Attention to details

By | November 12, 2009

As we near the end of the liturgical year, we are invited to be alert and prepared for the challenges of the final days. We do this by being attentive to the present moment and by doing even small things well.

Preparation and attention are also part of Sunday worship. Before we leave home, we plan which Mass family members will attend. Some read the Scriptures for the day, we choose and dress in special clothing and we start out early enough so we arrive on time. After we enter the church, we pass out music books or worship aids so that we are ready to sing the entrance song. Preparation involves time and attention, but ultimately helps us to focus on the important aspects of worship.

This same kind of careful preparation also happens at the parish before we arrive. Throughout the church’s history, there have been special people called sacristans, who work behind the scenes and handle the preparations for worship. Often the sacristan does his or her job so well that we take for granted the fact that everything is in place and ready by the time we arrive.

Church doors are open and someone has taken care of the lighting, the microphone system, ventilation and heating needs. In the sanctuary, the altar has a clean white altar cloth and perhaps some additional color to mark the liturgical season. Lighted candles are visible around the altar, the Sacramentary (the priest’s book with prayers and texts) has been prepared and the extra vessels and linens have been placed on the credence table.

In the center aisle the gift table is ready for those who will bring forth the bread and wine. Additional hosts and chalices are set on the credence table and will be brought to the altar at the preparation of the gifts.

If there is an entrance procession, the Gospel Book is ready for the lector to carry and the Lectionary will be placed and open on the ambo.

On the Sundays of Easter (and other Sundays when there is a sprinkling rite), the aspergil (holy water sprinkler) will be filled and ready. And when there is a baptism at Mass, the font will be ready and the oils, Easter candle and white garment will have been prepared.

A sacristan’s long term preparations include washing and polishing the vessels for Mass, making sure the holy water fonts are clean and filled, laundering the altar linens and ensuring that the sanctuary lamp is burning at all times to indicate the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

This week as we hear the exhortation to be alert and prepared, perhaps we could pray in gratitude for our parish sacristan who helps us to worship well by taking care of all the details that we take for granted but that impact our ability to worship well.


Sr. Rehrauer is the director of Evangelization and Worship for the Diocese of Green Bay


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