Waaaaay beyond “Just Too Cool”

I have been a fan of Archbp. Carlson of St. Louis ever since he did something for me in St. Paul and Minneapolis that I will never forget. Here’s another great reason…

That said… some boys who are ill want to be like a sports hero or like Batman. This kid…

From St Louis Review:

Make-A-Wish requests often involve meeting athletes, attending sporting events or traveling to amusement parks or beaches.

When it came time for 11-year-old Brett Haubrich of south St. Louis County to make his wish, he not only listed none of those things but had no request at all.

“He didn’t want anything,” explained his mother, Eileen. “They had to keep asking him, ‘What would you like to do? Do you want to meet anybody? What do you want to be when you grow up?'”

The answer to the last question became part of his wish — what Make-A-Wish calls “wish enhancement” to complement the main wish. The sixth-grader at St. Mark School wants to be a priest, a doctor or an engineer, in that order.

Priest was No. 1

“I said, ‘I really want to be a priest,‘” he said. [God bless this boy.  I hope his wish will resound through the internet and take root in the hearts of young men who are sound and strong!  It is precisely in this sort of ground that vocations spring and we believe in intermediary causes.]

So, on Holy Thursday, at the invitation of Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, Brett took his place beside the altar at Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis as “Priest For a Day.”

Brett served not one but two Masses — the Chrism Mass and the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper — and held the book for Archbishop Carlson for prayers after the homilies. He also joined Archbishop Carlson for two meals; a luncheon with archdiocesan priests and deacons after the Chrism Mass and a dinner with seminarians at the archbishop’s residence before the evening Mass. [What a great thing to read.]

Best of all, he wore a collar provided by a seminarian from Kenrick-Glennon and at the evening Mass was with 11 seminarians having their feet washed by Archbishop Carlson. His parents also had a role in the evening Mass, bringing up the gifts of bread and wine.

As for his favorite part of the entire day, Brett was unequivocal in his answer.

“The whole thing,” he said as he waited for his dad, Conrad, near the Cathedral Basilica sanctuary with his mom and older sister Olivia after the Chrism Mass. “It was really neat for them to let me do this stuff.”

And cool, too — a term he used often in describing the day.

“Just a really cool experience,” he said.

His actual wish is cool, too.

“Eating mangoes on a beach,” his mother said.

That trip will come later. His “priest-for-a-day” request for the interim didn’t surprise his family.  [Here’s the deal.  His “actual” wish seems in some ways less real than the “real” wish.  Sacramental reality is not less real than what we experience with our senses.  Mangos on a beach?  Wonderful.  But being close to the altar like that … priceless.]

“For years, he has loved the Mass and been religious,” said Eileen Haubrich, a graduate of Notre Dame High School. “He has such a good heart. He’s a very caring boy.”

The second of Eileen and Conrad’s four children and oldest of two sons, Brett has served at his school church and at his parish, St. Martin of Tours, which is visible from the back door of his house only a short walk away.

He digs the smell of incense burning in the thurible at Mass, enjoys confession and likes “communion, and the songs, too.”

Communion — the Eucharist, the living presence of Jesus Christ — stands out.

“I like receiving the Body and the Blood,” he said, simply

Brett and his family told several priests about his plan, and they offered several options – like shadowing one, spending the night at a rectory with his dad or serving a Saturday morning Mass at the New Cathedral.

The latter request was made of Father Nick Smith, the Master of Ceremonies at the Cathedral Basilica. His initial response was “no way,” followed quickly by “we can do way better than that.”

Sure enough, they did.

“I said, ‘Why don’t we have him come down for Holy Thursday? He can serve the Chrism Mass — it’s a Mass for priests — and that night mass is always about the Eucharist,'” Father Smith said, repeating the two main aspects of the Masses that fit Brett. “Priests and Eucharist.”

Archbishop Carlson also played a big role. He actually was with Father Smith in the Cathedral sacristy getting ready for his Lenten reflection during Father Smith’s initial phone call about Brett.

