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The Opportunity to Serve

By Peter Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Nov 03, 2010

At our church, typically a volunteer altar boy (or two) assists at Mass on weekday mornings. On one day late last week and another early this week, no altar boy showed up. When this occurs, the permanent deacon often takes care of the responsibilities—but occasionally a stalwart member of the congregation steps forward to serve. (Altar boy chair vacant, congregation member notices and steps into the breach.) And every time that happens, I think: why not me?

I’ve longed to be an altar boy ever since I graduated from high school. I was excellent in that role for about ten years... I’m telling you, things were tight. I was good at my job. I knew serving as an altar boy was my highest honor. I was serving my Lord and the priests I admired. Close to God... doing something directly for Him... helping to set the right tone for His worship. What could be more awesome?

At that, I undervalued the role and the experience.

So finally, on those recent days when no altar boy showed up, I charged right in. I didn’t have to think about how to serve—I knew the job exactly. Once again, I was doing one of the things that I have always known I can do the best. And I was serving God directly, in one of the best ways I knew how. This was something I felt helped to make up for my unworthiness to receive Jesus.

The other day, I was listening to a radio show, and the topic of conversation was: “When did you know that you had left your childhood behind?” Well, I can point to a couple of spots in my life when I had that realization. But the first was when I was deemed too old to be an altar boy any more. I had to move on. I had to find other ways to serve—but none of them seemed quite the same.

Who says you can’t go back again?

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  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Dec. 04, 2010 3:18 PM ET USA

    There is nothing as inspiring for a young man as seeing his father serve at the altar. I have seen precisely this at our Latin Mass Community, where there was never a shortage of servers, young or old.

  • Posted by: Salome - Nov. 09, 2010 2:31 PM ET USA

    I think the whole 'altar boy' thing is recruitment-focused. There should be nothing to stop an adult layman togging up and serving. That's not to say boys shouldn't be encouraged, but men who are going to be at Mass at that time anyway shouldn't be excluded from taking turns to assist. Besides, a growing boy could probably use the extra sleep.

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