Bishop Canevin High School ~ the scene of the mischief.
The Joy of “Holy Mischief”
by ~ Anita Skocz
A REPOST ~ 4-25-2012 As the cold weather hits ~ think spring!
Whether one is bubbling with the newly activated hormones of youth, or in search of a balance in hormones to stop being bounced around in the blender of life, when Spring rolls around, the “child within” screams to play. The innate joy factor yawns, and brushes off its dust. Joy, like all the other flowering plants, shows its glory, and I am here to tell you, joy comes in different flavors. YES, in a lecture a while back I found out there were eight, and the one that lit my candle, and truly runs rampant in my family and friends is “the joy of holy mischief.”
When I heard those words ~ “the joy of holy mischief” ~ my insides came alive. My heart did a cartwheel, my eyes spun magically like a kaleidoscope, fireworks went off in my mind, and my ears flapped like Dumbo! That fit me like a glove, and was the main ingredient in those that surround me ~ YES ~ “holy mischief.” A category of joy that I could identify with in spades.
As I said the Prayer of St. Francis this morning, I grinned when I spoke the words, where there is sadness, joy. The combination of St. Francis and joy sent me on another trip back in time to April, 1970 ~ Bishop Canevin High School. It was the Spring of my senior year, and many emotions begged for front and center, but the fire of mischief burned the brightest. I had an idea, that would blow the veil off the Dean of Discipline, and activate some mischievous joy in the process. My dear St. Francis would play the leading role.
The front entrance of the high school housed a small atrium off to the left with a life size statue of St Francis. He held the pose of one hand up to the air with the index finger slightly apart from the middle finger. He stood amongst the plants and truly welcomed one into the hallowed halls of the high school. In the mornings this entrance was used by faculty and students with a special pass for some reason or another. My idea was made possible, because my brother taught that year. Being he was faculty, he could use the entrance, and I could shadow him inside with a pious face without really being noticed.
With graduation just weeks away this day would begin with “holy mischief.” After eyeing dear St. Francis, and careful judging the time of the Dean of Discipline’s route, I was ready. With my brother well ahead of me, I quickly pulled a cigarette from the huge pocket of my school uniform and placed it in between St. Francis’s two fingers. I was so quick, that looking over my addition to the statue was not going to happen until later. I walked invisibly to the girls locker room door, and slipped out of sight. My mission was accomplished.
As planned I was able to peek through the small window on the door to see the reactions of my “holy mischief.” I also had my first belly laugh as I thought about St. Francis poised for his first cigarette. Then, the parade of faculty began. Each one laughed hysterically, nuns, priests and the lay teachers, and no one attempted to remove the cigarette. Operation “joy of holy mischief” began, and by the laughs seemed successful.
Soon, the scent of flying monkeys filled the air, and I knew the Dean of Discipline, Sister Celestine, was making her approach. As she caught sight of my master piece, her face turned as red as a welcoming light on a bordello entrance. There were no visible signs of steam coming from her nostrils, but I saw her intimidating stare which spoke of her determination to catch the blasphemous culprit. Who breached her well patrolled halls? Of course she was frustrated, and immediately snatched up that devil’s tool, and disposed of it. Like Barney Fife, she had a fire in her belly to find this disgusting student.
Before I could slip out to homeroom, my basketball coach came through the door with her Irish eyes a-smiling and laughing uncontrollably. She saw where I was perched, and patted me on the shoulder, and with her flaming red hair matching her red face flushed from her “holy joy,” she giggled.
“Skocz, how did you pull that off? St. Celestine has her beloved bees in her bonnet, and the faculty needed a good laugh. Now, get the heck out of here.”
She walked down the locker room hall with her deep laugh bouncing off the walls. I left and walked to homeroom with the look of St. Anita on my face. I had another cigarette ready to put back as we headed passed the statue at lunch time. I knew I would have to be faster as more people would be wandering around.
Again, I was successful in setting up St. Francis, but I did not stay to see the reactions. But, after lunch the Dean approached me at my locker. I really had to keep my cool, and I wondered for a moment if Coach pulled one on me. What came next was unexpected. Sister Celestine asked me to be her eyes and ears on this disgrace. I tried not to laugh, as she revealed her hand full of suspects ~ if she only knew.
I kept my secret from everyone, except Dee, my coach. Each day Sister Celestine asked if I had any clues, and I disappointed her each time by having nothing to report. Every time she removed the cigarette, I would find clever ways to replace it ~ especially because St. Francis was hooked. After several weeks it was our last day as seniors, emotional for many including me. But, I had to do it up right this day; I wanted to light the cigarette.
I would have to time it perfectly, so Sister Celestine would catch a glance of the smoke billowing before it would go out. So, it had to be morning, that was her most predictable pattern. This maneuver would include me lighting the match, a puff to start it, and a quick placement. Then, a piece of gum to clear my breathe and disposal of the gum, which was not allowed. It felt like “Mission Impossible,” but all went off without a hitch, and St. Francis looked like he was having a “holy smoke” moment.
I took my place behind the locker room doors and watched the faculty gather to have their morning laugh. In the midst of the crowd Sister Celestine broke through, and grabbed the lit cigarette. As she opened the door to dispose of it, one of the priest jokingly said.
“Sister, you look quite comfortable with that cigarette. Have you been the jokester all this time?”
She never cracked a smile.
A few years later fate brought us together. I saw her waiting for a bus to go into Pittsburgh, and I was driving into town. I asked her if she cared for a ride, and she was happy to take me up on it. She seemed concerned about something, and I took a chance to lighten her spirit. With a smile on my face I asked,
“Sister, could I interest you in a cigarette?”
She was quiet, and she looked at me strangely, but then the light bulb went off. I kept a smile, and then the miracle of “the joy of holy mischief” occurred. Sister Celestine started laughing, while trying to get the words out.
“Miss Skocz ~ it was you!”
Holy Mischief runs in our family; we love to play!