Behind the Scenes
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is a very orderly event, and we who sit in the pews are very used to it proceeding in a systematic, neatly arranged format. But there are a lot of small details that must be scrupulously heeded to help create the beautiful, liturgically compliant celebration we come to expect. The priest celebrating the Mass is ultimately responsible for the proper format, but working with him every day is the sacristan, the behind-the-scenes person who sees to it that the details are carefully and reverently met.
St. Patrick’s has been blessed with truly conscientious, devoted, and knowledgeable sacristans for many years. Attending daily Mass and most Sunday Masses, they have diligently performed their duties with patience, piety, and dedication. Masses and other liturgical celebrations are conducted flawlessly because of their efforts.
Some of the duties of the sacristan include selecting the proper vestments to be worn by the priest, making ready the sacred vessels, portioning out the proper amounts of bread and wine, seeing to it that the altar covering is appropriate, making sure the candles are in place, and taking care of the lighting and perhaps heating in the church. Sometimes the priest will find and mark the missal for the day’s readings, sometimes it is up to the sacristan. If special supplies are needed, such as holy water, chrism, or incense, the sacristan makes sure they are available.
Sometimes lectors or eucharistic ministers are not available and the sacristan must fill in. They answer altar servers’ questions and provide correction and guidance when required. They must know the location of all of the many artifacts used in liturgical celebrations and how to order supplies.
There are many more duties of the sacristan, whose work is largely unheralded, but vital. The parish owes them a great debt of gratitude for a job well done.
A list of the sacristans of St. Patrick’s:
In addition to sacristans, St. Patrick’s has had other dedicated workers who work behind the scenes to ensure a beautiful liturgy. The Mission Circle and Archconfraternity of the Blessed Sacrament were both active in the sewing of vestments and altar cloths, and in seeing to it that the church was appropriately adorned for special feasts. They also were responsible for the church’s cleaning and upkeep. While no longer active, the women of these organizations for many years gave of themselves for more beautiful, inspirational celebrations.