Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Saracen or sacristan?

The story is told of Pio Nono entertaining a visiting grandee at the Vatican.

While on their knees in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the pope’s private chapel, they could not help but notice a person who, emerging from the shadows and strolling casually from one side of the chapel to the other, gave only the briefest and most perfunctory nod in the direction of the exposed Sacrament. Whereat the holy pope said to his guest, “That’s either a saracen, or a sacristan!”

This story was related orally to Melancholicus several years ago, so he has no idea of its source, but it was brought rather forcefully to mind after Mass on Trinity Sunday. Immediately after the celebrant had left the sanctuary, and as the singing of Salve Regina was still in progress, the sacristan suddenly appeared and began dashing about the sanctuary like a thing possessed, whipping the missal and altar cards off the altar, snatching the cruets with graceless haste, and with heavy footfalls stomping back into the sacristy without even a nod to the tabernacle. This behaviour was unseemly, unedifying and—especially for the members of the schola—most distracting.

The sacristan in this particular parish is a woman somewhere, Melancholicus guesses, between sixty and seventy years of age. Once she had started her squawking and flapping, she made no effort to be quiet so as not to disturb the still-singing schola or the members of the congregation praying privately in their pews. It is no secret that she strongly disapproves of the Traditional Latin Mass being offered on what she evidently regards as her territory, and her outrageous behaviour was no less than a wilful display of hostility for the benefit of those of us attached to the ancient liturgy. Her irritation was palpable. Melancholicus and his companion in the choir loft looked at one another in disbelief.

After the recessional had ended Melancholicus knelt to make his thanksgiving for the Mass, but prayer was impossible, for now the termagant was darting about the nave like a blue-arsed fly, collecting all the red Mass books in a frenzied rush. When she had finally finished driving forth the few remaining faithful, she vanished back into the sacristy and within a few moments the church was full of piped music. She had put a CD on the sacristy stereo—some cleansing new age tune to wash away the taint of all that Tridentine gobbledygook.

Melancholicus does not know the name of the piece that was played, but under the circumstances we can title it A Sacristan’s Revenge.

Or should that instead be A Saracen’s Revenge, perhaps?

3 comments:

Mac McLernon said...

I suspect that a saracen would have more respect for those in prayer...

I act as assistant sacristan, setting up & clearing away for some Sunday Masses, for Benediction and occasionally for private weekday Masses, or when the sacristan proper is on holiday. But I hate appearing on the sanctuary when there is anyone in the church...

...so, I turn up extra early when possible (ie. when there isn't a Mass or anything beforehand) to set up before anyone else is around... and I use altar servers to do the fetching and carrying if anyone else suddenly appears...

Anonymous said...

Glory to the Mother, and to the Daughter, and to the Holy of Holies...

MC Man said...

She sounds just like our sacristan.The sacristy and altar are her territory she doesnt like the servers putting anything out or clearing away and woe betide the server who attempts to light or extinguish the altar candles, thats her job,she strides around the altar without a genuflection or even a nod to the Blessed Sacrament,what has happened to reverence for the Blessed Sacrament,peace and quiet in the sacristy before Mass