“It just so happened he was standing right next to me,” said Father Smith, describing Archbishop Carlson as “very excited. He was throwing out ideas right and left, ‘Let’s do this, let’s do that.'” [Yep.  That’s Archbp. C.]

Archbishop Carlson came up with ideas of the seminarians dinner and of the foot washing.

“He said, ‘Put him in there; we’ll wash his foot,'” Father Smith said, with a laugh. “Before you knew it, it turned into a whole day.”

Father Smith prepared an itinerary for Brett’s day and delivered it in person along with a letter signed by Archbishop Carlson asking for Brett’s help at the Masses.

“I handed it to him, and when he got to the first line, ‘I’m making you a priest for a day,’ his eyes got as big as half-dollars,” Father Smith said.

The letter surprised Brett, who admitted to being a little nervous heading into Holy Thursday.

But the events went off like clockwork. Wearing the collar, Brett processed down the center aisle at the New Cathedral with priests, deacons and seminarians at the Chrism Mass — at which Archbishop Carlson blessed the oils to be used throughout the archdiocese for sacraments for the next year — and took his spot near the altar.

He performed flawlessly.

“He did pretty well,” Archbishop Carlson said.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Fr. Z KUDOS, Just Too Cool, Priests and Priesthood and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. This is the kind of feet washing for real, tangible, charitable causes that I can stand up and cheer for.

  2. Someone please be the Garrigue says:

    Don’t forget to follow the HERE link, it has a wonderful slideshow:

    The kid has a vocation to nurture.

  3. CatholicMD says:

    I am truly blessed to be a parishioner at the Cathedral Basilica. God bless Archbishop Carlson and Fr. Smith. Also please pray for Msgr. Joseph Pins, the rector of the basilica, who is currenty in a battle with cancer.

  4. Christine says:

    Just beautiful!

  5. Northern Ox says:

    Servant of God Frank Parater, pray for Brett.

  6. CatherineTherese says:

    Oh thank you Fr. Z for this sweet story, and may GOD BLESS Brett, Archbishop Carlson, and – per CatholicMD’s request – Msgr. Pins.

    I now have three specific intentions to add to my daily prayers: for healing for Brett and Msgr. Pins, and for the priesthood/episcopacy and protection of this good Archbishop.

  7. DavidJ says:

    Just awesome. May this God help this little boy survive and thrive!

  8. cathgrl says:

    It appears that there gofundme account for him to help offset medical expenses http://www.gofundme.com/team-brett-stay-strong

  9. greenlight says:

    Yes, that slideshow is pretty spectacular. Great photography and some very moving images. Our Cathedral Basilica in St. Louis sure is a jewel.

    Fr., I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on the Archbishop. He seems like the real deal most of the time, but I hear differing opinions.

  10. AdIesumPerMariam says:

    This sounds like the start for something miraculous, both for him and for the Church. What a wonderful thing to read on Easter Monday!

  11. Priam1184 says:

    Thanks Father. From all outward appearances Brett seems to be one of those souls that God makes from time to time whom I just wonder at. Ad multos annos.

  12. Sonshine135 says:

    Wow! I’m speechless. I am sharing this story with everyone and anyone.

  13. Midwest St. Michael says:

    This story reminds us of our youngest son who is ten. He cannot wait until he can serve starting later in the Fall. He will be 11.

    Fantastic story. Thanks, Fr. Z.


  14. Kathleen10 says:

    Thank you for sharing this Fr. Z. What a moving story. His parents have certainly done their job well. What kindness from the good Archbishop and Father Smith!
    God bless this beautiful boy. I will pray for his healing and for his family, and for Monsignor Pins.

  15. ChristoetEcclesiae says:

    What a beautiful story. Ongoing prayers for all.
    Can someone tell me where to find the slideshow? It doesn’t seem to be coming up.

  16. greenlight says:

    Click the hyperlink at the beginning of the story (the word “HERE”). That should take you to the St. Louis Review site and the slideshow is at the top of their story. If any of the images make your eyes water just blame it on dust or pollen.

