Our son, Aaron, decided not long ago that he would like to try his hand at being an altar server at our church. Training was scheduled for a recent Saturday morning and eagerly anticipated. The night before the training, Dom asked Victoria (once again) to please consider being an altar server too. Dom really wanted both kids to participate. Victoria was adamant about not participating in this particular activity because, as she said, she would be “way too nervous and everyone would be watching” her. Dom and I assured her that no, everyone would not be looking at her unless she was fidgeting with her ponytail or some other such distracting nonsense. My advice was something along the lines of, “Keep your hands in your lap and fade into the background. People will be looking at the priest, not at you.” When this did not satisfy her and she still refused to be trained, I let it go. Dom, on the other hand, could not.
And this is where I had to just step back and let him be Daddy. Having grown up Baptist, I had no experience with altar serving as a child, and no substantial encouragement to impart. I was glad one of my children wanted to participate more actively in the Mass, and perfectly content with the other one wanting to stay in the pew. I had no tools at my disposal with which to convince Victoria that she needed to serve, or even that serving would be fulfilling for her. We are all called in different ways, I reasoned, and I was happy to leave it at that. But when Dom’s gaze burned through me with that determined look as he said, “Let me talk to her; she needs to do this,” I sat my momma-bear-butt down and handed him the cub.
It took an hour and a half of talking, persuading, cajoling and reasoning, but before bedtime that night Victoria was on board with training alongside Aaron, provided that when she served, she would serve only with Aaron, to keep her nervousness to a minimum. Reasonable enough. The following morning, both of my children were trained to be altar servers. And they both came home ecstatic about the thrill of serving, so much so that they have made certain to wear proper attire to Mass every weekend since, just in case a scheduled server is absent and one can take his or her place. Aaron got the chance to step in for another server a couple of weeks before he was scheduled. Vic was chomping at the bit.
Victoria was officially on the schedule for the first time this past weekend. She was to serve alongside Mr. B., an adult member of our parish who would guide her through the Mass and help her with anything she might forget. Right before Mass, though, Mr. B. suggested it would be a good idea for Aaron to take his place and the two siblings serve together, since Aaron had already had a “practice run” with Mr. B. by his side. My kids were thrilled, if not a little bit nervous, while I practically turned to jelly in my anxiety for Victoria. Aaron seems so unflustered by being in front of a crowd; he is at ease anywhere, and often wants to participate in things that my wallflower-self would have found daunting at his age. Victoria, for all her extroversion, shies away from being anywhere near the center of attention. My children are enigmas to me.
Several people gathering for Mass promised to help both kids with cues if they got stuck or confused about anything. I heard repeated promises of, “If you’re not sure what to do next, look at me and I’ll give you hand signals.” I loved that my church family was reaching out to help my babies serve. During the Mass, Aaron and Vic had no fewer than five people scattered throughout the church giving them silent cues to what came next and offering smiles of reassurance. I could tell by her expression that Victoria was hesitant and unsure at times, and I saw her frequently look to Aaron for cues, and then out into the crowd for extra validation. Beside me, Dom was sideline coaching from our pew where our kids could not see us. I thought he was going to hurt himself whispering under his breath, “Ring the bell! Ring the bell!!” before Victoria finally rang the bell firmly and perfectly.
At the end of Mass Father Francis publicly thanked Aaron and Victoria for being new altar servers and for doing such a fine job. Our church family applauded and Aaron and Victoria smiled wide. And my heart nearly burst open from being so full.