As requested the youngster went home, told his mother what had transpired and she informed him that Louvain was a great Catholic University in Belgium. He promptly forgot the whole incident until two years after his ordination when as a young priest he entered those famous halls and suddenly recalled “Oh this is the place where Bishop Spalding told me I should go”. As foretold by Bishop Spalding, this young server grew up to become a very famous bishop whom the world now remembers as the servant of God, Archbishop Fulton J Sheen
A more famous young boy was born three years before Fulton in a different part of the world and the story goes that this young lad arrived late for mass one day, the celebrant, unlike Bishop Spalding lost his composure and told young Josip Broz “to get out and never come back”. Josip did exactly as the priest commanded. Perhaps history might have been different if the celebrant on that fateful morning, had been more sympathetic to the future Marshal Tito, as he arrived late for Mass
Of course there is always hope, as is illustrated by the following story related by Archbishop Fulton Sheen.
Sometime in the 1770s two altar boys named Annibale Della Genga and Francesco Castiglioni were carrying those very heavy brass candlesticks that they have in Italy for Benediction. Unfortunately, Della Genga and Castiglioni got into a fight as to who would be on the right. We are all familiar with that kind of quarrel in the sacristy. One of them cracked the other over the head: blood began to spurt out; people saw it and screamed “throw them out”. Well there came the Jubilee Year in 1825 and Cardinal Della Genga was opening the door for the Jubilee Year, of course he was no longer Cardinal Della Genga but Pope Leo X11. He turned to the Cardinal beside him and said “Let me have the hammer” Cardinal Castiglioni replied “Do you remember the day I gave you the candlestick?” Cardinal Castiglioni later became Pope Pius VIII.
Not all altar servers are destined to become famous on the international stage as Della Genga and Castiglioni but all are given the great honour of playing an invaluable role in the life of the church. The altar server assists the priest at the most sacred moment of his day and through his dedication makes an invaluable contribution to the liturgical life of the parish. Since this “paper” is concerned primarily with vocations to the priesthood, it seems appropriate to concentrate on those who may one day stand at the altar of God as His priest i.e. Altar Boys.
Being an altar boy gives the young man an opportunity to get to know the priest very well, he may look up to Father as a role model and as time progresses he may feel that Our Lord may be saying “I want you to serve Me in a special way, as a priest, becoming My witness, being My friend and introducing others to this friendship.”
Altar boys (and girls) of a certain age across the globe will confirm that in their estimation one of the most embarrassing sounds in the whole world is that of a cruet crashing to the marble floor of a church while they are at the altar serving Holy Mass. This is well illustrated by the story of a boy who experienced this minor calamity.
One eight year old youngster dropped the cruet whilst serving a bishop in the cathedral. He later said that “there is no atomic explosion that can equal in intensity of decibels the noise and explosive force of a wine cruet falling on the marble floor of a cathedral in the presence of a bishop. I was frightened to death”. Fortunately, the bishop handled the problem with some aplomb because the two parties had a very friendly conversation afterwards in the sacristy. “Young man where are you going to go to school when you get big”? Enquired the prelate. The boy looked up at his bishop, for him “big” meant the school for big boys. Consequently he said that he hoped to go to Spalding Institute, which was a fortuitous answer because the high school he hoped to attend was actually named after the very bishop he was addressing. His Lordship asked the question a different way, “Did you ever hear of Louvain”? The altar server replied that he had not. Bishop Spalding then said “Go home and tell you mother that I said when you get big you are to go to Louvain, and some day you will be just as I am.”
Vocations Guide to Priesthood