The phone rings at the rectory.
Fr. Cuomo: Good afternoon. St. Peter’s.
Mrs. Cuomo: Franky, how you doing?
Fr. Cuomo: Ma, when you call me Franky I know you want something.
Mrs. Cuomo: What? You want me to call my son the Reverend Father Francis Cuomo?
Fr. Cuomo: What’s up?
Mrs. Cuomo: My cousin Tony…
Fr. Cuomo: Could have guessed…
Mrs. Cuomo: …called to say you refused to do the funeral for Uncle Leo…C’mon. That’s his dad. My mother’s brother.
Fr. Cuomo: That’s right. I refused. Leo wasn’t a member of my parish, or any parish, for all I know.
Mrs. Cuomo: What? You’re going to get technical with family? Like you need to show your driver’s license to get a fishing license?
Fr. Cuomo: It’s more than that.
Mrs. Cuomo: Like what more?
Fr. Cuomo: He didn’t want to have anything to do with the church.
Mrs. Cuomo: How do you know?
Fr. Cuomo: While I was still in the seminary he called me out, basically laughed at me, for wanting to become a priest. He said, “What do I need the church for, I no killa nobody.”
Mrs. Cuomo: He was pulling your leg. That’s my Uncle Leo for you.
Fr. Cuomo: No Ma, he wasn’t kidding. I went to see him when he was sick, the last time. We talked about this and that. He never mentioned wanting the sacraments. None of that.
Mrs. Cuomo: My uncles…religion is for the women. Hey, none of them go to church…except to get married and buried.
Fr. Cuomo: Well, he’s not getting buried by me. And I bet, if he had any choice in the matter, he wouldn’t want hymns and incense and holy water flying all around him.
Mrs. Cuomo: Still. He was family. And anyhow, it’s not your job to judge whether he deserved it or not.
Fr. Cuomo: So, I’m just one more item on the list: undertaker, cemetery, gravestone, flowers, obituary and oh, yeah, church.
Mrs. Cuomo: Don’t make yourself so important, son. Just do your job.
Fr. Cuomo: It’s not that simple. Don’t you see? This is different. I’m not the gas station guy…‘Fill er up and check the oil.’
Mrs. Cuomo: They don’t do that anymore.
Fr. Cuomo: Exactly. And nobody goes to the priest, like years ago, and orders the whole nine yards of smells and bells and holy send off.
Mrs. Cuomo: Ha!
Fr. Cuomo: Look. If someone in the army goes AWOL, does his family expect him to get the whole nine yards of honor guards and twenty-one-gun salute and folded flag. It would make a mockery of the whole thing. Make it meaningless.
Mrs. Cuomo: Church is only as meaningful as the people who believe in it.
Fr. Cuomo: Now you’re a theologian? Ma, uncle Leo was honest with me. I respect him for that. He wanted no part of the church. He lived that way. Let him die that way. Don’t ask me to slap a bandage on his life.
Mrs. Cuomo: For his kids? Maybe funerals aren’t for the dead. Maybe they’re for the living. Maybe you fudge a little to get his kids back to church too. They know he wasn’t a saint. But he was their father and this is one last chance to show they cared for him, to remember him nice, to think of the good things about him.
Fr. Cuomo: Right!
Mrs. Cuomo: Hey, Fr. Franky. They reach out a hand…don’t slap it. Religion is about family. God’s family. I gotta teach you that?
Fr. Cuomo: What does that make me? Some kind of actor. They pay me, I speak some lines.
Mrs. Cuomo: Sometimes the lines are bigger than the actor.
Fr. Cuomo: Like you would know drama.
Mrs. Cuomo: Don’t get smart with me. I’m still your mother. Just do your job.
Fr. Cuomo: Is that what you would tell that lady down south who refused to give a marriage license to a gay couple? Do your job. Personal judgment, feelings aren’t allowed?
Mrs. Cuomo: Sometimes what we’re supposed to do…what we have to do…has nothing to do with how we feel about it, or how it makes us feel. Like having babies and babies and babies because you guys say we should.
Fr. Cuomo: (Sighs) Tell him to call me. Maybe we can work something out.