One of the SouthCoast’s Oldest Altar Boys
In the late 1970s, one of my all-time favorite Saturday Night Live characters was created by comedian Don Novello.
Father Guido Sarducci was a fictional, chain-smoking priest with a thick Italian accent and tinted glasses, a big floppy black hat, white clerical collar, and a long, red-lined black coat with a cape he bought for $7.50 at a Saint Vincent DePaul Thrift Store.
The Sarducci character worked as a gossip columnist – and rock music critic – for the made-up Vatican Enquirer.
Around these parts, Sarducci is also a bit a folk hero for his 1992 "exorcism" of Fenway Park, in order to reverse the Curse of the Bambino – even if it did take another 12 years for the Red Sox to finally win a World Series.
Though I didn't make it to the end of the first week of orientation at Holy Cross Seminary in Brookline, Massachusetts – a seductive fall-from-grace story – I could identify with Sarducci's breakaway style. I connected with him because we spoke the same language. He was a humorist with a unique sensibility.
Now fast forward to the recent years that COVID-19 shut down much of regular life for most of us. Among that standstill, our parish had few altar boys to assist the priest during the Divine Liturgy.
As a kid, the bishop ordained me an acolyte, and 65 years later, that acolyte, by default, turned into one of this area's "earliest-born" altar boys.
In the early '80s, Novello was featured in advertisements promoting candidates for the priesthood. With the critical shortage of clerics today, it's worth thinking about reinventing a Sarducci for recruitment.
Most appreciably, Novello was able to take his character beyond SNL, remaining an audience favorite to his fans, disciples and acolytes alike.