Before the summer, I was asked if I could work one Saturday a month as sacristan at our parish. We have several ‘vicar’ sacristans, as we are a big parish, and our Mass schedule is very full - for example, our priests sometimes celebrate as many as 8 Sunday Masses, including Saturday evening and Monday morning Masses. When one of the sisters asked if I was willing, I gladly said yes, even though I was a bit apprehensive, as our parish priest and some of the other priests are very conservative, and I knew it would be quite a learning curve!
On Friday, before I prayed Vespers with the sisters, the prioress asked if I could step in, because the on-duty sacristan couldn’t make it. Of course, it was a feast, and the celebrating priest was our parish priest. It felt like exam time, as the sisters didn’t have time to check over what I’d done before they came to Mass. I was so nervous!
Putting out the vestments in the right order, and prettily at that (I once put the amice beneath the alb) - getting the chalice and paten set up properly, with the tiny spoon the conservative priests want - the books at the lecterns and lighting all the candles and also remembering to prepare for the post-Mass Adoration that we do on Fridays - and everything else… I admit my heart was beating furiously when I went to my place in the pews just before Mass started - what if I had forgotten anything? Even if our priest had checked things, and the altar children were there to fetch if I had forgotten something, it still was pretty nerve-wracking!
After the readings (which I did), I noticed something had changed in the way I participated in the Liturgy of the Eucharist, though. I looked at what the priest did in a different way, now that I knew what he things he was using, with the chalice and wine and water and host and paten. That now that I know about the corporale, and the bursa, and the purificator and lavabo, and all these things, the miracle of the Eucharist has become even more of a miracle. And to think of being a tiny link in a liturgical chain that stretches all the way back to the days of the Apostles - it’s added a new dimension to the Mass for me.
Being a (every-once-in-a-while) sacristan is no longer about giving time and labor to the Church, it’s receiving a gift from God.