Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My altar-boy years

1956, altar boy at 4 years old
I was only 4 years old in 1956 when I became an altar boy. It was actually the feast of Corpus Christi when I dressed up in my cassock and surplice and accompanied in the procession held in the evening. I remember that my duty that day was to hold the boat next to the incense bearer. I’m sure my mother and father were watching me all through the procession, but that was the first of many processions I took part in. I started serving Mass a few years later and remember learning the Latin responses by heart while serving many Masses, with lots of work to do back then, especially genuflecting, switching the missal from one side of the altar to the other, and of course ringing the bells, including three times during the “Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus” When my brother Paul was old enough we started serving the Mass together, and for many years, especially between 1960 and 1970 we served daily at 6:30 AM, and this was a transitional time during and after Vatican Council II.

Kissing the ring of Pope Paul VI, in August 1966
In 1965, altar boys from Malta were chosen to replace the Vatican altar-boys for a month and a half in the summer. A special course was held as we learned Italian responses and other important facts about serving in the Vatican. I was chosen to serve in the summer of 1966 and with 23 other altar boys we spent almost two months serving Masses in the Vatican, sometimes as many as 4 to 5 Masses each a day. During the audience we had with Pope Paul VI, I was lucky enough to have my picture taken while kissing the ring of the Vicar of Christ. Also in the photo was the then Archbishop of Malta Sir Michael Gonzi, as well as our altar boys director Canon Joseph Delia. Naturally this photo is one of my most treasured possessions.

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