I’m happy, upon occasion, to call your attention to the people who have made our parish such a vibrant community. I’d like to draw your attention, this week, to some lovely, generous people who work together, most often behind the scenes, to make our liturgies come alive. My focus, this week, is on those who work deep under cover: our wonderful sacristans.
The setup for Mass can be complicated. Chalices and ciboria (the plates for the Hosts) need to be prepared for both priests and eucharistic ministers, along with their linens (we call them “purificators”). Before each Mass, a check is made of the number of consecrated Hosts in the tabernacle so that the approximate number for the next liturgy can be prepared in the right vessels.
Seat covers, reserving seats for deacons, altar servers and visiting priests, need to be on the required chairs in the assembly well before the early birds arrive. Linens for the altar need to be in place, as well as the Roman Missal, tabbed correctly for the particular prayers set aside for the day.
The sacristan keeps an eye out on the sign-in sheet for eucharistic ministers and lectors, to ensure that backups are recruited if the assigned ministers are unable to attend.
During the liturgy, the sacristans keep careful eye on the altar servers, especially when their leader, Bob Shadduck, is not present. The servers are very well trained, and beautifully willing, but they are children, and profit from encouragement and oversight.
Once the liturgy begins, if anything goes sideways, often enough, the sacristans have observed it and are half way to solving the problem before I even detect it!
During the Our Father, the sacristans go to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, to bring the ciborium from the tabernacle, placing it on the altar during the Lamb of God, and distributing the Hosts into the plates used by the ministers. On rare occasions, they step in to take the place of a eucharistic minister. Every now and then, in ways we can never predict, far more people show up than normal, and sacristans step up to make sure that all the stations have as many Hosts as they need.
As communion draws to a close, and the liturgy finishes, it is so very important that the vessels from Mass be cleansed in a conscientious and reverent way, which the sacristans do with great care. They then leave careful notes for the sacristan for the next liturgy to help them in the next setup.
Sacristans come very early to the liturgy, and don’t leave until most everyone has long departed. They bring me a real peace of mind, allowing me, both before and after the liturgy, to greet you all on your way through the doors. I learned long ago to trust their expertise and competence. How, ever, would I thank these people enough?
Fr. Patrick Pastor