Ever since I began serving as a sacristy minister during Mass, I have often experienced God’s compassion, love, and care. I am a very forgetful person, and although I can remember millions of bytes of computer code, my daily life is often in disarray because of my forgetfulness. Often, I could not even recall names of close friends! Because of my forgetful nature, I try to be extra careful when serving God, fearing I might forget something important. Someone suggested that I should use a note pad to record things, and I’ve tried it a few times, but either ended up forgetting to bring the note pad, or lost the note pad all together. It seems changing one’s nature is harder than moving mountains!
One day last June, it was my turn to serve as the sacristy minister for Sunday Mass. As usual, before the Mass began, our choir director Lin Guu Lin announced to the congregation the theme of the day’s Mass and the entrance song, then asked all to rise for the entrance rite. Just at that moment, a thought came to me as though someone was giving me a message: the Sacramentary and the Lectionary were not prepared yet! I looked toward the altar and found that indeed the Sacramentary was not there. I quickly ran back to the sacristy to retrieve it, hoping to deliver it to the altar in time for the Mass. When I returned to the altar with the Sacramentary, I found the Mass had stopped completely.
Just when I was about to rush back to the sacristy to get the Lectionary, I found out the reason for the pause. Liturgy Group leader Margarita was anxiously trying to light the candles on the altar, and said to me, “Something is very strange today, the altar boy could not light these candles even after four tries!” But when I returned to the ambo with the Lectionary just seconds later, and was planning to help Margarita light the candles, I found both candles already lit. It looked to me that lighting the candles couldn’t have been as difficult as Margarita described. As I returned to my seat, I saw the presiding priest already standing at the sanctuary, and saw Margarita carry the Gospel to the altar in a hurry. Then I found out that the lector had arrived at the church late due to illness, so the Gospel was not delivered to the altar during the entrance rite.
At that moment, I realized the reason why the candles would not light: How could the Mass begin when the Sacramentary and Lectionary were not prepared, the Gospel not delivered to the altar, and the lector absent? God is always so merciful, His wisdom is so deep and wide. The clever delay of the Mass not only allowed me to prepare the books in time, it also covered up the lateness of the lector.
God also comforted me through this experience, letting me know that I did not need to be self-reproaching with these mistakes; human beings have many weaknesses, but through them reveal God’s love and might. I know I would always hold a reverent heart whenever I prepare for Mass. However, my forgetfulness had not improved a bit; during Fr. Kimm’s Farewell Mass, I forgot to prepare the large host for the priest again! I prayed to God to help me when I serve Him, and He heard my prayer. God knew I was going to forget something again during a mid-week Mass, and made a clever arrangement to remind me.
The Mass was scheduled to begin at 8 PM, but I arrived early at 7 PM to prepare for the Mass, and opening the church doors early allowed the still air to be ventilated. Since there was so much time for preparation, I thought I would not be making any mistake that day. A parish member arrived unexpectedly at 7:15 PM, and I was wondering why she had arrived so early? There were only two of us in the entire church, and so we chatted a little while I prepared for Mass. She said that the announcement in last Sunday’s Mass indicated this Mass would begin at 7:30 PM, and asked why they changed it to 8PM? I was thinking the announcement I heard said 8 PM, and looked like everyone else heard 8 PM as well. However, I just told her I was not sure of the time, so I came early to make preparations. I said it this manner so that she would not think I was weird, coming one hour early to make preparation for a one-hour Mass.
I continued with my work to prepare the altar, then the bread and wine, and when I passed by her again, she suddenly asked me, “Have you prepared the bread for the Mass?” I answered, “Yes, I have.” But I was also thinking why she would ask me such question when she was not involved in the sacristy ministry. Did she not see that I have been busy making preparation? Just then she added, “I am talking about the BIG one!” And used her hands to form a large circle. I was suddenly startled by the tone of her voice, it felt like God was talking to me! I had indeed forgotten to prepare the large host, and was suddenly covered with cold sweat from the shock! I quickly replaced the host, and began to realize why she was the only one who did not hear the Mass time announcement correctly: God had sent her to come early, and just to make sure I completed my tasks without any mistake! I also came to realize that our community also has a “prophet.”
Although I really thanked God for saving me this time, I also felt hurt and unhappy. Why not remind me directly, like last time with the Sacramentary? But after thinking a little more, I thought perhaps I would have thought that I remembered the large host myself, and not have given any credit to God. Then how could it have revealed God’s mercy and love? How could it have increased my faith to God?
God’s love and mercy are limitless. Although I was no longer resentful, God still responded to my defiance with humor. Two Sundays later, after I had transitioned the Mass preparation work to another person, and took over the task to arrange gift offering during Mass, I walked toward the church entrance right before the Gift Offering, and a message was bluntly stuffed in my head: “The large host was not prepared!” The large host was indeed missing after I checked, so I replaced it in a hurry, and came back in time to instruct the family to offer the bread and wine on the altar.
Base on my understanding, the person in charge of the Mass preparation that day is not forgetful like me; he had never made this type of mistake. However, God made him forget this time and humorously responded to my previous resentment, to let me know that God is indeed in charge. I hope he would not contract this forgetfulness problem from me.
Actually, there are many brothers and sisters in our church serving God in various types of ministries, but none of us know how to do this work naturally. I am sure many of them have had experiences similar to mine. When God calls us to serve Him, we are the ones who really benefit from the work. Not only can we experience His tender love and care, we also increase our faith in Him. I hope all the brothers and sisters’ faith to God can be deepened through their ministry efforts to Christ, and I also urge all brothers and sisters to listen carefully for God’s calling, to not reject His love and care, and miss the opportunity to commune with God and to grow spiritually.
Arthur Shao - 12/2002
Keyword: Word Became Flesh