Monday, 1 July 2013

Buy me some peanuts . . .

One of the essential jobs of an itinerant altar server is to branch out into other churches.  Whilst I have served at many in the area, near and far, one which I have not served at is actually right in my own area!  But opportunities have a way of presenting themselves.

The church was Holy Trinity Catholic Church, and the occasion was a funeral for a family friend (God rest her soul).  Having no altar servers from the parish available, I was invited to serve.

Serving at a new church is always an interesting experience.  For an Extraordinary Form Mass, you have to examine the sanctuary to see where all of the essential items are, identify any issues you might have with kneeling or moving, clarify particular rubrical variations with the priest (bell ringing patterns, optional prayers, etc.) and then coordinate these with any other servers.  However, it becomes greatly complicated when it is an Ordinary Form Mass, because so much of the rite itself is non-standardised and dependent on the particular church.  So unless given specific instructions, a large part of first-time serving is staying on your toes and, keeping the rubrics in mind at all times, being able to wing it based on your surroundings.

Normally everyone else will know what they are doing, easing the job of "winging" it.  However, things were different this time.  Firstly, because it was a funeral Mass, the rubrics are different and people are less familiar with them.  This would still be okay, except in this case, both the priest and the deacon were visiting from other parishes!  Combined with lectors and "Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion" from the funeral party . . . not a single person there was "familiar" with how the parish normally did things.  (In fact, I may have been the most familiar, since I have heard Mass there a few times in the past.)

That being said, the Mass actually went pretty smoothly.  Some glitches here and there, but since the three of us (priest, deacon and myself) generally knew what we were doing, we made it work out.  All the way until the end of Mass, at which point . . . things got wacky.

Fast forward to the Commendation prayers at the end of Mass.  After two long eulogies, we processed to the casket, where I stood at the end of it holding the "Crucifix" (though actually a "Resurrectifix", i.e. a cross with the risen Christ on it)Prayers are going along normally, with incense and all, but then the priest paused and said, "Next, we're going to do something a little unorthodox . . . ," immediately putting my mind on red-alert, but keeping my composure, I watched with nervous concern as one of the pall-bearers stood to make an announcement . . . and then started to unbutton his shirt.  "This . . . can't end well."

"In honour of so-and-so, who was one of the biggest Cardinals fans [a baseball team in St. Louis], all of us pall-bearers are wearing Cardinals t-shirts under our suits!"  prompting laughter from the congregation.  Not so bad, I guess, but then he continued, "and in her honour, I would like to ask everyone now to stand and sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame, cheer, and then hug each other!"

So, picture the contrast: an altar server, dressed in lace vestments, standing solemnly in line for procession . . . surrounded by a group of shouting baseball fans.  All I could do, of course, was to stay still, ignore it and wait for it to pass . . . a feat which was complicated during the "hugging" segment when someone started grabbing at my vestments.  (Their intentions were good, anyway . . . )

Afterwards I took time to practise on their pipe organ, which turned into a recital for the parish staff and organist.  I was playing Michel Corrette's Grand Chœur avec Tonnerre (sans a plank) when he came in, and it took a lot of courage to conclude it in his presence, since the last measure calls for you to lean your entire hand on the keyboard so as to hit every note, very loudly and discordantly.

A very interesting funeral for sure, but having given me now a forty-fifth church in which I have served, it was an exciting opportunity regardless.

In your charity, please say a prayer for the repose of her soul.
Mass heard: 07:30, National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows; 10:00, Holy Trinity
Serving streak: 4 days
Datum S. Ludovici, die XII mensis Iulii, in festo S. Joannis Gualberti Abbatis, anno MMXIII.

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