We are continuing with a written walk-through of a typical Catholic Church. Today we will look at the final place in a church, the sacristy. The sacristy is a place most pew-sitting parishioners will never see. It is the place where the priest, deacon, and altar servers prepare for Mass and vest. If we look at the word sacristy it is easy to see that this word derives from sacred. It is the place where the vestments the priest, deacons, and servers wear are kept. It is also the place where the sacred vessels that will contain the Body and Blood of the Lord are kept. St. Francis of Assisi always said he could tell a lot about the holiness of the priest and people by how they took care of sacred things. St. Francis could see the connection with how the church building, vestments, and sacred vessels are cared for and how we care for our souls.
If he walked into a dirty church with cobwebs, dirt on the floor, and dirty sacred vessels and vestments, he knew the people were also neglecting their souls. So his first thing on visiting any church was to clean it himself! That’s right! St. Francis of Assisi brought a broom with him wherever he went!! When I was pastor in Altus at Prince of Peace four years ago I asked a very wonderful woman to be a sacristan. A sacristan is someone who helps setup for Mass but also takes care of the holy things in the sacristy. This woman was a wonderful sacristan. She taught me a lot! I know you’re probably thinking how can a lay woman teach a priest something about the church?! Well, she did! This woman, upon entering the church and the sacristy let all secular or worldly conversation come to an end. In the sacristy she never spoke to anyone unless it had to do with cleaning or preparing the church for Mass. This probably takes many by surprise, seeing as how we live in such a talkative and noisy time. I must admit sadly that I often too will enter into worldly conversations in the church. The this or that I talk about has nothing to do with preparing for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass or even with cleaning up after all is finished. So often I run my mouth. In writing this article I have thought about that wonderful sacristan in Altus. She could see the holiness in the church building as a place uniquely touched by God, for this is the place where Christ the King in the Holy Eucharist resides and is renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit in each and every Mass. Some parishioners thought it was overkill on her part. She’s acting too pious. In reality what she did was to leave her pride at the church door. It takes a person meek and humble to come into a church and leave their worldly baggage at the front door, or even better yet, to leave their baggage at the foot of the altar asking the Lord to cleanse and transform those worldly burdens and baggage.
Ideally when the priest puts on the first vestment in the sacristy he is to fall silent of worldly talk and speculation. His mind is to be focused on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass he will soon celebrate. He shouldn’t be making small talk. And yet I have fallen into this of late. I have brought worldly talk and anxieties and prideful stories and speculations into the house of God. I have written this walk-through of the church not to teach you all anything. I have written it so as to remind myself of the importance of the various parts of the church: the narthex where our worldly conversations should find their end, the nave where the faithful sit to await the Sacrifice of the Mass, the sanctuary where Christ the Lord descends by the Holy Spirit, and the sacristy where the holy things are cared for and prepared. This has been a reminder to me of the trust and holiness I lack, but for which if I so dispose myself God will provide. -Fr. W.
May 6, 2018