JUST FOR FUN:"Veneration of the Feather, Father Pat Fleming et al:

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The Veneration of the Feather Ceremony had a deep history at St. Joe's. To pull it off you needed a great deal of secrecy and class unity. It was usually a prank the seniors perpetrated on the Freshmen.

Here is a summary of the "legend" as told by Dan Ellis from the Class of 1966. The 1977 version (photos) is pretty much the same storyline--except we got PICTURES!

The Great Saint Michael's Feast Affair

It is Fall of '66. The air is crisp. The leaves are changing and the new sems have arrived. The new guys are all going to become saints. and the old timers know better. We have a big crop of new guys this year and I feel a prank coming on. In past years, there have been minor St Michael's Feast pranks that involved a few guys and a few laughs. I got
caught when I was a new guy. That's how I know. This is my last year at St. Joe's and I intend to take the pranking upon myself, after all, I'm now an invincible "6TH YEAR."

I gather the usual suspects (guys forgive me, but I only remember a few for sure): Seth Copeland, Bill Ford, Sy Peterka, Tom Greenwell, and Dennis Greeley. We hatch the prank:

Story Line: A priest, long dead, was visited by St Michael the Archangel right after St Joe's opened. As a "relic" of the visit, St Michael left a feather (which looked suspiciously like a Blue Jay's) from one of his wings. The Vatican was in the final stages of canonizing the priest, so the faculty did not want to make any hoopla for fear they might upset the canonization process. But, the seminarians could hold an "unofficial" ceremony to honor St Michael and the priest. However, no one could discuss the ceremony for fear of a Vatican reaction. In addition, if done with the proper spirit, it is said, St Michael might give a sign.

Action: An announcement was made in the chapel on Friday night (9/30/66) after the short prayers after dinner for new seminarians to assemble in the choir room (under the main chapel in the 60's). This Friday night worked great because most of the priests were leaving for their parish masses. Moreover, just the Thursday before we celebrated St Michael's Feast (9/29/66). I got everyone seated, solemnly told the story and then had everyone get cassocks and surpluses on. We sang some chants from the Libre Usuallis (spelling? the thick black chant book). Next we formed a processional line and walked to the crypt to altar farthest in the rear (St Michael's altar, I think). The sacristan provided the processional candles and cross, and, most importantly, the reliquary (I provided the
feather!). Prior to the ceremony, we had refitted some of the lights at the altar with black-light bulbs. (More on this in a minute.)

At the altar, someone read some Latin passages and then we motioned for the new guys to come forward, kneel and kiss the reliquary. I can't remember who held the reliquary, but I did the wiping after the kissing. I had gotten a smelling-salt capsule from the infirmary, broken it and wrapped it in a piece of cotton. When a new guy kissed the reliquary, I pretended to start wiping but quickly swiped him under the nose with the
smelling salts. Most the guys reported having visions that night!

As it turned out, we almost really did need the smelling salts. At climax of the ceremony, one of the conspirators, standing against the wall, surreptitiously moved his shoulder blade to turn off the regular light and turn on the black light. The colors in the altar painting exploded into living 3-D!! There was an audible gasp from several of the new guys and one of them tottered. I thought he was going to faint! Shoulders moved again and the lights returned to normal. St Michael had given his sign. We filed back into the choir room and then went back to being regular seminarians.The conspirators slid into the night and avoided one another for a few days.

Epilogue: Incredibly, not one of the conspirators cracked a smile during the prank to give it away! None of us ever expected to complete the ceremony. We were now very scared seminarians!!

The following Sunday during the after-dinner walk, I was confronted by Robert Gordon (a new guy). He threatened me with every form of Inquisition torture except burning at the stake. He assured me the faculty would administer that punishment! With the cat out of the bag, it was only a matter of time.

Tuesday evening, Fr. Hodnett, my confessor, called me into his office. In our hierarchical society, as the oldest, I was the most responsible (rightfully so, I admit). I was lucky not to be tossed out on my ear! So much for invincibility! I don't remember my defense/explanation, but I remember promising never to pull a prank like that again.

None of the new guys held a grudge. In fact, I had to explain to most of them, one at a time, that what happened when they kissed the reliquary was just a chemically induced response. Only a few seemed really disappointed. The black light also required many explanations.

In the end, most of the participants of the Great Saint Michael's Feast Affair took it in the spirit it in which it was intended. (Thank goodness!) And I got to go the novitiate!

But that is another story.

Dan Ellis 1960-1966

Jack Bonura -- Class of 1980

Mike Daly (far right) and other unsuspecting freshman

Mike Daly plants one on the Archangel

Father Flemings's Favorite Jokes & Stories

I made my Twice a week call to my parents last night and finally talked to my Mom for the first time since fr Pat Fleming died. I had told my Dad of his death but he has suffered short memory loss since his last stroke, and he forgot to tell my Mom of Father flemings final curtain call.

I told her and she said, "Johnny, you just sent a chill up my spine." "What Mom, what happened?"

