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On abetting a miracle – What my daughter should understand about altar serving

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“How do you know what you are doing up there?”

My ten year old daughter just simply smiled and looked at me.

“I know what I’m doing, Dad.”

She then proceeded to tell me who the cross-bearer is as the Mass begins, who holds the book during opening prayer, who brings the water for hand washing, who receives the gifts, who lights the candles and who puts them out. My daughter had only served once before, but already she spoke as an old pro.

Growing up Lutheran, I never had the chance to be an altar server. Even more, I had no comprehension of the deep and holy stirrings transpiring during the Catholic Mass simply because I had never been to one. In the twenty years and countless Masses I have attended since I met my wife (a cradle Catholic), I have come to love the beauty of this sacred undertaking. I have wondered at the beautiful vestments and ethereal singing, admired the gleaming chalice and reflective ciborium, fallen silent before swinging censer and the rising incense. And I have marveled at the seamless collaboration between priest and altar servers, cantor and Eucharistic ministers, all working toward that one holy moment – the consecration of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. The Mass has not only transformed bread and wine; it has transformed me.

And now my daughter was a part of it.

Once upon a time, the late (and deeply missed) Brian Doyle published Rules for Being an Altar Boy at Saint John Vianney Parish for the Liturgical Year 1964. Presented as rules (thirty-five lines) posted on the sacristy wall for young men serving as altar boys, the piece was winsome and witty as well as sober and stone-serious. But as my daughter eagerly smiled in anticipation of serving that day’s Mass, one particular line from Doyle’s piece kept returning to me again and again.

Be attentive. You too are an integral aspect of the Mass.
You are witnessing and abetting a miracle. Always treat the Mass that way.
Your service allows the miraculous easier passage into this plane.

My daughter looked up at me and smiled.

“I know what I am doing, Dad.”

I know, Annabel. I know you do.

But as you serve, pay attention, Annabel. You are integral. You are witnessing and abetting a miracle. Always treat the Mass that way.

I hope you remember this, baby.

I know you will.

I pray you will.


Photo credit: Pixabay

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