Altar Server Joy

Originally Appeared in : 9906-3/14/19

The last of the five Balducci boys is now officially an altar server.


It has been a long time coming for Henry, our 11-year-old son, who has watched his four older brothers serve on the altar his entire life. 


In some ways it didn’t surprise me that Henry would want to serve. For many years, we single-handedly manned the altar (along with the priest, deacon and Jesus, of course). But week after week, our four big boys served on the altar together. For several years Paul’s dad would pick up the boys 30 minutes early to get them to the church in time to serve. He did this as a gift to me and Paul, who would stay home and get toddlers Henry and Isabel ready to go.


It was a sweet season where serving on the altar at the 8 a.m. Mass was the focal point of our Sunday.


A few years ago, Henry became very passionate in his desire to serve on the altar. And here is the part that actually did surprise me. For someone who wanted to be an altar server so badly, Henry was not a big fan of church itself. The sitting still, the being quiet, the whole-entire-hour of these two things together — it was pure torture for him. 


Each week as we walked into Mass, he would ask how long Mass would be and if it would be like last time. One week he asked if there was Wifi in the church and if I knew the password. These were not the best of times. Someone with that outlook on church didn’t always like to be there.


We made it through those years, but they seemed to last forever. 


And then, slowly, Henry started to get it. He started to behave and pay attention and not need to stay at the way back of the church every single week. Some weeks I would even forget that he was once a child who cried at the thought of Mass. 


So you can see why it was always interesting to me that in the midst of those years, Henry would continue to ask when it was his turn to serve. Being an altar server was still Henry’s goal, despite not loving other aspects of church.


A few months ago we got a letter from Bill Harper, who trains and organizes our altar servers. It was almost time for Henry to begin. And we were overjoyed. Henry had his training sessions and last week he was a “walk on” with the other servers. 


The look on his face was worth the years of waiting. The pure joy and a little fear — what a perfect combination.


I would like to say here, publicly and on behalf of all my fellow parishioners at Most Holy Trinity, how grateful I am to Mr. Harper for the high standards he sets with our servers. Years ago, when the bishop came to our church, our servers were so excellent that one person wondered why the bishop traveled with his own servers from the cathedral. That’s how well-trained and attentive our servers are.


About a year ago I asked Harper when Henry would be able to start serving. Henry was beginning to ask me about serving and I wondered when he could begin. But Harper knew Henry wasn’t quite ready. He was just starting to do well in Mass, but didn’t have the level of self-control that Harper needed a good server to have.


When we found out it was time, I knew it was really time. I’m grateful for all the hard work Harper has put into training these young men and women — the Balducci boys have benefitted greatly and our parish is blessed by all our attentive servers.


I’m also touched by the kindness and joy shown by our faith community, by our fellow 8 a.m.-er’s. My friend Jen wrote Henry the sweetest note to celebrate his first day serving. My friend Paula sent a text telling me how well Henry did (and how handsome he looked). My friend Bootsie has always celebrated Henry’s impish behavior — as a young boy he once winked at Bootsie as we headed up to communion. She loved it.


Parish life is such a gift and I’m blessed to be here at our beloved church celebrating another wonderful milestone in our Catholic life.


Rachel Balducci is a wife and mother of six. She and her husband Paul are members of Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Augusta, GA. Her latest book, Make My Life Simple, is available on Amazon.

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