This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Sunday, 26 January 2014

How to stay healthy in church

On advice from my doctor, who was concerned about my blood pressure, I went to a "said" Mass today: being a music-lover, I suffer a lot of stress if I have to sing "Shine, Jesus, Shine", "Walk in the Light", or "Follow Me". It is also bad for my blood pressure to hear badly-played guitars and flutes. So a "said" Mass it was.

the battleground

Now, can you see the next health hazard?

I was sitting next to the aisle. In front of me, a man coughing and sneezing into his hands, practically non-stop. Behind me, a woman, less of an invalid, but also sneezing into her hands once in a while. Ahead of me... the dreaded Kiss of Peace!


"Sorry, Eccles, I should have sat next to you."

Clearly, when the deacon (for it was he) uttered the fateful words about offering each other a sign of peace, I was not going to be able to avoid clasping the germ-sodden hands of Mr Sneezy and Mrs Spluttery. The words of a famous 1960s hymn came to mind:

Coughs and sneezes spread diseases:
Trap the germs in your handkerchief.
It is memorably sung to the tune of Deutschland Über Alles (Haydn's Emperor's Hymn) by Tony Hancock in the Blood Donor sketch. I heard that Kevin Mayhew was planning to include it in his next hymnbook, set to a newer and more trivial tune.

Tony Hancock

"Coughs and sneezes spread diseases."

Let's formulate this as a chess problem: Eccles to move.

chess knight

My inspiration - a chess knight!

Yes, I surreptitiously edged two places to the left, behind the military man in the eye-patch, and in front of the middle-aged woman who insisted on singing loudly, even though it was widely reported that she could not carry a tune in a bucket. During the offertory, I had to get up anyway, to pass the collection plate to the man on my left, who vaguely resembled a film star. So when I sat down again, I was a knight's move away from the sneezing duo. The current rules of etiquette mean that shaking hands is not compulsory at that distance, although a "leer of peace" is expected. Saved!


"Peace be with you! But come any closer and I'll shoot you with my phaser."

I'll stop there - I think I've got a cold coming on.


  1. Darling eccles - dis luminescent Jesus of which they sing, would Bosco approve? xx Jess :)

  2. Dear Sir,

    I wish to protest.

    Yours etc.,

    Ferdinand Mass-Trousers
    ACTA Under-Manager-Coordinator-Understudy (pantomime season only), the Free Democratic Catholic Diocese of Tunbridge Wells.

    Note: ACTA is now amalgamated with We are Church, Stand Up for Vatican II, Save the Beached Whale, the People’s Popular Front of Judea (Marxist-Leninist) and the Horsham Over-70s Lunch Club.

    1. Luckily the ACTA meeting in Eastbourne is timed for Weds 11-2pm, the perfect time for a pensioners meeting.

  3. When I hear of horror stories like this I am grateful that God has placed me in a position of having my own private chapel. I of course choose the music and flower arrangements for the Mass . Sometime Fr Bozo Secundus moans about the latin content .My friends and I have subscribed to a fund to give him a crash course in Latin...they did offer it as an optional subject at his seminary but he chose clown masses 101 instead.)

    With the money from the collection plate we are promoting Catholic health and hygiene programmes with free boxes of tissues by the holy water font with an attached pamphlet reminding all Catholics that it is a mortal sin not to use tissues ...failure to do so can result in the spread of horrendous plagues and loss of parishioners. . We are also suggesting that they change their undergarments religiously once a week whether they need to or not.

  4. great waves of empathy to you Br. Eccles.

    it would take more than a knight's move at the Mass I attend to keep my hands clasped in, 'Christ's peace be with you', and see a little Kyoto bow, and a smile, and see, big eyes of peace...' alas these very obvious signs of peace are not enough - the shake is man-(us)-datory or else we simply can't translate the words or the warm smile or the bow or the big eyes as evincing peace. the paw of peace hurdle is, sometimes, just that, and they clear the pew-back from a standing position; impressive...where was I...oh, at mass, amidst the clamour of peace.

    p.s. In Mexico, communion in the hand and the sign of peace has been banned from some Churches because of a new virus.

    God moves in mysterious ways.

    p.s.s. Mr Mass-Trousers where's the comedy club that does stand-up for Vatican II; heheh, I'm laughing already.

  5. On a more serious note: Question! Did you escape all those intended embrazos? The world is waiting for your response!

  6. You can fold your arms and stick your palms into your armpits. I find that puts most people off seeking to exchange the holy handshake with me. Combine with grinning and nodding at all comers.

    Alternatively, come to my parish church, where the PP segues seamlessly into 'Lamb of God' after wishing us the Peace of the Lord.

  7. Eccles, you must be psychic. At Mass yesterday morning, after shaking hands with my wife, and those nearby in the pew (one must be civil as Bertie Wooster used to say), I raised my hand to acknowledge those a little further away who had eye contact and whispered 'Pax' (feeling a little bit like the Lone ranger meeting the Indians). The thought crossed my mind that Spock's peace sign would be more appropriate

  8. I've long espoused the Mr Spock sign of peace, having found that trying to ignore it leads inevitably to a dig in the ribs and a clammy hand halfway through the 'Agnus Dei'.

  9. The best strategy is keep away from NO protestant liturgies as they are a rite bastard.

  10. How anyone can go into a NO temple is beyond me. The smell for one thing is enough to make you feel ill. It just demonstrates how daft people are - it says "NO" (Nervous disOrder) but there are still a declining few who persist with YES (Yomkippurish Ecumenical Sionism). Now where's my Apron?

    1. Perhaps "I wish I was a fuzzy, fuzzy bear", "Lord of the Dance" or "Come by car Lord" might have enlivened the proceedings.

    2. I go because I must - I could catch a plane to the nearest TLM, but even the nearest VII version of the NO would require air passage.

      p.s. I agree no Latin, versus populum NO church do smell like a gym. It's the incense ban, I guess.

  11. Well there you have it – the NO is hazardous to your health!

    I’m sure the EU can be prevailed upon to issue some restrictions.

    Probably along the lines of it being a contributory factor to ‘Global Warming’…?

  12. Have you read 'Why Catholics Can't Sing'? (You should.) Great story in there of an old lady, piously telling her beads in Mass shortly after V2. Her neighbour turns to her with outstretched hand during the Peace. She looks up briefly and tells him, "I don't do that sh*t."!