One of the things I've noticed that becomes more precious as the years pass is time itself. I'm 51 now, and I started going to this parish in Old Town in San Diego when I was 16, and started assisting in various ways since I was 18. I taught CCD for about 7 years, in college I had the opportunity to serve Mass virtually every day for 3 years running, either a morning Mass or afternoon Mass, back in the day when we had two daily Masses and two priests in residence.
I've assisted most 5:15 Sunday Masses since college in one way or another, for about the last 32-33 years. I've also taught a number of youngsters how to serve Mass. I've grown older, along with the priest, who has been here as 5:15 Sunday "supply" for about as long as I have been here. The Sainted Fr. S. and I have aged together. I can well remember when he regularly played handball (he's a retired university professor too) and his mother used to visit for about a month to six weeks every year. Father will be 80 next October, I know that certainly the bulk of my years assisting Father are more behind me than in front of me.
Usually people are either thinking about what they're going to do in the days, weeks, months ahead ... or what they're doing, but sometimes you can catch yourself appreciating the "right now." Tonight at Mass was one of those times, all the more special because there are relatively few of them left. We're in a tourist area, and many churches don't have an afternoon/evening Christmas day Mass. Fr. has always especially liked doing an evening Christmas Mass and I've liked assisting at it - it's a gift to us. With a lot of people "on travel" I was a little busier than usual. Both servers in different parts of the country with family, ditto the head usher and the usual cantor. But we had a favorite cantor of mine fill in, and our ever dependable organist was on hand. I came a tick earlier than usual, arriving about 4:45 -- 1/2 hour ahead.
We're very fortunate to be able to leave the church open in the daytime. We figure we get enough in and out traffic not to have to worry much about vandals, as there's almost always someone in there for "a little visit to the Blessed Sacrament" or some tourists, respectfully looking around or sitting for a bit.
I wanted to line up my ushers early, so I drafted one fellow, visiting from Ohio to be "head usher" tonight. I figured anyone showing up earlier than I do to sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament was a safe bet. He was visiting his daughter in nursing school out here. It's my treat every Sunday to select people to bring up the gifts. Quite often I ask families or couples, but on this particular day (as I not also infrequently do) I selected two single people who came in and were seated alone, who were fairly close to the little table set in the aisle. Being single myself, I've often noticed how often the single people almost NEVER seem to get picked for this in most parishes. They are often delighted to be asked, and it's a pleasure to bring a little bit of joy like that to someone not expecting it. I did "triple duty" tonight server/lector/EM. It's not often I do all three at the same Mass, but it was a real treat for me -- especially as I don't know how much longer Fr. S. and I will be a "team." Everything went fine - it's a pleasure to assist Fr. S. -- a Novus Ordo Mass always reverently done, Father tending not to miss so much as a comma, always ever careful to do the Mass "just so" with the same gestures, intonation -- always focused on being the "vessel" in the sense of God acting through him to confect the sacrament rather than a "it's all about me" kind of guy.
After Mass we were both given some special treats by a women who comes to every 5:15 Sunday Mass, as long as she is not out of town for a conference. We both well remember her mother, who died 3 years ago. Quite elderly she'd often sit in the back, with her walker, her family having managed to negotiate our front step. In my mind's eye, I can still see her mother sitting in the back - and my parent's too, and Father's mother - all gone now. We remain. But for how much longer? I suppose someone will eventually take our places as all must die. I hope whomever inherits the jobs loves it as much as we do now.
And now, for that bowl of mushroom soup I've been saving, along with some favorite carols as this day winds to a close.