Nicknames hold a very special place in my family. There are certain family members who are real pros at getting the creative juices flowing and designating such names to individuals. Now, sometimes the names are playful. These nicknames make you laugh or they can be a little game of affection that may be awkward to show otherwise. Unfortunately, there also have to be the times when these names are a little on the cruel side, marking an instance of conflict. In any case, I've recently realized that nicknames undoubtedly hold a definite space in my life...and here's an unforgettable example of how pervasive this habit can be.
My sister's family--she, her son, and her husband--are all members of the Our Lady of Lebanon Church here in Wheeling. The rest of us have grown accustomed to holding activities at the church and have gotten to know the priest there. When this all started, however, everything was very foreign to us...or so I thought. My dad and brother are great at talking with others because they're champion storytellers, especially when the discussion surrounds hunting or fishing. So, at our first gathering where the priest was present, they chatted it up with him. I found this to be very interesting...my dad and brother hanging out with a dude in a collar. Turns out, though, that this guy hunts on the same land that they hunt on occasionally. While I was recovering from the fact that priests are permitted to hunt, my brother was telling of a couple of encounters with the priest on this land during hunting season. The priest allegedly has an issue with practicing moderation in his hunting, so my brother nicknamed him Fr. Slaughter. Because this has a great ring to it and went very well with his stories about the priest, this has been the name that has stuck in my mind since.
This all came back to haunt me the other night as I sat with my college roommate, discussing her job which includes directing the religious education programs at a parish just across the river in Ohio. We were just commenting on a few of the local parishes, and I went to talk about Our Lady of Lebanon and realized that I had no idea what Fr. Slaughter's real name is. When I told her the story, we both got a huge laugh out of it. So, I guess this is a cautionary tale of how nicknames can sneak in place of real names!