Wednesday night, altar server of the seventies, was Novena night, the mass when they brought out the serious glitz and pomp, when we blinged it for Mary and a small hardcore congregation of mainly quivering nuns.
I liked these devotional gigs and got rota’d on them often. The mystic magic of the Catholic Church, in short supply otherwise in our sour-puss parish (the odd miraculous conception and drunken stumble on the altar aside), came thick and fast at Novena mass, with the monstrance its fabulous Jules Rimet centrepiece. The monstrance – monstrous trance – exhibitor of the divine wafer, its gold rays tearing the air apart, was hardware that few got to see.
And playing to that flame-thrower, my instrument of expertise, the thurible; exotic burner of incense spooned on fuming charcoal. Mother of God, the incense’s scent, the plumes and the rattling routine on its dancing chain, and the swinging joke that came with: ‘Oi, Sonny, your handbag’s on fire!’
On fire! Immaculate Mary (immaculate!), Our Hearts are on Fire! For a ten year-old boy in a frock besmirched with wax, imagine the brain-melting heat of this business. Now reaching about the kneeling priest, the ceremony too of enrobing him in an outrageous number embroidered and sequinned in ivory and gold: as Elvis is similarly caped in the Las Vegas Special I will run home to watch on TV.
To him, The King, singing how Marie’s the name – of his latest flame.
© Copyright, Steve Mitchell and Fisher Lane, 2012.