E. A. Holub is his signature on my diploma from St. Anne School in Beaumont, Texas, on the occasion of my graduating from the “grammar grades” in 1952. I never knew what his initials stood for; to me he was always Father Holub. I don’t remember his face or the sound of his voice, but I have vivid memories of him and things we did together when I was in grades four through eight at St. Anne School. I remember preparing the thurible for the Benediction service with him on Sunday evenings. I remember swinging the thurible side to side ‘long chain’ to keep the coals live and censing the monstrance when he raised it and blessed the people with it. I remember being his altar boy and saying the responses in the Latin mass, not only on Sundays, but weekday mornings before school. I remember kneeling behind him on the deacon’s step and elevating the hem of his fiddleback chasuble when he genuflected before the altar. I remember being at his side during the administration of communion, holding a paten under the chin of each person, to catch any flakes of the sacred hosts as he took them from the ciborium and placed them on people’s tongues.
But he wasn’t only about liturgy. Every year he took a group of the older boys on rattlesnake hunts. He cheered the kids on when they tried to claim the prize at the top of the greasy pole at the spring festival. Indeed, the clearest visual memory I have of him had nothing to do with worship and was little more than an instant in time. It is of him working at an outdoor workbench. He was working on something held in a vice, maybe sharpening something. He was in his clerical shirt but sans collar, and his sleeves were rolled up. He was intently focused on his task at hand. I did not approach him. Neither did I linger and watch. I was just moving through a parallel alcove when I saw him. The juxtaposition of him vested in chasuble saying mass and then later doing some manual labor with hand tools made a lasting impression on me. It shaped my idea of what a well-rounded priestly vocation looked like, an idea reinforced on later hearing about the “worker priest” movement in France. Being the verger at St. Alban’s is, for me, the perfect mix of participation in the liturgy and hands-on work, influenced somewhat, I’m sure, by that remembrance of Father Holub at his workbench.
At lunch break one day last week it occurred to me to Google his name. I fully expected Google to return an obituary. I was surprised to read that as recently as 2006 he was the master of ceremonies at a retirement celebration for another priest in the diocese of Austin. If it is indeed the same E. A. Holub, and if he was as young as 20 when he started St. Anne School in 1938, which seems unlikely, he would have been 88 in 2006 and 96 now. Google didn’t return an obituary though.
Why am I telling you this? And do I have anyone in mind in writing it? Well, not any one person, but all in the church who work with young people. My message is that the young people you are working with, even just being with or just being observed by, will remember you all their lives, just as I remember Father Holub. And even the most mundane of activities, like working alone at a workbench, will live in some child’s mind for years and years and have an influence you can’t begin to imagine.
For the Care of Children.
Almighty God, heavenly Father, you have blessed us with the joy and care of children: Give us calm strength and patient wisdom as we bring them up, that we may teach them to love whatever is just and true and good, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. (BCP, page 829)
Ron Hicks, Parish Verger, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC, 28-October-2014.