My Easter Experience Was Different Than My Youth

Deborah Welky


I know it has been two weeks since Easter, but I can’t get it out of my head.

I was in church. Please don’t get the misconception that I am a good, church-going person, but I’m there on Easter and Christmas. This time it was a church that was unfamiliar to me because I was traveling through Georgia when Easter struck.

I was wearing slacks with pooched-out knees (from sitting in the car for hours) and a new blouse that I had just ripped the tag from while changing in a Shell bathroom. Visions of my mother getting four kids ready for church while telling us on how one should dress to be “in God’s house” nagged at me while I hurriedly ran a brush through my hair and glopped on some lipstick.

Yet, I eventually looked presentable and was miraculously on time, sliding into a center seat just as the organist hit her first chord. Whew!

So everything was going pretty well. Church is church. I had a little trouble understanding the priest, as he was from Guatemala, but he made up for that with his wild gesticulations. He was having a great time, even while admitting that it was the most people he’d been able to reach in a while. Probably since Christmas, is my guess.

Then came the part where he blessed us all with holy water. In the staid, rather conventional church in which I grew up, this was a solemn practice that involved the priest taking a microphone-shaped thing full of water and shaking it gently in our direction as he walked up the aisle. I would lean toward him, hoping to catch a droplet of water on my head, which would signify (I thought) that I was “in” as far as heaven was concerned and could go back to annoying my brother and repeatedly telling my sister that the reason she couldn’t find her Easter basket was because she was so bad that the Easter Bunny couldn’t, in good conscience, give her one.

But the holy water experience was different. How it is done in Milwaukee is evidently quite different from how things are done in Guatemala. This gleeful priest grabbed a huge bundle of what looked like palm fronds, dunked them into the pail of water he was carrying in his other hand and sloshed water all over everyone. People exchanged wide-eyed looks as their Easter finery was doused by holy water.

But what can you say? Holy water trumps a new dress anytime. Hey, you’re going to heaven!

Blissfully unaware, the priest paraded up and down the aisles, dipping his brush into a seemingly endless pail of water and pulling it out in great arcs, while the people below him cringed and stayed strong. Behind his back, handkerchiefs were discreetly being pulled from purses and fathers were blotting the soaking heads of their bewildered children.

All in all, the service was excellent. The people were friendly, the priest enthusiastic and, by the looks of the wet crowd exiting the church, almost all of us are going to heaven.