Altar serving is one of those gigs that is virtually always reserved for youth and, sometimes, older, retired parishioners for funerals or daily Masses. I started serving as soon as I was a practicing Catholic at age 13 and it remains the venue of service by which I felt most fulfilled. I haven’t served since Easter Vigil a few years ago, but I truly miss it.
Without a bit of surprise, that is why I’m as-giddy-as-I-get about serving this weekend.Two great friends are getting married this weekend with Archbishop Aymond celebrating. I’m blessed to be leading our crew of altar servers for the Nuptial Mass—and absolutely ecstatic.
As Fr. Ed Koharchik, an old friend and current pastor of St. Martin de Porres in Dripping Springs, would say often in liturgical conversation, “after the Lord Himself, liturgy is my greatest love”. This is true for me, slightly modified to include my wife and kiddos. I’ve been dusting off all of the liturgical books I have no reason to own—the Ceremonial of Bishops, Rite of Marriage, the about-to-be-permanently shelved Sacramentary—just to make sure I’m not rusty.
This is when it hits me. Every Mass is like this.
No, Archbishop Aymond isn’t celebrating every Mass and everyone isn’t a wedding, but the need to prepare is the same.
Since adding kids to our domestic church, our ability to focus on every reading and prayer during the liturgy has been greatly diminished. I can’t recall the last time we were able to listen to all the readings and the homily. I can’t recall the last time I listened to the entire homily without one of the girls squawking enough to either distract me or require me to take one of them outside.
All the more reason to take time before Mass to prepare. What are the odds that I can get more out of the homily, whatever of it I do actually catch, if I’ve already read the readings and reflected upon them myself, in the short time that house is quiet while the kids are asleep? If I pick some aspect of the Mass—the penitential rite or the silent or nearly silent prayers of the priest during the Eucharistic Prayer or whatnot—study more on their origin, development and purpose, and reflect upon that, how much more would I begin to get out of those moments when I’m standing in the entryway of the church rocking Olivia and haven’t the luxury to be fully enveloped into the moment?
I’m a liturgy nerd. I feel like I already know more than most folks on these issues and have read almost anything available online on these topics, but yet, I didn’t read it yesterday and certainly haven’t reflected upon them in some time. Whatever I read as an 18-year old and thought about it then simply isn’t as clear in my mind today nor informed by the last almost-decade of experience.
It doesn’t matter that the material isn’t new. It matters that I open the door to the Holy Spirit to fill me with whatever it is that God wishes to grant me through this time with God and the timeless rituals of the Church.
Resources I use:
There are a few resources I use (try to use at least) when preparing for the weekly liturgy:
Lectionary for Mass Study Guide – $19.95 on Amazon.com
Nothing fancy. Exactly as it says, a study edition of the Lectionary. I prefer this to looking up the readings online or via an iOS app mostly so I can unplug and take it to a quiet place. The paid version of Universalis allows you to export to ebook format, which might work for me too. They include Mass readings as well as the Liturgy of the Hours.
The Sacramentary/Daily Missal/etc
I like to read the various prayers of the Mass—the opening prayer, the prayer after communion, etc—just to get a better sense of the overall spirit of that particular Mass. I know some of the printed Missals have only the prayers and some have both prayers and readings. I’m not going to suggest anything particular right now since everything currently in use will be outdated by the end of November.