Altar Servers in our church
“But you are a ‘chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises’ of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Pt. 2:9).
Courtney and Kaley Geroux Altar Server Coordinators
All liturgical ministers are members of the body of Christ, the “holy people and royal priesthood” who participate in Christ’s ministry of redemption and salvation. In the Mass, the lay faithful exercise this ministry in various ways, but the fullest and most fundamental expression of it has always been conscious, active and fruitful participation in the mystery of the Eucharist, a participation to which the Christian people have a right and duty by reason of their Baptism.
Some of the faithful are called to serve God’s people in a more particular way through one of the many liturgical ministries that have flourished in the Church since the Second Vatican Council. This diversity of roles, functions and ministries enriches our celebrations and assists us in our prayer. Serving in one of these ministries is both an honor and a responsibility, and those who commit to it deserve nurturing and support. This handbook has been prepared to help lay liturgical ministers to acquire a deeper understanding and love for the liturgy, their ministry and ultimately the Lord whom we all serve.
Since Vatican Council II, Catholics have become accustomed to lay people serving during the liturgy as lectors, Eucharistic ministers, cantors, musicians, ushers and altar servers. We call these people “liturgical ministers” and recognize that they have an important role in our liturgical celebrations. They serve the assembly—the group of Christians gathered for prayer and worship—and assist in its prayer. One of the oldest liturgical ministries is altar server.
For many centuries boys and young men (called “acolytes” when they were preparing for holy orders) assisted the priest at the altar during Mass and led the people in responding to the prayers. When Latin became the only language used by the Church, altar servers were often the only people capable of saying these prayers. In the 1960’s the Church declared that the language of the people should be used at Mass, but that did not diminish the importance of the ministry of the altar server. Altar servers continue to serve a necessary liturgical function by assisting priests and deacons before, during and after the liturgy, and serving as prayer leaders for the people. In Masses without a congregation the server says the peoples parts as appropriate.
In March 1994, The Vatican opened up the possibility of allowing girls to become altar servers. This was to be at the discretion of the local bishop.
Because altar servers are so visible to the assembly throughout the liturgy, they have a unique opportunity to model how and when to sit, stand and kneel. When they sing with enthusiasm and pray from their hearts, they encourage others to do the same. Of all the things that altar servers do during the Mass, perhaps none is more important than the good example they give to the assembly of how to pray with dignity and grace.