Maybe churches bring it out in me. My father converted to Catholicism when I was 11, during midnight Mass. As the priest was singling out those about to receive their first Holy Communion, a worshipper seated behind us ripped a barely audible fart. In God's house on His son's birthday, for crying out loud! Judging from the stoic silence surrounding us, and the reverberation of our uncontrollable laughter, my dad and I were the only ones to hear the wind blow.
But I surpassed all previous levels of spontaneous inappropriate behavior during a serious situation in 1982, in a church, during another midnight Mass.
In a nutshell, I showed up high as shit on opium. I had been partying in the park with friends, and at exactly 11 p.m. I remembered I had to meet my family at St. Mary's. I made it, but the next day I was convinced I was going to Hell.
For starters, I genuflected next to my seat, and then sat my ass on the carpeted aisle because I had forgotten to move into the pew. When Mass began, the organs kicked in, and a more beautiful sound I had never heard. Catholic Masses are just as physically beneficial as a trip to the gym, all that standing up and sitting back down again, the deep knee bends and the kneeling, the marathon arm-pumping when everyone wishes everyone else peace. I sat motionless, however (despite elbow jabs from my mom), slumped in the pew, head lolling and eyes semi-focused on the paintings on the ceiling, enraptured.
Then Monsignor Murnane, the night's officiator, unloaded a can of whupass on me in the form of a biretta. A biretta is a four-peaked ceremonial hat that old-school priests insist upon trotting out on special occasions, though most newer clerics wouldn't be caught dead in them. "If the biretta were still required garb," said Father Michael, a thirtysomething priest I spoke to recently, "I wouldn't have entered the priesthood."
So I'm sitting there, blissed out, higher than shit, when Monsignor slaps his biretta on his bald head. Did I mention that a biretta has a big pompom on top? I started laughing, and then my dad started laughing, and the harder we tried to stop, the harder we laughed, until even the choirboys were giggling. Finally Monsignor (R.I.P.), older than God himself, sighed and asked the Wilson family if perhaps they would like a moment to compose themselves so the rest of the parish could continue with the celebration of Christ's birth.
That was the last time I attended midnight Mass, and the following Sunday my parents began worship at St. Paul's.