Serving graciously as a St. Ludwig altar boy

Ad Deum Qui Laetificat Juventutem Meam!

That’s one of the prayers I’d recite as an altar boy at St. Ludwig’s Roman Catholic Church and I’ll never forget it ‘til the day I die. Don’t ask me what it means. I never figured it out, but I loved to say it!

It was fun serving as an altar boy. I’d get up much earlier than the rest of my family. (Well, my mom would make sure I got up . . .) I’d dress while it was still dark outside. For some reason, I’d always get assigned the early mass just as the Daylight Savings Time switched back to the earlier time of the year!)

I loved getting dressed in the cassock and surplus. The cassock of course was the long black gown that buttoned up in the front. It was just like the one the priest wore. Then I covered my top with the white surplus and “Walla!!” I’d be transformed from the budding juvenile delinquent to the budding holy man.

Funerals were tough to serve. You’d always be teamed up with a friend and I couldn’t help but giggle and laugh at the most somber of moments during the funeral mass. I would fight to keep a smile off of my face, but one of the hardest things to do as a kid was not to act up and laugh sometimes when you were in church. When a friend of your own age is doing it, it becomes contagious.

Does anyone remember Forty Hours?


Serving God by serving others

Well, that was the period of time the priests would remove the Eucharist from the little house on the altar and display it outside of its home. For 40 hours, we altar boys would stand to watch over it, just to protect it from any non-believers or heathens bent on the destruction of the Faith. I always admired the priest when he’d show up and then prostrate himself on the hard marble floor of the church in honor of the Host. I wish I could be as humble in all of my dealings in life.

I experienced my first Touch of the Divine as an altar boy. Yeah, I had met a 12-year-old girl the night before and I went to church and prayed on a kneeler for her love. (I actually prayed that she would “like” me. I didn’t know that much about love at that age. I was 12 myself.)

All of a sudden I felt transformed into another realm, one that I would experience dozens of years later when meditating and tasting the bliss of whatever you want to call that divine intervention.

I felt the Presence of God. Nothing could go wrong. I was totally loved and would always be loved no matter what might happen or who might come into my path.

I was love. And love was me.

The little altar boy at St. Ludwig’s Roman Catholic Church in a section of Philadelphia called Brewerytown. What I wouldn’t give to return to those moments of innocence and divine feelings. What’s that you say? I can do it anytime I want to by simply closing my eyes and remembering the Latin prayers and my bell-ringing days?

Yeah, just like now. Recollect and reflect Michael J. I’ll say a little prayer for you but this time I might say in in Sanskrit. I don’t think you’ll feel any different because it deals with the same Source.

3 comments on “Serving graciously as a St. Ludwig altar boy

  1. “I will go unto the Altar of God,” says the priest in Latin.

    “To God, who gives Joy to my Youth” I’d reply in Latin.

    — (Translation from the Latin above)


  2. Wow! Did this ever take me back too. My Catholic upbringing was a HUGE part of my life. I sang in the choir, and we sang the entire mass in Latin. Back in the day. Although it’s not quite the best fit for me now, I will always be grateful for the introduction to spirit that I received there. Thank you for these memories, Michael J. Your message couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time for me. Stay well.


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