|Metaphorical evil spirit.|
But this past Sunday afternoon, St. Albert the Great Church had 100% participation in the prayer service, with everyone stampeding to the individual confessional lines. The secret? Bedbugs.
"The first Sunday of advent, I typically take the occasion to remind people that we are called to repentance during advent, a chance allow God to purify us, ready us for the coming of the Son of God. Spiritual warfare is a reality in our fallen world, and I thought this year the best way to describe that was through comparing evil spirits to bedbugs. It seemed to have struck a nerve," explained Fr. Hardy.
Dcn. Thomas Wetterman had more dramatic words for the effect the homily had on the congregation. "When Father mentioned that satanic spirits roamed through our lives just like bedbugs, there was this collective shudder in the whole Church. Then kids began screaming, and half the adults began compulsively scratching," he said. "The communion line twitched like a hoard of people with poison ivy doing the conga."
Fr. Hardy extended the metaphor in ways described as "horrifying" by long time parishioners Leonard and Sandy Bianci. Sandy reported, "First he said that once we've fallen, we crawl into bed with Satan every night. Then we get bit and bit and bit, and carry the evil spirits around town. You think you can rely on your own hot water washing machine to take care of the bugs, but NO! They find a way back. The only one who can protect you from the Satanic bedbugs is Jesus, the Great Exterminator, in the sacrament of penance. Then you can sleep in clean sheets of peace. Or something like that."
However unusual the theology, it apparently brought people in the door. The afternoon's scheduled advent prayer and reconciliation opportunity, which usually has 30% participation, had 100% of the parish present. More, in fact, since parishioners invited in fallen away Catholics from the street. Afterward, Fr. Hardy was in conversation with 40 unnerved people who were not Catholic but wanted the protection of penance immediately.
When asked what inspired him to use this analogy, Fr. Hardy smiled. "Oh, it was easy. People are actually worried about bedbugs."
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