Saving Souls

April 17th, 2023

Taking Asher to church with us is always interesting. He’s a toddler, almost 29 months old. Asher is smart, curious, and unpredictable. Karin and I try to prepare for any eventuality when we take our grandson to Mass, but it is impossible to foresee everything. Sometimes, Asher quiet and cuddly, but that doesn’t happen very often. Usually, he is vocal and extremely mobile during the liturgy. He certainly was yesterday.

We always pack a diaper bag when we go to church with Asher. We bring diapers, wipes, and extra set of clothes, toys, books, and food. Asher tends to get hungry during Mass. We generally have a warm bottle of oat milk, a plastic container of blueberries, a couple Cerebelly bars (energy bars for little people), and a package of Cheerios for him to snack on. Asher often devours everything that we have packed for him. It can get messy. Blueberries roll under the pew, and Cheerios fall on to the floor and scatter. It is all worth the effort because Asher keeps happy, and so do we.

Asher is slowly getting the hang of church. When we walk into the sanctuary, he goes up to the baptismal font to dip his little hand into the holy water. He knows how to bless himself with the water by making the sign of the cross, sorta. By the time he is done with that initial ritual, his face and head are soaking wet. Fortunately, he dries out quickly.

Asher likes the people in the choir, and they adore him. Actually, most everyone in the church likes Asher. He is the de facto mascot of the parish. He is often the star of the show. He was yesterday.

Asher was relatively quiet until the Gospel reading. That’s when he decided that he wanted to move about. There was a time when Karin and I tried to keep him in the pew. That was counterproductive. If we tried to keep him immobile, he would squirm and cry and raise all sorts of hell. We gave up on that. He is now a free-range parishioner, wandering the church during the Mass, exploring the little alcoves and shrines. Nobody seems to be bothered by this. They either ignore him (hard to do), or they smile at the lad. He smiles back and waves to them.

To most people in church, Asher is just a little boy fooling around. To me, he is a prophet busy saving souls.

Yesterday, after the priest finished his homily (sermon), Asher tried to go up to the altar. The altar is on a slightly raised dais. There are two steps leading up to the platform, and Asher started climbing them. I went to gather up the boy, but Father Michael beckoned Asher to come up to him. Asher climbed the steps and walked swiftly over to the priest. Father Michael was sitting in his chair. Asher checked out the bucket of holy water next to the seat. Nothing spilled.

Father Michael stood up and held Asher in his arms. Everyone else stood up to recite the Creed. We all did that in unison, Asher staring at the assembled worshipers. Father Michael kept holding Asher as the lector read the petitions. Then he set him down.

Asher was all over the platform during the rest of the Mass. Father Michael and the acolytes did their work and managed to avoid running over the kid. I stood nearby in case I needed to swoop in and grab the boy. There was no need for me to do that. Everybody was okay.

Near the end of Mass, Father Michael took Asher into his arms again. He laughed and said,

“Asher, I might have opened Pandora’s box here. It’s okay. Uncles do that. I’m the uncle.”

Then the priest and his young padawan gave the blessing.

After Mass, Jessica, the choir director, asked Asher, “Are you going to be a priest when you grow up?”

Asher said, “Yeah.” Then he climbed the steps of the dais and ran over to Father Michael’s chair. Asher sat in it and smiled.

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