Church Wine

There was a time in my life when I was Catholic.  As a kid in a Catholic family, we sometimes got to sit up on the altar with the priest during mass.  All the families rotated through. It was a great time for mom to practice pinching four children simultaneously to keep us from wiggling, nudging, squirming and what boiled down to dicking around up there in plain view of 200 or so judgmental people.  The view from the altar is much better than from the pews.  More people to look at. You can see the nails in Jesus up close. See the priest from the backside. (Insert your own Catholic priest joke here.)

It was the job of the family on the altar to present the gifts to the priest during mass. The gifts are the sacramental bread and wine that represent Jesus after he died, quit drinking and went gluten free. Before mass, the priest would prepare the wine and wafers in the priest green room and the family would sneak them out to the altar before mass started.

In the secret lair of the priest, the wine was stored in a locked cabinet.  The key to the cabinet was on a woven purple string.  It was probably just a piece of string or something simple, but it seemed special.  The priest would need to get the wine and pour it in a golden chalice for transportation to the stage…  err, altar.  Church wine was special. I knew it was special because it came in a small, odd shaped bottle with letters and numbers on it.  There was also a picture of grapes on it in case anyone needed to be reminded that it was wine. When he opened the locked cabinet, I saw that bottle and it was burned into my memory. I could see the priests that worked in the wine fields, picking those same illustrated grapes, stomping on them, putting the liquid in barrels with God smiling from above.  In time, the holy liquid would be bottled in those very special bottles and shipped to churches across the world.

It was poured, recapped and locked back in the cabinet.

When you are 12 and Catholic, you get a sip of wine during communion. My brother would dare me to take a gulp, but God would get pissed, and I was already in trouble with him for the constant masturbation.

At the end of communion, the priest would drink any leftover wine. I remember thinking that being a priest has its perks!

Everyone would leave the church. The family would help to clean up. The priest would say thanks and be thankful that our family wouldn't be back for another 18 months.

It’s now years later. I’m no longer 12, but I am not yet 21.  I am in a car that is going through a drive-thru to illegally buy beer.  Doob is in the front seat, questioning the guy about the different beers.  We are all silently yelling at him to shut up, order a 24 pack of Old Milwaukee and move on. Trying to look busy not looking at the beer guy, I pretend to take interest in the other beers in the coolers.

Church wine. Church wine! They had church wine at the beer drive-thru!

I turned to Russ. “Hey, they have church wine here.”

Russ didn’t know what I was talking about. “What are you talking about?”

I pointed. That wine. “The one with the numbers and letters. And the grapes!! It’s church wine. It's a special Catholic Church wine.”

“You mean the Mad Dog?”

I had heard of Mad Dog. It was like a liquor or something. “No. The one with MD and 20/20. That’s church wine.”

The car was now pulling away. Doob was somehow able to buy the beer and not get busted.

Russ said, “The one with the MD is Mad Dog. MD. Mad Dog. It’s fortified wine. It’s what bums drink because it’s cheap.”

My whole life was a sham. The special wine. The locked cabinet. The priests in the field. God smiling down as the bottles were shipped around the world.  It was all one big lie. One oddly shaped bottle with screw top cap, numbers and letter and a picture of grapes lie.

It’s been a long time since I have had church wine. I remember the taste. The dare to take a chug. The special bottle with the M and D. Numbers. And a picture of beautiful, plump grapes.


Dogsdontpurr said...

Good Lord! I love the way you write. This totally cracked me up!

Capt. Schmoe said...

Mocking the priest's taste in wine is not very holy, Juan.