One thing I tell our altar servers — especially the new ones — is not to panic if they forget what to do up on the altar, just move slowly and look holy. I advise this because it distracts people if the altar servers seem unsure or even make a mistake and act embarrassed. However, if they move slowly and look holy, no one will notice they are confused. Then the priest will guide them appropriately, the mass will continue in a prayerful way and no one feels embarrassed or awkward.
I think this philosophy of “moving slowing and looking holy” is one many of us can use in our daily lives. For me, it is helpful when I am confronted with difficult situations and decisions. Anyone who lives in Waco and owns a car knows we have some of the craziest systems of roads. Even though I’ve live here nearly seven years, I still find myself using GPS to get home at times. When I approach The Circle or that crazy intersection at Hillcrest Drive and 41st Street, I sometimes find myself automatically slowing down and praying. Slowing down and praying because I am often unsure of what to do. When I remember the “move slowly and look holy” mantra, my mind and body naturally become more calm, and I take a prayerful attitude. It is a moment for me to bring God into those times when I can easily become paralyzed with fear. When I’m paralyzed with fear — especially on the road — bad things can happen.
Long ago when I was wrestling with whether or not to enter seminary and work toward priesthood, I was often paralyzed with fear and not sure what to do. My family and my priest all told me to go slow and pray often.
That advice proved to be very helpful, and I learned that making decisions in life is not to be approached in a rushed manner. It must involve prayer and patience. I also noticed many of the young seminarians who “just knew they were going to be a priest” were often the first to leave seminary when they experienced struggles.
In my life as a priest and pastor now, I am involved with marriage preparation for engaged couples. One of the first questions I ask is “How long have you known each other?” Answers range from “We’ve known each other since grammar school” to “We’ve known each other for eight weeks and have been engaged for four.” For the latter I say, “Whoa! What is the big hurry?” They are usually convinced they are in love and “this is the one.” My job is to kindly instill the philosophy of slowing down and bringing this to prayer. It is a fancy, more adult way of saying to “move slowly and look holy.” In situations like these I think of The Circle and the intersection at Hillcrest Drive and 41st Street. If you don’t slow down and bring it in prayer, something very bad can happen that might affect the rest of your life. Decisions made hastily can end in disaster.
Even Christ seemed to know this when the two disciples approached him after he was baptized, and he told them to “Come and see.” They knew Jesus was special, but Jesus knew they were not ready to understand that He was and is the great “I am,” the “God man,” and the “Word made flesh.” If he told them who he really was, they probably would have freaked out with fear and ran off. Jesus knew the best way to win over his disciples was to “move slowly and look holy,” to give them time to grow in their understanding of who he was and is.
Our walk with Christ is a lifelong project, and we are only given one life here on earth. That life is not to be rushed, nor is our life in Christ to be rushed. The Scriptures and the teachings of the Church are meant to be savored and prayed with. In doing so, we not only make better decisions, we are made holy and happy. And instead of being a distraction to the world around us like the kids on the altar, we become inspiring.