Putting my Foot in my Big Mouth (Happy Pallium to You!)

Archbishop Miller was one of 34 bishops from 20 countries who received a wool pallium from Pope Benedict XVI earlier this week, underlining his unique ties to the Vicar of Christ in Rome and to all the faithful in our archdiocese.

I just hope that I’ll still have a job when Archbishop Miller returns from Rome later this month. Allow me to explain.

Last Thursday (the 25th), we had our monthly building Mass and Luncheon for the entire building staff (close to 100 people), just a few hours before Archbishop Miller was to leave for Rome. I was asked by Faye and the Social Committee to serve as “emcee” for the luncheon, in essence my job was to make sure the program moved along efficiently. Having never met a chance to talk that I didn’t like, I humbly said yes.

After lunch was served, the first part of the program was for the Directors and Department Heads to make announcements regarding staff members. I went first, as it was Sharon’s last day with the YMO after serving for 8-months as our Administrative Assistant while Faye was on maternity leave. It started off well-enough as I noted that Sharon started at an extremely busy time: 2 weeks before Spirit Day, followed immediately by the centennial celebration at GM Place. I mentioned how well she did overall, and how appreciative we were of her great work. Then, I actually said this:

“Thanks for bringing your flair and a touch of class to the YMO.”

Have you ever said something that you wanted to take back, even as you were still saying it? Well, that’s exactly how I felt when I realized how my comment sounded…in fact I recall literally reaching out with my arms, trying to pull the invisible words back in. As my fellow employees laughed, jeered and shook their heads, I looked at Faye and whispered “That came out completely wrong.”

Thankfully, beautiful and intelligent Faye understood that I wasn’t trying to insult her, rather compliment Sharon despite how it sounded. She gave me a reassuring nod and mouthed “Don’t worry about it”, giving me much comfort. While in the midst of removing my foot from my mouth, I blurted out “Faye is classy too!” to no one in particular.

Believe it or not, I was just getting started.

We then honoured Msgr. Lopez-Gallo on his 82nd birthday. After some nice words from Archbishop Miller, some staff members presented Msgr. Lopez-Gallo with a cake (sans the 82 candles) and we erupted into a hearty rendition of Happy Birthday, complete with harmony.

Then it was time to wish Archbishop Miller well.

“As many of you know, Archbishop Miller is off to Rome later this afternoon to receive the pallium from Pope Benedict. By doing so, it will be a sign of his communion with the Pope, along with his communion with our archdiocese.”

Phew, so far so good. Then came my CLM: Career-Limiting Move.

“At first, I thought that Archbishop Miller was going to receive a PODIUM, because he talks so much!”

Remember up above when I was talking about taking back something even before you finish saying it? I didn’t even bother trying to explain that this too was supposed to be a compliment on his wonderful public speaking skills, as my other foot was lodged too far down my throat. Thankfully, most of the attendees broke into laughter and even applause (although I could swear I saw our HR Manager prepping my termination papers).

For what seemed like an eternity (though was likely 2 or 3 seconds), I watched Archbishop Miller to see his reaction. He gave me a big grin, patted me on the back, and calmly yet directly said: “Ok Clay, that’s enough now.”

I took that as my cue to move on and to skip the rest of my pallium jokes. Then, I said a quick prayer of thanksgiving that he didn’t fire me. At least not yet.

As some staff members brought out yet another cake, I offered “I’m not sure if there’s such thing as a “Happy Pallium” song” in an obvious reference to Msgr. Lopez-Gallo’s celebration just a few minutes earlier. Well, that’s all the prompting people like Makani, Jen, and Anthea needed as they soon had the whole building singing “Happy Pallium to you, Happy Pallium to you, Happy Pallium Archbishop Miller, Happy Pallium to you!”

What was already comical became ludicrous as I couldn’t believe what I was hearing (and seeing). Neither could Archbishop Miller, as he hid his head in the giant card we had just presented to him with the cake.

Looking back at it a week later, I think this Luncheon will be one of my most-cherished memories of my tenure at 150 Robson. To see the joy in people’s faces as they sang the song and laughed along in wishing Archbishop Miller was something to behold.

I just hope that my tenure will last a little bit longer!


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