There are hundreds of children in the program, at least a dozen altar servers among them. Still, A. was the first asked to serve. His commitment and responsibility are well-known within the church, so it was natural that they’d ask him. It was also natural that he’d say yes.
There were four servers and, though A. was not the oldest or largest among them, he was clearly placed into the leadership role as the book-bearer and bell ringer. Ringing bells surely doesn’t sound hard, but, with the arrival of two new priests, routines have changed rather dramatically at our church and there are now two additional, and somewhat hidden, times the server is asked to chime the bells. In addition, there is a whole new, complicated candle procession that surrounds the gospel reading. It is beautiful, but it’s new and complex and, well, it confuses a lot of people.
As the pastoral team prepared for the gospel, I watched A. up behind the altar, trying subtly to get the attention of two servers beside him. He tried a side-eye. A nudge. Finally a leaning whisper.
At that point, they realized they had completely missed the cue for getting the candles and they laughingly went and grabbed them from their stands and just met the deacon at the podium.
A. surveyed the scene, gave a tiny nod, clearly determining that, well, at least they were where they needed to be now.
He is ever-vigilant, my boy, and so determined to do what is right. When he served at a Confirmation Mass back in May, the bishop tracked me down to tell me that he’d never met such a devout ten-year-old and that the Holy Spirit was clearly on fire in my son’s heart.
It was chaos, though. With hundreds of little ones, many of whom aren’t all that accustomed to Mass, there was major noise. People didn’t know the routine and things were a bit haphazard.
Despite his prayerful focus, A. totally missed the first ringing of the bells.
My gaze flew to him, mainly because it surprised me, and his blue eyes grew wide.
Then filled with tears.
He got through the consecration, ringing the bells appropriately and bowing his head with each blessing.
But I could see, even from my row so far back in the church, the crystalline drops fall to splash on the kneeler.
I desperately tried to catch his eye again, to give him a thumbs up, to smile encouragingly, to mouth, “It’s okay!”
But, while the servers beside him, who had completely forgotten to even DO their job, carried on, grinning and non-chalant, A. was crushed.
And this, this is the downside of raising a child who is both incredibly devout and perfectionistic… he feels the weight and sting of that miss so very strongly. He can’t let it go. He can’t accept that no one else noticed or cared or judged him for it.
To him, that’s not the point.
“Mom, when I step up to serve, I want to do it for the glory of God. I want to give Him my all. It’s not like dropping a fork at supper. I’m serving before the Lord. And I messed up.”
It breaks my heart.
And so I pray that he may hear the truth. That he might hear his Father whisper that it’s not about getting man-made routines perfect– it’s about the heart with which he does it.
God hears the devotion ring in his heart, even when the bells stay silent.