Javier wanted desperately to be an altar server (monaguillo) or “mono-guillo” as we teasingly call the in our “tribu de monos”. He wanted to follow in his brother’s foot steps.
Jaimito had been altar serving since he was 9 years old. He trained while he was only eight, before his first communion. Then turned nine and celebrated his first communion. The very next day he served at the altar for the first time. It was also his cousin’s first communion. The pride and excitement Jaimito felt was evident to all and must have left a mark on Javier.
But rules changde and Javier would have to wait another 2 years for his first communion. Javier felt held back, oppressed like an eight year old would, because the rules of the game were changed.
He felt he was big enough and responsible enough… quoting a famous song we sing “anything he can do, I can do better!” In our tribu de monos the “one man upmanship” is de rigeur, a fact of life that often reminds younger brothers that they are not there yet and builds in them a thirst to be “ready”.
Javier tried to understand. He logically argued that the reason for changing the age requirement was sound, but was convinced the rule should not apply to him, or at least, not limit him from serving at the altar. He was old enough and mature enough to do the job (he was in fact a year younger than his brother at the start, but these are my monos).
After several weeks of family discussion, I talked to our pastor at Javier’s behest. It was after mass. The pastor was walking around. I let him know Javier’s wish and he asked “but is he ready?” I told him Javier had taken upon himself to show me he could be still and behave in mass, and had done so for several weeks in a row. But as we both looked over, there was Javier, my mono. Lying face down on the top edge of a pew (not on the seat but on the top back edge), precariously balanced. A few more seconds and he leaped up and gave Asier chase around the church. Sigh, monos.
I let Javier know, he had injured his cause by providing the pastor with the example of more “mono” than “monaguillo”.
Javier, still prone to occasional chases, improved his behavior and began to address the matter on his own to the priest when he walked by school. Javier is as persistent as he is creative. He presented his arguments and alternative negotiations and agreements. First came the “yes, you can serve at the altar before you had your first communion”, then finally came the “yes, you can serve tomorrow with your brother, after he gives you some training.”
On Saturday, October 26th, during a mass celebrated in honor of our parish elementary school, Javier and Jaimito served together. It was Javier’s first time. He did a fabulous job and made us all proud. He had so much fun, he asked to do it again, the next day, with Jaimito, and we did.