Updated: Feb 15
Depending on how old you are and where you live, you may have heard of Basil Brush, an orange fox of the Muppet variety, best known for his appearances on daytime British children's television. Basil had a notable come back in the early 2000s when my eldest kiddos were aged 10 and 13. He was loud and obnoxious, with a trademark “Ha! Ha! Ha! Boom! Boom!” whenever he rated his own jokes to be hilarious, which was often.
The reason I even remember this garish hand-puppet and his inane “Boom! Boom!” is that he has forever changed my ability to kneel quietly with reverence during the Easter Vigil’s customary Litany of Saints. You see, my children had never really paid much attention to the Litany prior to their exposure to Basil Brush. But I can tell you, it doesn’t matter how many years have passed, or how they may have matured over the course of their young adult lives, without question, the Litany has never been the same again. Not for me, and especially not for them.
The first time they heard a church choir intone “Saint Basil…pray for us!” in a high-pitched, resounding soprano, my children totally lost it. The only Basil they knew was that of the material fox variety, and he was anything but saintly. At first, I didn’t know what had gotten into them, doing everything I could to stop their snickering. Then, my daughter squeaked out in a very loud, amused whisper, “Saint Basil Brush!”, and I realized what the giggling was all about. I couldn’t help it, I had to smile. Which turned into my own muffled giggle, followed by full blown shoulder shuddering at every attempt to smother it.
Seeing their mother unable to remain composed during Mass made my children laugh even harder. The choir continued singing the names of more saints, which only added to the unfolding drama in our pew. Each of us trying desperately to stifle our amusement, which now had a life of its own. The fact that we couldn’t stop giggling, just caused us to giggle all the more.
My husband, sitting on the other side of me and cradling our newborn, gave the three of us an alarmed look. I could only plead with him with my eyes, as I bit down hard on my tongue in an attempt to make it stop. Regrettably, for the rest of the Mass, one or all of us continued to struggle to stifle an escaping chuckle, until we could finally exit the church and let out the truckload of trapped delight.
The next year, my children were unusually eager to attend the Vigil, dressed and ready without even being told. I was too distracted with getting our toddler organized to notice their knowing smiles and shared anticipation. That is, until the choir started up the Litany again. Suddenly, I remembered the antics of the previous year. I closed my eyes and muffled an inward moan. I looked over at the kids. They were kneeling with their backs rigid, faces down, eyes wide looking towards their knees, Cheshire grins plastered to their faces…waiting, waiting until they might burst, for their favorite fox to be praised. They couldn’t contain their glee. They were already gone. It was madness, and the choir had only just begun.
I was determined not to join them this time. I was the adult, after all. It was my job to set the example, so I sent them a stern look. That only made it worse, for in that very moment, there it was, “Saint BASillllll…..PRAY-aye for uuuuuuusssssss!”
Was it just me, or did it sound extra high pitched and overly operatic this time?
That was it. I lost it, too. Pressing my lips tightly together could not stop the spitting guffaw from escaping. I slapped my hand across my mouth and buried my face into my hands. What a sight I must have been to the parishioners around me, my entire body trembling, unable to regain my composure, despite my best efforts.
To my children’s great disappointment, we stopped going to the Vigil and attended the Easter Sunday service instead. That is until many years later when both were grown and returned home for Easter weekend. You would think that as adults it would just be a beloved childhood memory, something to laugh about, but ultimately maturity would win out. Nope. Adult children find childhood memories beyond hilarious, and it seems the St Basil giggles will never be tamed.
Today when I hear the Litany, I still must bite my lip to stop a bubbling snicker, though it’s easier now not to get carried away without the shared hilarity. It makes me wonder what Our Lord thinks. Terribly inappropriate, I understand, but immeasurable joy all the same. I am blessed with children with wonderfully infectious senses of humor, which I know are a gift from God. Many times, their jokes and good-natured teasing have relieved me from the seriousness of life, and for that I will always be grateful.
So, the next time your children won’t sit still during Mass and the struggle threatens to steel your joy, think of me - an older woman who really should know better, succumbing to a fit of giggles during the Litany - and rest in the knowledge that you are not alone.
Oh, St Basil, pray for us!