A few days ago as I sat in church late at night I was drawn to the altar like a fly to the light. It’s hard to explain but I was flooded by an inner knowledge of the sanctity of the altar where mass is celebrated every day.
Simultaneously I felt a draw, a pull to be on the altar close to the action so to speak as I reflected back on my serving days in France.
Immediately I knew I had to ask Fr. Keith if I could serve mass again, something I haven’t done for 10 years really.
I started serving mass as a child and like most children I had no clue what I was doing only that I needed to give the priest things like water and wine, ring the bell at four spececif times and carry the patten around as the priest distributed communion.
As nobody ever really explained what or why we were doing these things, I made up my own fun!
I’d ring the bell ridiculously loud to wake everybody up, I’d be counting people’s fillings as the priest gave out communion and my secret hope was that one day a communion would fall and I’d have to catch it …perhaps the years of hurling training may have paid off!
I remember once getting into terrible trouble after a funeral mass when the school principal noticed my giddy behaviour and went at me. Somehow everyone, including my parents thought that because I was intelligent that I should be well behaved …I think the years have taught them to let go of that idea.
My problem was that I’d get bored so easily and while I would do all the tasks appointed to me I needed a bit of craic or fun as well to keep me awake. Nobody seemed to understand that part and I’ve spent my entire life getting into trouble.
However there was one way to tame this child and it wasn’t the stick or a beating or a telling off….education!
Ironically Our Lady was the first person that seemed to get it and so when I was converted all those years ago I spend endless hours sitting in churches learning about the mass using both books and visions.
At times she’d show me the angels gathering about, I’d see Jesus’ body being laid on the tomb as the priest would move the host, I’d see Jesus’ agony as He died and yet the supernatural love gushing forth on the people…it was amazing!
So when I moved to France and was asked to serve mass I jumped at it! The wild child was now a focused child and the grace of God was assisting me.
Slightly annoying was why I’d be crying during mass and people looking at me wondering what was wrong. I was in 2 worlds, they were in one. It seemed best to say nothing and let them think I was weird than to try to explain the unexplainable!
But these things don’t go unnoticed and so I was sent off to a psychiatrist for an assessment to see if I was schizophrenic.
In a way this amused me because when I hear and see spiritual things it’s actually far clearer than when I hear and see things in the physical world. I was more sure of the reality of Jesus and the angels around me than I was if the people. Sadly there was no test for that!
Needless to say the psychiatrist found nothing wrong with me rather to the dismay of some I may add. I felt like a horse at the races with people gossiping and talking about me and trying to predict the outcome.
Yet all that aside I continued to serve the mass and to learn more and more about the spiritual realm and of the love of Jesus in the sacraments.
But once I left France the season of serving mass left too and besides an odd time here and there I was never part of the serving team.
I guess people were afraid of the consequences and the trouble that they felt that they may get in if this gay spiritual person was allowed on the altar. Living as an outcast became part of my life for many years as I struggled to cope with it all.
“You’re too spiritual” they’d say and then leave me alone with no friends so the only place I could go to have company was to the church and to Jesus and Mary!
“Jesus, they are giving out to me for praying too much yet they barely talk to me, won’t let me get involved and the only person I have to talk to is you!”
Was my frequent prayer. “Forgive, forgive, forgive, offer me the pain” was usually the Lord’s answer.
Anyway all that to say that as I served mass yesterday I felt a new sense of dignity, completion, acceptance and integration and it was a true blessing to find myself once again on the altar serving the mass and helping the priest.
If 8 year old Michael could talk to 38 year old Michael I’m sure they’d both have a good laugh at how things have changed and how God can tame and teach even the unlikely ones!
And so my prayer today is for all who serve mass or assist in any way whether adults or kids. I pray for them to come to know and appreciate with their hearts what it is that they are doing, that they experience the love of Jesus and that their love for the mass becomes like a burning fire passing to each and every soul that they meet.
My deepest thanks to Fr. Keith also for giving me this opportunity again and for not being afraid of the madness of God to pick someone like me to be His helper and friend!
Have a perfect day!
Blessings to all,