By Kathy Berken
Were you also a pre-Vatican II kid who played Mass in your living room? We used the ironing board, a dresser scarf, a wine glass, fancy plate, dad’s handkerchief, a piece of cardboard, Necco candy wafers, and my St. Joseph missal.
Eventually, it all comes full circle.
I recently babysat for my three grandchildren for a weekend. Isaac is 6 ½, Anna 4 ½ and Ava 1 ½.
Knowing that taking them to church alone was more of a challenge than I was willing to deal with, I told them that we would have church at home. Immediately Isaac had a plan. He would be the priest, Anna would be the altar server and Ava could, um, just be Ava.
It was Sunday morning, time for church. Isaac got his things. Anna and I went into the kitchen. She chose a frosted wine glass, filled it with water and a drop of red food coloring. “Now it’s wine!” she exclaimed. Was it that easy for Jesus, too? Hmm. We put four oval crackers on a Curious George plate. Wouldn’t you?
Isaac wore his superhero cape and carried his children’s Bible. Ava spotted the crackers and was more than anxious for communion. We lined up in the hall and I asked for a song. Anna said, “How about ‘Alleluia’?” Perfect. We sang while processing into the living room and Isaac took his place at the corner chair and end table. Anna started to twirl around in what I could only call spontaneous liturgical dance. Ava wandered with her blanket, following her big sister, asking for crackers. Isaac waited, Bible in hand.
I suggested we needed an opening prayer, so Isaac said, “Our Father,” and we all joined in. We sat down for the reading. Isaac opened his Bible and said, “This is from the prophets. Jesus was born in a stable and his mom was Mary and the three kings came and gave him gifts, and then — what was that bad guy’s name? — (I said, “King Herod?”) — yeah, King Herod tried to get him, but they took Jesus to Egypt to hide. That’s all.”
“Great, Isaac. It’s time for the homily where you talk about this reading,” I said.
Isaac took his role seriously. He hesitated a few seconds, looked up and said, “The Bible is really cool. You should read it. It has a lot of stories about Jesus. (Long pause.) That’s all.”
Anna had left the room and returned with her princess dress and was changing it right there in our worship space, preparing for another liturgical dance. We waited. It was time to bring up the gifts. Ava was all over that idea. Anna took the plate, I took the “chalice,” and we processed from the hall to the “altar.” “We need to bless the gifts. Repeat after me. Dear God…. bless these gifts… and make them holy…. so when we eat this bread and wine …. we become holy too… Amen.”
We skipped right to communion because Ava was requesting very loudly for food. Isaac started with Ava, and Anna took hers off the plate, but Isaac still said “Body of Christ” and told Anna to say “Amen.”
One has to wonder if the first Christians who gathered in homes made it up as they went along, too, with children underfoot anxiously wanting to participate in the feast.
Everything was spontaneous and the communion ritual seemed to happen all at once. Everybody was saying “Body of Christ” and “Amen” eating and passing around the “wine” until it was all gone. “The Mass is ended, go in peace.” Isaac walked to the doorway, shook our hands, and thanked us for coming.
The ground was holy, God was present, and all were filled with grace.
I have not felt so blessed in such a long time.
(Kathy Berken has a master’s degree in theology from St. Catherine University, St. Paul, Minn. She lived and worked at The Arche, L’Arche in Clinton (1999-2009) and is author of “Walking on a Rolling Deck: Life on the Ark (stories from The Arch).”)