  17. WELL, this made me cry! Just beautiful!

  18. mysticalrose says:

    Ok, I’m actually crying. Wow. Just wow.

  19. Dienekes says:


    Serving Mass was probably the best part of my boyhood.

  20. God willing, Brett is healed, and actually follows his heart to become a priest.

    That would be the ultimate for this young man. You are right, Father. Just way beyond “Just Too Cool”.

    I’m aware of another young man, from a good, Catholic home-schooled environment, who is discerning a vocation now. Prayers for young Nick (and his parents are overjoyed that he is thinking thus…) as he prays over this momentous decision.

  21. ChristoetEcclesiae says:

    Thanks so much, Greenlight.

    Hmn. No dust or pollen in my immediate vicinity, but I watered anyway. Must be tenderness and joy. Sniffle.

    Hearty prayers for Brett, young Nick, and other fine, young, discerning Catholic men. Yay.

    Christus resurrexit! Alleluia!

  22. Suburbanbanshee says:

    I notice that everything that was done was done well, kindly, with an eye for what would be physically and mentally okay for the kid — and without breaking any rubrics.

    (Okay, “viri selecti” was bent a little, but it sounds like Brett acted the man here. And medieval eleven and twelve year old boys could take on some manly legal responsibilities. Back in the old days in the US, he could have entered a junior high/high school seminary already, depending on what studies he’d already managed.)

  23. benedictgal says:

    This post should contain a disclaimer. Do not read if you are wearing mascara and are at work.

    This was one of the most beautiful posts I have ever read. Like Bryan wrote, I, too, hope that little Brett is healed and will go through with his dream of becoming a priest. In the event he is not, he has the joy of having experienced the beauty and joy of the priesthood, even for one day.

    God bless him. May St. Tarcisus and St. Philip Neri intercede for him!

  24. Michael_Thoma says:

    It may be a dream, but hypothetically couldn’t this young man be ordained a priest simplex with the intent that he complete all studies?

    I remember reading about a seminarian who was ordained early due to illness, was able to serve as a priest prior his fellow seminarians. He did pass soon after and was buried with full priestly rites.

  25. Pingback: Talk About your Make A Wish! | Crazy Quilts, Catholics & Cookies

  26. Back pew sitter says:

    Beautiful! Just too cool!

  27. Back pew sitter says:

    Sorry…..just toooooooooo cool! :)

  28. The Cobbler says:

    Several things Christ said about “these little ones” come to mind…

  29. andia says:

    Can we have a rosary novena forhis healing, father? All of us here could do a rosary novena for him to be completely healed.

  30. EoinOBolguidhir says:

    I am surprised that they had trouble finding a cassock to fit him; when I was a lad, every parish had dozens of cassocks for boys who would serve as acolytes.

    Perhaps a dispensation could be made for him to be an Instituted Acolyte.

  31. gramma10 says:

    Absolutely awesome. People who disdain priests need to see this.
    Too much negative press out there.
    This needs to be in the face of the secular world and all others too.
    What a heart filled caring man. God has obviously blessed everyone involved. I love hearing such stories. Thank you.

  32. Suzanne Carl says:

    What a happy way to start my day. May God bless all involved.

  33. JesusFreak84 says:

    Well dang, now I have several cavities. Too cute! :D

  34. Causus Omnium Danorum says:

    @greenlight–FWIW, I uncovered a serious problem a number of years ago that directly affected Abp. Carlson and his flock at the time. Although he did not know me from Adam (and I had no official standing), he took my concerns seriously, immediately and thoroughly addressed the problem, and followed up with me on multiple occasions even once the problem had passed beyond our purview. I am confident in his fitness as a good shepherd.

  35. michele421 says:

    I agree, this is truly awesome. But still I have to wonder, what if the sick child had been a girl?

  36. Dutchman says:

    How wonderful! Gave me tears in my eyes.

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