Up and Down and Up and Down

August 22nd, 2022

Karin was sick yesterday. She isn’t sick often, but when she is, it means that I need to take care of our grandson, Asher, until she is well again. Asher is a wonderful little boy, but he’s a toddler and a toddler requires constant supervision. Karin and I are Asher’s legal guardians, so we have him 24/7. Usually, Karin and I split up the time needed to watch over the boy. However, when one of us is ailing, then the other has to take up the slack. That’s what I did for most of the weekend.

Karin had hoped to be well enough yesterday to go to church with me. That didn’t happen. She asked me if I could take Asher with me when I went to Mass, so she could rest. I told her that I would care for him.

Yesterday was my turn to serve as lector at the Mass. For those who don’t know, a lector is a person who proclaims the Scripture readings to the congregation during a Catholic service. The lector stands at the ambo near the altar and reads the Scripture passages out loud. The ambo is a Catholic name for a podium. Generally, when I serve as lector, Karin is at Mass with me, and she can handle Asher while I do my job. Yesterday I needed to both read the Scriptures and keep an eye on the lad.

I have been in this situation before. Several months ago, Karin was not with me, and I had to simultaneously watch Asher and perform my religious duties. I took Asher with me up to the ambo and proclaimed the readings to the assembly. It worked out pretty well. I think that people paid more attention when I had the boy in my arms.

When I took Asher to church, I also took along his diaper bag. The term “diaper bag” is a bit of a misnomer. There is a lot more than just diapers in the bag. I had it packed full of diapers, baby wipes, ointment, toys, food, and an extra set of clothes. If you have ever raised children, you understand what I mean. If you have not dealt with the needs of little kids, then be aware that, when a child goes some place, the adult caregiver has to bring along everything that little person might possibly need. Be ready for anything.

When we got to the church, Asher and I scoped out the lectionary on the podium to make sure I had the pages turned to the correct readings. The ambo and the altar are set on a raised platform. A person needs to walk up two steps to get to the top of the platform. Asher loves to walk up and down steps. That is currently his passion. Asher demanded that I help him to navigate the stairs. He went up and down and up and down and up and down. Jessica, the choir director chatted with me while Asher did his aerobics. Jessica loves Asher. She is always so pleased when we bring him to church.

Mass started with a procession from the back of the church up to the altar. The two young altar servers led the way as they carried lit candles. Then the lector, me, walked behind them holding up the Book of the Gospels. Bringing up the rear was the priest, Father Michael. My task was complicated by the fact that, besides carrying the Gospels, I had to carry Asher. I had Asher in my right arm and the book in my left. Asher was significantly bigger and heavier since the last time I had to do this. We managed to make it up to the altar, and back to our pew, but I was tired when we got there.

The first reading was from the Prophet Isaiah. I carried Asher with me to the ambo. He gazed out at the crowd. They were happy to see him up there. The population attending Mass was old. At least half of the folks in church were over sixty. That’s pretty standard. They were thrilled to see a child at the liturgy. It gave them hope that the Church won’t die along with them.

Asher and I took a break after I read from Isaiah. Jessica and the choir chanted the psalms. Asher snacked on some blueberries and Cheerios. He likes to eat in church. Actually, he likes to eat anywhere, but somehow, he always gets hungry when we are at Mass. We try to be ready for that.

A baptism also took place during the Mass. That is a relatively rare event. There are more funerals than baptisms these days. Asher is not baptized, not yet anyway. Karin and I would be within our rights to have the boy christened, but we want his mom to be on board with the idea. Some people look at a christening as festive family tradition. It can be that. We see it in a more serious sense. If a boy or girl is to be baptized, then somebody needs to nurture the spiritual development of the child. Somebody needs to commit to raising the child in the faith. It’s hard to find people willing to take on that responsibility.

Asher and I returned to the ambo for the second reading. It was a short passage from the Letter to the Hebrews. Asher got squirrelly as I read to the congregation. He became very interested in the lectionary. I had to read from the book while keeping Asher at bay.

I read, “My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord…”

At the same time in a whisper, “Asher, don’t turn the page.”

Then, more loudly, “For what ‘son’ is there whom his father does not discipline?”

With urgency, “Asher, leave the book alone!”

We got through it. I finished reading before Asher grabbed at the mike.

The priest read the Gospel passage, and then gave his homily (sermon). Asher and I rested in the pew. Once Father Michael completed the baptismal rite, then we would have to go back up to the ambo to read the Prayers of the Faithful, the petitions of the entire community. Asher was restless in my arms.

I picked up the boy and we once again took our place in front of the congregation. I started reading,

“Let us pray for the Church, that it may…”

Asher started squirming in my right arm. He wanted to get down and he was relentless.

I can’t focus on two things at once. Perhaps other people can. I had to put Asher down to concentrate on the saying the prayers. Asher decided that it was the proper time to go up and down the steps. Go for it.

Jessica got up from her seat at the piano and went to Asher as I spoke to the assembly. She gently helped Asher go up and down and up and down. I finished the petitions and turned toward Father Michael. He was red in the face and laughing. I was okay with that.

Asher and I returned to our pew. I sighed. Then I smelled something foul. I checked the back of Asher’s diaper. Yep, he was packing a load in there.

They were getting ready to pray the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy). I grabbed the diaper bag and the boy. We went to the restroom. I laid him down. Asher was not loving it. He was a bit of a mess. As I cleaned him up, an usher came to take a piss. He looked and said,

“I see you got your hands full.”

“Uh, yeah”, I replied without looking up from my work.

“Are you training him to be a future lector?”

“That’s not my choice. At least, he’s in church.”

“Amen to that.”

Asher and I got back to the sanctuary in time to line up for communion. I had a pyx with me to bring back the Eucharist for Karin. The minister gave me the host, and she blessed Asher.

After Mass, we packed up. Asher and I were both tired. He slept in the car on the way home. I waited until we arrived.

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