Three years ago, I had written this blogpost about my memories serving high mass on Christmas Day. The above photo taken after that mass came into my possession recently. That’s me on the front right and the alter boy behind me is my first cousin Denny, the same cousin I played K of C basketball with as described in last week’s blogpost. The server standing next to me is John, aka Spike, a classmate and close friend. Nelson, a distant cousin, is standing next to Denny. Coincidentally, I had an opportunity to get together with Nelson last week in Florida where we are both spending the winter. Joining us were several other snowbird Loramie alums pictured below, L-R, me, Frank, Doug, Tom & Nelson.
As a young boy, it was a real honor and privilege to serve mass at St. Michael’s church. We were all trained to be mass servers by our parish priest at the time, Fr. Raterman, who’s pictured below with our family (note even in the presence of our parish priest, I had my ball glove!)
Back then, being an alter boy was a lot different than today. First of all, there were no alter girls! Also, all the masses were spoken in Latin, so Fr. Raterman focused his training on the Latin responses as well as the many activities required before, during and after mass by the altar boys. Click on this video link to get a sense for the training Fr. Raterman provided.
Fortunately we did have a “cheat sheet”, sample shown above, to help us with the Latin. But an alter boy in training had to memorize all the responses in order to qualify. Fr. Raterman was also a stickler for reciting the names of all the various items the priest used during the mass as indicted in the graphics below.
At Christmas, Fr. Raterman always gave the servers a small gift. For example, we received this pin one year and another year, a small nativity crib, both of which I still have.
The most challenging aspect of serving mass was paying attention so the proper activity could be performed at the correct time. In those days, the servers had to ring a chime at the consecration. Picking up the chime without it accidentally ringing was a real challenge.
During high masses and funerals, an incense burner called the turibulum was used to sanctify the altar and body of the deceased. More than once, I recall the smoke from the incense causing a server holding the turibulum to pass out! The incense didn’t bother me; in fact, I rather liked the smell.
What caused me the most problem were the hard kneelers near the altar that made my boney knees very sore.
To this day, while attending mass, I tend to observe how the servers are doing. Without the Latin, their duties are a cakewalk. Plus they get to serve with girls!
(Receive a weekly email whenever there is a new blog post. Just enter your email address in the designated spot below the blog and follow instructions to set up the notification.)