The Dueling Sacristans

Have you ever been in an environment where you knew something was wrong, but you couldn’t identify the source of the tension ?

This is what my husband and I felt when we started attending the little Catholic Chapel by the sea. My husband was ill, and we needed spiritual support and a warm and caring Church Community.

After attending Masses for several months, we discovered the source of our discomfort. The church had dueling sacristans ! A sacristan is an individual who looks after preparations for the Mass, and who helps maintain the beauty of the church sanctuary.

Both Sacristan A, and Sacristan B, were lovely Christian women who loved to serve the Lord. They simply had different visions, and could not, and would not , compromise with each other.

Sacristan A wanted crisp white altar linens, while Sacristan B preferred coloured altar cloths and did not mind casual wrinkles. Sacristan A was very artistic. She made beautiful posters and wanted to hang them in the sanctuary. This displeased Sacristan B , who felt that the sanctuary was holy enough. On Easter Sunday, Sacristan A managed to decorate the top of the sanctuary with forty paper lilies. Sacristan B was aghast, and thought about the safety of the elderly gentleman who had been coerced into climbing a high ladder to hang the paper blooms !

At Christmas, Sacristan A insisted on three real Christmas trees. Her comrade objected, noting that several parishioners had allergies to spruce trees. Mass on Epiphany was delayed while the two ladies had a loud discussion on whether the sheep and shepherds should be removed from the manger scene. After all, the Wise Men were in the manger now.

The dueling Sacristans affected church unity, and left us feeling anxious. A crisis was inevitable.

It finally happened. I was sitting , meditating for a few minutes after Sunday Mass , when I heard the loud clanging of candles on the altar, and the rough whooshing sound of the altar cloth being ripped from the altar. Then Sacristan A screamed : ” You need to see a psychiatrist ! ” Her tirade was directed at Sacristan B, who was in the church aisle, talking with parishioners. When she realized the words were directed at her, she began to cry. Ladies , including me, rushed over to comfort our wounded sister.

Sacristan A continued her noisy display and then stomped out of church, shouting loudly, ” I’m out of here ! ” And true to her word, she moved out of the community and kept no further contact with her ” brothers and sisters “.

Today, January 25, is the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, and the final day of The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Let us keep praying for Christian Unity , and let our prayers extend beyond one week each year. United, we stand.


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