The Ash Wednesday Altar Boy

When I was growing up in the ’70s, my brother was an altar boy at our parish church, Our Lady of the Lake. Back then there were only altar boys, not altar servers like we have now which includes girls. I would always read the bulletin to see who was serving which mass the next week to make sure I went to the mass with the cutest boys.

My brother and his best friend, Mike, served together often. This was time when the Church still had Communion rails. The following photo is from and is not of our church but is very similar.


Mike and John were serving a Christmas season mass and were supposed to light the Nativity candle. I’m sure neither one of them had been paying attention to any instructions prior to mass, so had no idea where the Nativity candle was. The two of them wandered around the altar lighting any candle that wasn’t already lit. My brother left the altar out the swinging communion rail gate and lit some candles that you light for people who had died or you’re praying for, which are typically at a side corner of the church. Mike went backstage and lit some wedding candles. I’m sure the priest was watching their performance in total disgust.

When John and Mike reunited on the altar, Mike said, “we beefed it.” A phrase my family uses to this day.

My father was an altar boy back in the 1930s when there were many altar boys serving every mass. One Christmas Eve mass, there was something like 20 altar boys in the processional for opening mass. See those boys in the front of that group holding the candles? Well, that Christmas mass in Belleville, Ontario in probably 1936, ALL of the altar boys were carrying those candles.

Los Angeles parish 1936 from
Los Angeles parish 1936 from

My dad was 12 and one of the head altar boys. There were two brothers in the procession, who fought with each other all the time, that night one of them purposefully tilted his candle forward and lit his brother’s hair on fire. My dad ran up and started beating the kid on the head to put out the fire and before you can say, permanent scarring, there was a Christmas Eve altar boy brawl going on.

One of my pals, AVC just commented on Facebook with this story:

At my Grandpa’s funeral, my brother was an altar boy, standing up there near the casket. It was hot, he locked his knees and went down like a tree. Totally passed out. I was 11 and thought he died. Commence freak out. Father Ansgar didn’t miss a beat and just said, ‘take him away’.

Most any cradle Catholic you talk to is going to have stories of ridiculous things that happened at church. Catholicism is an endless trove of good comedy material.

Last evening after work, the girls and I went to mass at St. John Fisher, where I have never been before, simply because they had a 6:00 mass.

This is what we saw there. Brigid took the photo on Annie’s phone because she could get the best angle. Yes, I allowed Brigid to take a picture on her phone in Church because, of course, what choice did we have? I’m giving up bread for Lent, it will all even out.


That is the actual church and the actual altar boy out cold during mass. Best performance by an altar boy on Ash Wednesday….EVER.

It should be a meme, right?

Well, happily I have twisted friends who have already gotten that ball rolling.

Credit to Bob R. brother-in-law to my bestie, Judy.


By Donofalltrades one of my all time favorite bloggers.
By Donofalltrades one of my all time favorite bloggers.

There it is the new viral altar boy meme. Take it. Make it yours.

Happy Lent.

24 thoughts on “The Ash Wednesday Altar Boy

  1. Addie

    Of course he’s asleep–he’d beefed it and was exhausted.

    My Dad was a big kid (Sicilian genes) and the head altar boy. He’d sneak into the room behind the altar after 5:00 PM Mass whenever the Arch-Bishop was visiting, as he’d go there to sleep off the Altar and Rosary Society Mega Meal. Dad would slip on the cape and hat, and he already had his Eagle Scout ring (oh! The irony!), so, he’d walk around the playground, letting the small kids kiss his ring after he blessed him.

    It was great fun…until he got caught.

  2. Catholic mass sounds way more fun that our Protestant service. No one ever passes out or gets set on fire in my church.

    I think the best Catholic comedy is “” – that website has to be a winner.

      1. My grandfather sometimes starts snoring during the sermon, but I’ve never seen anyone up front fall asleep. If our services go over an hour and 5 minutes, people start getting real squirmy.

  3. I love it!!! Thanks for sharing. As a Jew, these insights into Catholicism are very enlightening. The first time I saw someone with ashes on their forehead I was a little freaked out, I had no idea what it was!

  4. Dear friend,

    We recently created a Fundraiser in honor of Goura. Please view it to read more about what’s going on and check out our progress: (/fundraiser/p7r9/goura-x-congenital-hip-dysplasia-ddh-)

    Through GiveForward, you can give both financial and emotional support during this difficult time. Thanks for being part of our kind, generous community!


What do YOU think of me?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s