House Sacristan

I live at the Marquette University Jesuit Community with about 50 other Jesuits--administrators, faculty, students from other countries, and people like me who work in other apostolates.  Most of us have "house jobs" in which we serve our brothers in various ways.  My job is "house sacristan." Every week that I am in town I go around the three small chapels on the second through fourth floors of our residence and into the main chapel on the first floor and I make sure everything is in order: that there are enough hosts and wine, that there are clean purificators and corporals, that the candles are OK. I pick up the used altar linens and replace them with clean ones. I wash the linens and then iron them.

While it takes some time, I enjoy the ironing part. It slows me down and is a simple task that is so
different from my apostolic work of preaching, writing, and office work.  Often, while I'm ironing, I think of the second patron saint of the Apostleship of Prayer--St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.  She too was sacristan for her community at the Carmelite monastery in Lisieux, France. She found great joy in serving her community in this way. This service was a labor of love in which her devotion to the Holy Eucharist grew. I feel privileged to be serving my community in the same way.

St. Therese wrote a poem called "The Sacristans of Carmel."  I'm grateful to Maureen O'Riordan who told me about this poem and the picture of St. Therese and the other sacristans of her community, and whose website is a treasure trove of information about St. Therese and her family.  In the following excerpts from the poem we see not only her deep devotion but also her good grasp of Eucharistic theology. Jesus gives us His Body and Blood in order to transform us. We become what we receive--the Body of Christ.

The Sacristans of Carmel
1 Here below our sweet office
Is to prepare for the altar
The bread and wine of the Sacrifice
Which brings "Heaven" to earth!
2 O supreme mystery, Heaven
Hides in humble bread,
For Heaven is Jesus Himself,
Coming to us each morning.
 4 This world's greatest honors
Cannot compare
To the deep, celestial peace
Which Jesus lets us savor.
 6 But his love has chosen us.
He is our Spouse, our Friend.
We are also hosts
Which Jesus wants to change into Himself.