April 10, 2011

Loving Precision

At the parish where I went for Mass this morning, I was simultaneously edified and amused by the altar servers. A team of brother and sister, self-reporting to be nine and ten years old respectively, they were, as my mother sometimes says of me, somewhat 'precise.' As I say, I was impressed and amused by the precision of their service.

I got to church before anyone else (that's how I like it) and saw that the altar sacramentary was set up on the credence, open in the Order of Mass to the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Knowing those prayers by heart (and being in the practice of saying them in Latin anyway when there's an offertory hymn--the new translation won't bother me here!) I turned the page over to the orations for the day.

When the servers set up the altar, the kid who brought over the missal stand (with the sacramentary on it) noticed my adjustment and corrected it, turning the page back to where it was. Not wanting to dismiss his effort to correct the situation, I read the prayers from the book. A lot of ministry is hospitality, after all, and it goes both ways; being a good guest is important too.

The next funny bump in the road came at the end of Holy Communion. For the Communion procession, there were four ministers: me and an extraordinary minister with the Host and two others with the Precious Blood. Thus, when I returned to the altar after the procession, I had some work to do. I had to consume what remained of the Precious Blood from two chalices, purify them, and then combine two ciboria into one for returning the Sacrament to the tabernacle (which is some distance away in this church.) All the while I was doing this, praying quietly my Quod ore sumpsimus...the two servers stood patiently at the corner of the altar, waiting to take things away. Since they seemed eager for something to do, I re-dressed the two chalices with their purificators, and the principal one also with the paten and pall (I didn't have a veil or burse.) I didn't fold the corporal and put it on top of the pall, because the Sacrament was still resting on the altar. As I turned to take the ciborium to the tabernacle, I saw that the servers quickly took the two chalices to return them to the credence.

I figured that I would return to the altar from the tabernacle, fold the corporal, and then either leave it on the corner of the altar or return it to the credence myself on my way back to the chair for the Prayer After Communion and the end of Mass. (This happened often enough when I was a parish priest.) The servers, however, seeing me going back to the altar, jumped up and took the re-dressed chalices off the credence and brought them back to the altar, so that I could put the folded corporal on the chalice pall, como Dios manda, as they say. Then they re-removed them to the credence.

As I say, I found this all very funny, but I was edified by their attention and effort at the same time. In the practice of our faith, the boundary between loving attention to detail and scrupulosity sometimes gets very blurry. These kids were certainly on the former side, and I pray that their example keeps me there too.


Lisa Graas said...

Thank you for this, Father. ;-)

Cole Matson said...

As a novice server, this made me happy.:-)

Greg said...

Your post cried out with the humility of St. Francis ... we are fortunate that he still touches us through those, like yourself, who serve with such grace. Bless you.