The priest was a very careful man, and we all knew it. We always sat in the same place, and we always had a great view of his methodical work at the altar. Sometimes the incense tickled our noses there, mine and Mother’s and Father’s and little Rachel’s. But when the priest sang the Sanctus we all sang along—quietly, under our breaths, so no one could hear us—and when the acolyte rang the little bells, we tensed with excitement. The priest was a very careful man, but perhaps today would be the day. Perhaps, today, we would get a share of the Body of Christ.
When the priest called on the Holy Spirit to bless the host, we watched breathlessly. Well, I’m exaggerating a little—little Rachel didn’t really understand what was happening, and her attention sometimes wandered to Mother’s face—but we others watched so hard that our eyes stung for want of blinking. When the priest elevated the host and broke it, we strained to see any crumb that might fall. But our biggest chance came after the important people had received the sacrament. Then the priest would drink off the contents of the chalice, down to the last drop, and he would carefully collect the unused wafers and place them in the little box with the red lamp above it. Then he would tap the crumbs together on the silver plate and eat them all himself, and our hopes would be dashed.
Still every now and then—no more than once a year, for, as I have said, he was a very careful man—a crumb would fall to the floor unnoticed. And then, as a hymn began to come from the old organ, Father would dash out, grab the crumb, and bring it back to us in the grate under the altar piece. Then, tails quivering with delight, we would share our Eucharist. For even the dogs—yes, even the mice—may have crumbs from God’s table, if they dare.