Sunday, June 17, 2007

Life With Father

Today I assisted Father (for Father's Day, no less) at the Old Latin Mass. For the first time since I can remember in a public venue, I did so alone.

The ideal for a regular traditional Mass is two altar servers -- the first acolyte, who takes "the bell," and the second acolyte, who takes "the book" -- but it is possible for only one to do a Low Mass. The server takes his position opposite wherever the missal is on the altar. In other words, when the missal is on the Epistle side (the south, or to the right while viewing the altar), the server takes his station at the foot of the steps on the Gospel side (the north, or to the viewer's left). And vice versa.

But the real trick happens after communion. "Retired" altar boys know exactly what I mean...

After assisting the priest in purifying the sacred vessels with the water and wine, the server must ascend the steps on the Epistle side and retrieve the chalice veil, walk down the steps at the middle, genuflect, walk back up and fold the veil within reach of the priest on the Gospel side. As the priest begins to redress the chalice, the server takes the missal and its stand, descends the steps at the middle, genuflects, goes up the middle toward the Epistle side and places the missal to the priest's right. The server must then walk down the side steps, taking the long way around the altar, genuflecting in the center (a third time), then taking the long way back up the side steps on the Gospel side, arriving in time to assist the priest in folding the corporal (the white cloth upon which the Sacred Host is rested in the middle of the altar), and placing it in the burse (an ornate cloth-covered folding card that functions as a purse). Only after all that does the server return to his station at the foot of the altar on the Gospel side -- after genuflecting in the middle, for a fourth time.

On top of that, you can't look as if you're in a hurry. (Whew!)

The rest of the day got easier. I visited my son the bartender out in the suburbs, who treated me to a light lunch while I got to watch him at his craft. After that I joined "Sal" and members of her family for a baptism celebration for her niece's son. Then on the way home, we visited an old buddy of mine from way back. After over an hour of talking trash and solving the problems of the world, I returned home.

And started writing.


Steve said...

Did you assist at St. Lawrence?

David L Alexander said...


Steve said...

Cool. I didn't go this Sunday, but I go there often.

Dad29 said...

FAR more complex than I recall.

1) If serving as a "single," the server used the right-hand side regardless of Missal placement--largely because that's where the bells were placed.

2) After communion, the server moved the veil to the Gospel side, but did not wait to remove the missal. In addition, the server did not take the 'long way' with the Missal--rather, he could cut both diagonals.

3) Finally, the server NEVER TOUCHED the corporal. That was the priest's task.

No wonder you look tired!

David L Alexander said...

I've discovered some variations in training over the years, in spite of how detailed the instruction manuals were for the boys. Be that as it may...

1) I described how I was trained as a lad, and what's in the manuals when serving alone. Besides, the server is already on the Epistle side (and the book on the Gospel side) when the bells are ever used.

2) The server only took the long way when he wasn't carrying the missal or the veil. He "goes up the middle toward the Epistle side," meaning he takes the short route up the steps.

3) I wasn't clear here. The priest folds the corporal, while the server holds the burse for the priest to place the former in the latter.

Yes, I was tired, but it was a GOOD tired.

Steve said...

I believe then that we've now met, unofficially.

We got back late from a funeral in New York on Saturday night, and didn't get up in time for the usual St. Mary's indult.

Instead, we went to Alexandria, and I sat in the back with my little ones, one of whom you stopped and said hello to, informing him that "this father's day is going to be a big one!"

So, nice to meet you, even if I wasn't sure it was you. (I had my suspicions...)

David L Alexander said...

Oh, so you're... THAT Steve.

I remember the moment. I love talking to toddlers like they're real people. They seem to enjoy it too. I haven't forgotten about writing you back. June has been a big month. Stay tuned, and stay in touch.