Monday, August 15, 2011

How to get people to come early and stay late for Mass?

At St. Patrick's, entering the 5th grade did not only mean you were "top dog" on the first floor, it also meant you were now eligible to be an Altar Server (AS). For the Vrla kids this was a right of passage. Being the youngest child, I couldn't wait to be just like my sister and brother and stand on the Altar in a black robe and a white smock. Oh the glamours of Catholic School, it's the little things.  

I should have known Altar Serving and I weren't going to get along well when I missed the first day of classes. At this point I should have said, "you know I think I'll wait until next year when I can attend the full 3 days of instructions."  But no, I was a Vrla, my brother and sister had imparted their AS knowledge to me and I had studied their every move up on that Altar.  I was destined to be a pro.  However, what I failed to remember was that my brother was the AS who on his way to kneel on the steps had smacked head first into the candles flanking the sides of Altar, making a surprisingly loud sound of glass on his apparent head o steel. I heard about this incident for weeks from my classmates.  News travels fast in Catholic school.  As far as I know, this was Bryan's only big blunder as an AS.  Me on the other hand...well, I had enough to write a blog about them.  And now the top 5 reasons Mass was so entertaining when Rebecca was an AS:  

Disclaimer:  During the time I was an AS the Monsignor at St. Patrick was a very serious and all about business kind of guy. Altar Serving was not a joke and he would gladly let you know if you were doing anything incorrectly.  I may or may not have been a little terrified of him.  

1) Following Communion the Altar Servers and the Priest clean up all the chalices, wiping them down and putting the tops on.  We were told during classes that the patterns on the top and chalice would match, making it clear which goes with which (see below picture of how it should be). At my very first Mass as an AS I step up to the Altar ready to help Monsignor J (MJ) clean up. He wiped down a chalice and hands it to me.  It has no pattern, and the only difference between the tops are the crosses in the middle. 

Oh and they're each ever so slightly different in size.  Enough to where only one top will fit each chalice. I play musical tops for what feels like 10 minutes, clanking on incorrect top after incorrect top. Finally, MJ takes back the chalice and grabs the correct top as if it was the most obvious thing ever. From that time on after wiping down a chalice, he would slightly tap it against the correct top as he set it down.  You're welcome St. Patrick Altar Servers, I just made your job 10 times easier.  

2) One morning I stood on the Altar holding the book for none other than MJ.  MJ is very particular bout what angle and height you hold the book for him. All of a sudden my watch starts beeping.  My watch alarm is going off.  I had wondered why my alarm hadn't woke me up that morning, instead my sister had to come in my room to tell me to get my butt in gear.  Turns out I had set it for an hour late. My 12 year old self has a mini freak out.  Should I turn off the watch or hold the book at the correct angle?  I don't know!  I look up, MJ is glaring down at me in a way I hope to never see another human being do.  After a minute of awkward beeping my watch finally stops. He makes no mention of the incident to me after Mass, but I know I am permanently engraved in his head as the girl whose watch went off during church.  

3) The best part about being an AS is getting to light the candles.  Fire is fun, always. Not to mention we get to use the coolest contraption to light the candles. It looks something like this:
See that little knob on the lower left side of the lighter?  Yes, well these control the length of the wick. One day while lighting the candles before mass I somehow managed to push this knob up far more than necessary.  The flame was gigantic. I panicked and pulled the knob down, snuffing out the flame.  Whew...disaster avoided.  I went back to the sacristy proud of my quick action.  I was greeted by MJ at the door.
MJ: "Why is the wick all the way down?"
Me: "Oh I was just putting out a flame"
MJ: "If you pull it all the way down after a flame was on it the wick freezes in the lighter.  It's probably broken now."
I try to move the wick back up.  It is indeed stuck.  Fail. 

4) As with all jobs, sometimes there were "no shows" in the AS world. But no fear, there was always at least one or two Altar Servers in the congregation ready to step up to the plate and save the Mass. On this particular occasion, there wasn't just one no-show, there were three. A voice came over the PA system pleading for one brave soul to be an Altar Server for today's Mass. Having already seen MJ, I figured I would volunteer and maybe start to make him like me a little better. I walk back to the sacristy ready to get a "thank you" and a pat on the back.  Luckily I had brought a hair band and was able to tie my hair back; strands of hair and fire do not mix well.  Once again MJ is there to greet me at the door:
MJ: "You're going to be our Altar Server."
Me: "Yup, I sure am, I even pulled my hair back.
MJ: "Those earrings are huge. They make you look like a gypsy"
C'mon man!  I was just trying to be a good Catholic and volunteer to be back up AS.  I never wore those hoop earrings again.  

5) After Mass, I went up to put out the candles.  All the seasoned and "Cool" AS put out the candles by snuffing one out with the bell side of the contraption pictured above and blowing the others out.  Well, I was seasoned and cool...or I wanted to be.  I reached up to snuff out candle one and leaned over to blow out candle two.  In one of my most intelligent moves to date I blow straight down at the candle.  The melted hot wax surrounding the candle shoots straight up hitting me directly in the face.  It instantly dries and I officially look like "two-face" from batman.  First reaction "OOUCH"  Second reaction "I need to get off this Altar ASAP I look ridiculous"  I put my head down and blow out (from a safe distance) the other 4 candles as quickly as possible then run back to the safety of the sacristy.  Luckily, MJ was not there to greet me at the door.  I can only imagine how that conversation would have gone. 

So, how do you get people to come early and stay late for Mass?  Answer, have Rebecca be an AS, she's sure to do something entertaining. 


  1. OMG I remember these stories sooo well! Especially the gypsy and scar face one. I was literally crying while reading the last one. :D

  2. Yes on one hand there was me. And on the other hand there was you (Kimberly) who I'm fairly certain got Altar Server of the year :)

  3. You coulda been a contender...