" I was just looking at the prayer book Dad and I received at his 25th anniversary as a priest and I hadn't picked that one up for years." I had never known they received it, since I was away at St Joes at the time ,so she read me the inscription on this red missal with gold letters. "On the Ocassion of the 25th Anniversary of the Ordination of Patrick J Fleming" We figured about 63 years as a priest. I had been constructing a Pat Fleming Story on Word ,realy looking for a vivid memory of this nice man and hesitating to find something better. Well let me tell you he sent a chill up my spine too! I could hear his voice when we would hesitate in class "ALLLRIGHT" he would say.

So I figured he wanted me to quit my hesitation. The quickest memories we all seem to have about Fr Pat were his jokes. He was a fan of the late great Jewish ethnic comic Myron Cohen, who was the source of many of his jokes, including the famous "you just missed the last train to Poughkeepsie".

Here is one of the Myron Cohen jokes I heard Fr Fleming tell:

Two martians land on Delancy Street in New York City. Out jump the martians, two little green men with Antennae sticking out of their heads. They quickly discover on landing their tiny spacecraft that they have busted two of their tires. "Before we do anything else" one said to the other, "we better get these tires replaced."

They walked down Delancy Street and spotted bagels hanging from a string in the window of Katz Delicatessen. Thinking they were tires, they went in to purchase two.

Now it was Halloween ,and the clerk at the counter thought they were Trick or Treaters asking for goodies. "And what can I give to you boys?"said the clerk.

"We'll have two of those tires in the window."

"Oh Boys, Those are not tires . Those are bagels, you eat them. Here try one."

The two martians accept the treat and split the bagel and a munching away with big smiles on their faces. Suddenly one turns to the other and says: "Hey, you know what this would taste real good with ?"

"No. What?" said the other.

"Cream Cheese and Lox"


John "Chuck" McCann '66-69'

Anyon out there know the Bear story? I don't remember that one.

"Roscoe's Shrine" (by Frankie "B")

I read the tale of the St.Michael's Feast initiation back in 1966. Fortunately for me, our class

came to Princeton the following year, so I and my classmates missed that particular initiation. I did hear

about it all from the sophomore class who did go through this ritual. However, I vaguely remember having

something to do down in the Crypt, in the dark, among those many altars. If I can recall, I think our initiation

centered around Halloween time in a wooded area out beyond the cemetery. We "frosh" were made to process out

in the dark to this so called place, called "Roscoe's Shrine",(ever hear of it?) that the upperclassmen setup with a kneeler and other
paraphernalia to scare the scrap out of us who were too gullible to know any different. According

to our "popular legend", Roscoe was a seminarian from long, long time ago, who went crazy there, and whose spirit

lurked around the Princeton grounds looking for peace. He would always appear at Halloween. I don't know if this

particular prank was still practiced when you were at Princeton or not, but I think the St. Michael's prank

was stopped with the class before us (Chuck McCann, Fawler, Joe Hess, "Ketch" Kettleberger et al.).

"War of the Worlds"

I have a story to tell that happened at Princeton, that was unique! and I'm sure it will bring

the old-timers of my day out of the woodwork to reminisce about how well it was pulled off. This prank I think,

happened around 1969, I'm not sure, which would have been my junior year at Princeton. Maybe you may have heard

it? Anyway, Marty, have you ever heard the famous radio broadcast "War of the Worlds"? done by Orsen Wells in

the 1930s? Well, it just so happened, that this particular broadcast was being offered again in its entirety

by a local radio station in our area to honor, I think, the 30th. anniversary of its original broadcast. The

"War of the Worlds" believe it or not, was suppose to have taken place right around our area, in the

Middlesex county area in New Jersey, where Princeton happens to be located. Let me tell you, at the time this

prank was put on, it was no laughing matter to me, but as I look back on it, it was Hilarious!!!!!!!!!! A

number of us, who were taken in by it, nearly wet our pants! until we found out what was going on here.

Anyway, the broadcast had been announced ahead of time earlier in the week and just before it went on the air

again, so as not to alarm people in the area that this "Halloween time" prank was really happening, so folks

would not be calling the police and the radio station about this "Martian Invasion" ha! ha! ha! Also, I think

the station didn't want to get sued either! We use to have this old stereo console in our student rec hall

(you know, the room across from the refectory), and the volume control dial was a bit "sensitive" to the touch

and would cause some static when touched by anyone setting the volume. Well, Seth Copeland(who I would say was

somewhat of an electronics wizard) was manning the volume dial making the sound go up and down like we were

getting interference from whatever. He also was making sure those of us glued to the radio did not hear the

occasional warnings being broadcast by the station that this was a "re-creation of the original broadcast".

A number of other guys were in on this joke, Bill Brown, Jake(Ed Jacobson),Jeff Maas, some of the seniors, I

can't remember who. Those of us who were caught in the hallways near the rec hall, and were told to gather round

the radio for this "special bulletin" about an "invasion" all around us, felt that this was really happening!

Many of those "in on it" would get emotional and upset and showed perceived fear, which would set the rest of

us unsuspecting "suckers" on our own emotional rollercoasters. What theatrics! But by-and-large, at the end

of the broadcast, Seth(I don't know how he knew it) eased up on the volume, and we all were able to hear(those

of us who hadn't died of a heart attack yet) that this was an re-enactment of Orsen Wells original broadcast, as it

happened some thirty odd years ago. What a laugh, they (and we) had after it was all over. Happy Halloween Folks!

In St Vincent,

Frankie B.