Wednesday, February 06, 2019

The LuLac Edition #3999, February 6th, 2019


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This week's "Write on Wednesday" comes from yours truly. Today I remember a teacher of mine who passed away last month.


Recently on FB one of my friends posted a photo with her daughter with a priest about Catholic Schools week. I thought about that the other day when I heard the news that Father Joseph Mattey had passed away.
Father Mattey was my Seventh Grade Religious instructor at St. John the Baptist Slovak Grade School in Pittston. It was his unfortunate experience to encounter me when those pre-teen hormones were totally out of control. I pretty much was as nutty as you can get for about one year. McHale’s Navy was very big then and I tended to answer all inquiries in my Ernest Borgnine imitation of a pre-elongated “Whaaaaaaaat?” to pretty much every question. My parents were already used to it but Father Mattey wasn’t. So at least for half a year I spent Religion class in one of those big cloakrooms the schools used to have with shelves and hooks for the coats and stuff.
Once in a while he’d wander back and peek in, ask me a question and then head back out to middle school civilization. I took the tests and was passing but once Quinton McHale kicked in……I was back in that cloakroom.
Finally when Valentine’s Day came, after his lecture on the Saint, he let us pass out those Valentine candies. As I was headed to a girl I had a crush on and who reciprocated that same feeling at the start of the year, he grabbed my arm and pulled me aside.
“Don’t give her that” he said.
“I have to, she liked me a couple of months ago, why not?”
He spoke in barely a whisper and said, “She thinks you’re a numbskull!.”
I answered in my most thunderous Borginine voice, “Whaaaaaaaaat?” and he pointed toward the girl just shaking her head in total disgust at me after the outburst. “You have to lose McHale David, like this year. You go across the street (to St. John the Evangelist) acting like that and it will be no good”.
I settled down and finished the year like a normal human being. The next year I got elected President of my class. He left the next year to another parish but I’d occasionally see him when he was at St. Jude’s in Mountaintop.
He seemed somewhat pleased with his work when he encountered me then as a teenager.
This week when the news came out that he had died, a few of my friends from New York state (the famous Wasko brothers from Dupont) remarked about how fortunate we were to have priests at SBJ who were just that, priests with no agenda other than our well being.
Father Mattey was not bombastic but measured. A pre teen like me took that to mean he was just giving up on me by sending me to that cloakroom to get me out of his hair.
But he had a plan, he saw a way to get to me. It’s what good teachers and for that matter good men of God do.
RIP Father.


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