A Whole New Meaning

One thing I love about our church is the cross. A Franciscan parish from the time it was founded in 1913, our church has a huge San Damiano Cross on the wall behind the altar. It’s more than a cross–it’s an icon, and every little detail has meaning. Read all about it, then gaze upon a large San Damiano Cross if you can find one. It’s a wonderful meditation.

It’s such a wonderful road to prayer, in fact, that I hesitate a bit to share this story. But I thought it was funny, so I’m going to tell it anyway.

The altar servers at our parish often wear a little cross over their albs. But the crosses aren’t all the same. Some have the words “Altar Server” inscribed on them. Others are San Damiano crosses. On Sunday, Little Brother got himself vested for altar serving, then came out to wait by me in the choir area. After I fixed his collar (an every-Sunday occurrence) I told him that I was glad he was wearing the San Damiano cross because it’s my favorite one.

He wanted to know why, and I showed him that it matched the cross on the wall in the church. He’d never noticed it before (possibly because he usually sits with the musicians who don’t have a good view of it) and I pointed out some of the figures on the cross.

Then I mentioned the “angels with halos” at the very top. Suddenly he got interested. “Halo people?” he asked. “I thought those were only in video games!”

Another Altar-Server Debut

Adventure Boy showed up at my house 2 hours before we leave for church (don’t panic–we go to noon Mass, so he wasn’t here at the crack of dawn…THIS time).  His hair was (mostly) combed.  He was, for him, formally dressed in a golf shirt and cargo pants and basketball sneakers–a step up from flip-flops.  And he announced that he was coming to church with us.

A couple of hours earlier, Little Brother had woken up, and he came downstairs announcing that he wasn’t going to be an altar server anymore.  Last time he served, it was VERY hot in church, and our altar robes are made of a fabric that’s closer to burlap than it is to seersucker.  It was his first day flying solo as a server, there was a baptism of twins during the Mass, and he passed out right before the Lamb of God.

I couldn’t even go over to help him out, since half our folk group was on vacation and I was leading the band.  But at least 5 others came to his rescue and got TheDad, who didn’t have Little Brother in his line of sight.  Once he was hydrated and out of that hot robe, he was fine.  (A Slurpee helped.)

Anyway, Little Brother was pretty nervous about getting back on the horse.  And apparently on the way to church, he and Adventure Boy cooked up a plan.

When I got to church (I leave earlier than the non-musicians in the family) Father asked me how Little Brother was.  I explained that he was fine, but nervous; I hoped that there would be a pre-Mass pep talk in the sacristy.  I saw Little Brother and Adventure Boy arrive, and both headed into the sacristy.  The next thing I knew, the two of them were wearing their robes and marching up to get the candles off the altar so they could carry them in the procession.

I’m not sure what Father was thinking, letting those two carry LIT candles.  There was some during-the-Mass coaching going on (Adventure Boy wasn’t holding the finger towel the right way, apparently) and quite a bit of fidgeting by the boys.  Little Brother noticed me watching him and would occasionally flash me a thumbs-up to let me know that he was feeling fine.

Two very proud altar servers carried LIT candles off the altar after Mass and (a little too quickly) led the procession out.  TheDad and I are very proud parents–and godparents.

And after Mass, Father asked TheDad (AKA The Cubmaster) to encourage the other Cub Scouts who are old enough to consider being altar servers.

He’s Been Waiting for This Day

Pardon the blurry shot–we had the
flash turned off.

…and so have I.

Little Brother has wanted to be an altar server for oh, so long.  He was a toddler when Big Brother began altar-serving, and even though TheDad sat with him waaaaaaaaaay in the back of the church and I was up front with the musicians, I’d hear Little Brother at Consecration time:  “Big Brother’s ringing the bells!”

At the end of Mass, the altar servers would process to the back of the church, where Father would leave the procession and the servers would turn the corner and go down the side aisle to the front, leave the cross in the sacristy and then proceed to put away the altar linens.  It wasn’t long before Little Brother joined that parade, and the “Hat Lady” would allow him to put the finger towels into the laundry hamper in the sacristy.  She had her eye on him; no, not just the eye that watched over the altar servers and made sure they served reverently, but the one that paid attention to children in church who seemed to have more than the usual spark of interest.

Middle Sister has been serving for several years now–so many years that she’s just about outgrown the longest altar-server robe the church has.  And Little Brother has wanted to serve.  He asked, at the beginning of this school year, only to be told that he should wait until fourth grade.  Well, third grade is over and this morning he came running down the stairs to see if he can be an altar server now.

“You can ask Father about that when we get to church,” I told him, making no promises.

When we arrived, we saw that the pastor was not assigned to our Mass today–instead, it was the assistant, who thought it would be just fine if Little Brother served.  So Middle Sister helped him find a robe in the right size and showed him all the ropes, including how to carry the cross in the entrance procession.  He did quite well for his first day, and after the closing prayer Father H announced to everyone that it was Little Brother’s first day as an altar server.

He’s eager to do it again.  I’m grateful that Father H did not brush him off but instead encouraged and allowed him to serve.  And how cool is it that he got his “on the job training” from Middle Sister?

I think the “Hat Lady” would be proud.  I know I am.