapped lips in anticipation of receiving the Sacred Host, I had a feeling I was in for an unpleasant encounter. But I couldn’t have imagined just how unpleasant it would be. Standing before me with his mouth agape, I noticed a dead tooth jutting crookedly from his gum line, a repulsive yellow-brown incisor that smelled just as awful as it looked. It was a deeply upsetting sight to behold, but I nonetheless steeled my nerves, said “The Body of Christ,” and began extending a wafer toward his mouth. Then, much to my horror, he suddenly lurched his head forward as if to meet me halfway, causing my hand to awkwardly mash against his open mouth. I felt his dead tooth graze against the back of my hand, followed by the terrible sensation of his dry, elderly tongue raking at my fingers, attempting to seize the wafer. It was one of the worst feelings I have ever experienced, as if the light of Christ within me had instantly gone dark, extinguished by a hot gust of the man’s sour, dead-tooth breath. It was a feeling that seemed like it should not be permissible in a world governed by a loving and compassionate God. It shook me.
2. The woman who ate cut-up hot dogs from a Tupperware container during Mass
Just one week after the troubling encounter with the dead-tooth fellow, I was delivering a homily and found myself being repeatedly distracted by the sound of a parishioner loudly chewing cut-up hot dogs that she’d brought from home in a Tupperware container. I assumed that the woman would eventually have her fill of hot dogs and stop with the audible chewing, but unfortunately she continued to chomp away at her hot dogs through the end of my homily and into the Communion portion of the service, approaching the altar with a mouthful of mashed-up processed meat and her Tupperware in hand. Before giving her Communion, I quietly waited for a moment to see if she would perhaps pause with the chewing or at the very least put her Tupperware in her purse, but she did neither, and instead tapped her foot impatiently, looking at me as if I were greatly inconveniencing her. Annoyed, I decided to get it over with and just place the wafer on her tongue. A mistake. In my haste, my hand not only grazed her tongue but came away speckled with little bits of wet hot-dog mush. It was disgusting. It made me feel dirty and angry and wronged. Why would God allow one of his faithful servants to endure such indignity? To have one’s hand splattered with hot-dog spittle, that is a cross that no man should ever have to bear. Once again, I was shaken.
3. The young man with two broken arms who told me during confession that he’d committed the sin of learning to fellate his own penis
This young gentleman had confessed to me before Mass that he’d committed the sin of learning to fellate his own penis, as his two broken arms precluded him from traditional methods of masturbation and, as he explained to me, “you can only dry-hump the couch so many times before it gets boring.” Honestly, at first I did not judge this young man for the extreme lengths to which he’d gone to satisfy his carnal impulses, but when I saw him approaching the altar to receive Communion, his eyes full of shame, I suddenly found myself judging him very hard. He had confided to me that he had recently used his tongue to “flick at [his] own cock hole,” and it saddened me greatly to have to place the Body of Christ on that very same tongue. And making matters worse, when placing the wafer in his mouth, for some reason my hand twitched a little and my knuckles made contact with his filthy tongue, causing me to gasp so loudly that it could be heard over the pipe organ.
At that moment, confusion and doubt washed over me. Why did this keep happening? Was God testing me? I didn’t join the clergy to touch the tongues of the wicked, to feel awful spit from awful mouths drying sticky on my hands. Was this really God’s plan for me? It couldn’t be. Right?
4. The middle-aged hippie woman with gingivitis, no teeth, and a herpes outbreak who couldn’t stop coughing up phlegm
I have taken mission trips to the deepest jungles of South America, where flesh-eating diseases and poverty ravage villages of helpless people. I have comforted countless victims of unthinkable abuse and oppression. I have held the hands of terminally ill children in their final moments and felt the weight of their parents’ grief. But none of these experiences destroyed me quite like giving Communion to this middle-aged hippie woman. I will spare you the horrible details, but suffice to say that when her hideous mouth made contact with my hand, I truly felt that there was no higher power watching over us. There was no justice, and there was no mercy—we were alone in our suffering. My faith was rocked, and there in that grand cathedral, dressed like a fancy clown, performing a ridiculous ancient superstition where bread becomes flesh and the stupid find peace, I suddenly knew it was all a farce. It was all empty pageantry and false hope, and touching all these vile mouths was a meaningless charade.
Once I realized this, there was no going back. I have since turned in my collar, moved out of the rectory, and started a new life away from the church, where I’ll hopefully never have to touch another stranger’s mouth again.