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The Time Doctor Who Showed up at Mass

James West CC

Cari Donaldson - published on 10/28/14 - updated on 06/07/17

A theology of the liturgy straight out of Dr. Who

It was just myself and three of the kids at Mass last weekend. Just three kids! It was practically like attending a silent retreat. We got to sit up front! We didn’t have fights over who was going to squash me – I mean sit in my lap! Nobody slammed the kneeler on anybody else’s feet! And since only one child under the age of reason was with me, I only had to play “Is THIS the day I get to eat during the parade?” with a single person (yes, eat during the parade. That’s just one litmus test we use around these parts to determine if a child is ready to make First Holy Communion).

The four of us settled in to a pew luxuriously close to the front (we’ve tried the “seat your kids close to the front and their behavior will improve because they can finally see what’s going on” trick before. It was a miserable failure), and as I knelt to pray, I enjoyed having only one person use my calves as his personal stepstool. I could almost imagine that his little four-year-old feet were the hands of a slightly aggressive masseuse.  

As I settled into a little conversation with Jesus/vaguely painful calf massage time, I could hear the four-year-old and the twelve-year-old engage in conversation.

“It’s him! There he is!” I cracked open my left eye, and did a Momsweep of the situation. The two kids were looking at someone seven or eight pews over, and judging by their excitement, I was initially horrified, thinking they were talking about the elderly parishioner, the one with an eyepatch, the one who, no matter how many times I gave hissed lessons about the rudeness of commenting on people’s physical appearance, always elicited delighted cries of “A pirate!!!!!” from the toddlers.

It wasn’t the man with the eyepatch. I heaved a sigh of relief, then gave the universal mom signal for, “Sit down, eyes on Jesus, stop egging your sibling on,” and resumed my prayers. The two sat, put their eyes on Jesus, and continued their conversation in hushed tones, dragging their brother into the debate.

“No, over there, Gabriel,” the oldest was murmuring to her brother. “By the window.” I felt, rather than saw, my son attempt to turn his head while still somehow keeping his eyes on Jesus.

“Ah! You’re right! It’s the Doctor!”

I cringed. I asked Jesus to come back right this instant. I begged the Holy Spirit to strike my children dumb with ecstatic visions of heaven. I hoped for the choir’s sound sytem to overload and fill the parish with the scream of feedback.

None of these things happened.I slid back onto the pew, and the kids snuggled up next to me, eyes on Jesus, mouths delightedly whispering about The Doctor.

I allowed myself one brief sidelong glance. Yup. There he was. A familiar face at our parish, the man was tall, white, of indiscriminate age. His hair was long and fashionably swept back from his forehead. He sometimes wore glasses. He always wore a bowtie. Always with the bowtie.

He looked exactly like the Eleventh Doctor from the television show, Doctor Who.

The show is a favorite of my children, and the first time they spotted this man in the pews of St. Catherine’s, their mouths fell open in hilariously synchronized unison. He always sits in the same spot, three pews up from the windows, and he assists at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with a somber gravity of the Doctor working on a particularly serious puzzle.

Mass started, and the kids more or less got their act together, though I had to pull the four year old away from a nice young mother behind us during the sign of peace, as he was telling her “the Doctor is here! Doctor Who! He’s right over there!” while the woman looked on with sweet bafflement.  

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