By Jourdan Reynolds
As a child there was nothing more I wanted to be than a soldier, a sailor or a fighter pilot. In grade school I wanted to become a Marine; in middle school, I wanted to attend a military academy; in high school, I had hopes of joining ROTC in college. I was attracted by images of protecting the weak and the helpless, belonging to a band of brothers and marching in uniform.
When I finally reached college, I soon realized that my dreams wouldn’t be achieved as I had planned. God had different plans for me that would not only meet my previous expectations, but go above and beyond my wildest imagination.
I wanted to get more involved in college so I decided to participate in extracurricular activities, including as an altar server for campus ministry. Unlike being an altar server at my local parish, this position required much more of my time. I served not only at Sunday Masses, but had the option to serve at various daily Masses celebrated on campus. In addition, servers were always needed for benediction/exposition of the Eucharist and eucharistic processions. I would eventually become involved with all of these duties as I matured as an altar server in God’s “liturgical army.”
Altar servers were required to wear a cassock and surplice. When putting them on, I felt like I was getting into a uniform, distinguishing myself as a “royal guard” of God’s throne. The college had various protocols for altar servers; each was assigned a particular role including the crucifer, the thurifer and the acolyte. Each role was just as important as the other, playing an integral part in the Mass.
I always felt a sense of honor and pride serving alongside my brothers in Christ as we entered the abbey church Sunday morning or night, walking in unison in the form of a cross. The college stressed that as altar servers we were to make the priest’s role in the Mass run as smoothly as possible. We were to be at attention at all times, doing all things with reverence and humility. We were the face of Christ to the multitude of students below. With such responsibility and honor, who would ever say that being an altar server is boring?
Among all the duties, my favorite role was serving at the daily Mass in St. Martin’s Chapel. This noon-hour Mass was a wonderful respite between classes and activities. For this particular Mass, it was literally “first come, first serve” for anyone who wanted to volunteer to serve. St. Martin’s Chapel is located on the ground floor of a women’s residence hall. Visitation hours for men to enter the dorm didn’t begin until noon. This gave me a mere 10 minutes to get suited and prepare the altar before Mass commenced.
But, what I loved most about this role was the intimacy I experienced with Christ in the Eucharist during the Friday Mass. On these days, I had the singular honor of assisting the priest in the liturgy and adoration. I felt overwhelming peace and feelings of joy to be in such proximity to our Lord. I was literally experiencing heaven on earth! It was here that God would speak much wisdom to me over the next four years, forming me into the future man of Christ that I am today. I was, and I am now a soldier in God’s army!
(Jourdan Reynolds is the secretary and bookkeeper at St. Mary of the Visitation Parish in Ottumwa.)