The God Who Surpasses Our Expectations
By Monsignor Charles M. Mangan
Mrs. Karen Mathis recently sent the following poignant story to me. It is entitled "The Altar Boy" and was written by Richard H. Kiley. I have no bibliographical information about the story, which needs no comment.
* * *
We had made a rapid advance across Northern France from the Normandy beachhead. (Historians say it was the fastest opposed advance in the history of modern warfare.) Now, our 105-millimeter howitzer battalion was bivouacked in an abandoned castle on the outskirts of a small Belgian town. The exact locations of occupied and unoccupied territory were not well known, and due to an error in map reading, we learned at daybreak that we were close to a German infantry unit. Watching our artillery battalion attempting to act as infantry was laughable, but we had no choice. Using our pieces at close range with time bursts, we caused the enemy to retreat.
Later that morning, I ventured away from the castle and observed the local townspeople walking to the center of the village to the sound of church bells. I realized that it was Sunday and people were on their way to a Catholic Mass. I followed them.
Inside the church, when the priest appeared from the sacristy, I saw that he was without an altar boy. I was only nineteen years-old, not too far away from my own altar boy days in Philadelphia. So almost by rote, I went into the sanctuary, knelt down next to the priest and, still in my uniform, started to perform the normal functions of an acolyte:
" . . . Ad deum qui laetificat juventutem meam . . ." ("To God, the joy of my youth"). "Quia Tu es Deus fortitudo mea . . ." ("For Thou, O God, art my strength"). "Confiteor Deo omnipotenti . . ." ("I confess to Almighty God").
The priest and I went through the whole Mass as if we had done it together many times before: water and wine; Lavabo (the ritual of washing hands after the Offertory); changing the book; Suscipiat (a prayer of acceptance); and the Final Blessing.
As prescribed, I preceded the priest into the sacristy and, as is the custom, stood apart from him with my hands in the prayer position while he divested. He removed the chasuble, then the cincture. When his arms lifted the alb, I saw that he was wearing a German uniform. My heart stopped: The priest was a German officer!
The man was a German chaplain and though he had realized immediately that he had an American sergeant as an altar boy, during the entire twenty minutes of the Mass, he had given no outward sign of recognition.
My German was rather rudimentary, and the only thing I could put together was, "Gut Morgen, Vater" ("Good morning, Father"). Evidently, his English was nonexistent, for somewhat flustered, he only smiled at me. Then, we shook hands, and I left.
I walked back to the castle strangely exhilarated. Two strangers, enemies at war, had met by chance and for twenty minutes, without any direct communication, had found complete unanimity in an age-old ritual of Christian worship.
The memory of this incident has remained with me for over fifty years. It still brings the same elation, for I know firsthand that, even in war, our common humanity--under the same God--can triumph over hatred and division.
http://www.catholic.org , VA
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan - Official, 390 66616-1125
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; The Most Holy Eucharist
More Catholic PRWire
Showing 1 - 50 of 4,718
A Recession Antidote
Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.
A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.
Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell
Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell
Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Franchising to Evangelize
Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Three words to a deeper faith
Relections for Lent 2009
Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell
World Food Program Director on Lent
Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Glimpse of Me
The 3 stages of life
Sex and the Married Woman
A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Modernity & Morality
Just a Minute
Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Edging God Out
Burying a St. Joseph Statue
George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell
Easter... A Way of Life
Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
by Catholic Online
- Pope Francis wants to change the Lord's Prayer, but what do the new ...
- Daily Reading for Thursday, December 14th, 2017 HD Video
- St. Lucy: Saint of the Day for Wednesday, December 13, 2017
- Is Facebook ripping apart human civilization? HD Video
- Here's when you'll see the first self-driving trucks on the road
- Daily Readings for Wednesday, December 13, 2017
- How does the Vatican fight money laundering?
- Daily Reading for Wednesday, December 13th, 2017 HD
- Attempted terror attack fails in Manhattan as pipe bomb explodes early HD
- Here's how Pope Francis wants to change the Lords Prayer HD
- Daily Reading for Tuesday, December 12th, 2017 HD
Learn about Catholic world
Inform - Inspire - Ignite
Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained
Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need
Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online
Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye
Today's bible reading
Products and services we offer
Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books
The California Network
Inspiring streaming service
Learn the Catholic way