Friday, 12 February 2016

The Altar Server - An Overview

Altar servers are chosen from among the faithful who display a desire to participate in a more intimate way during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is an extreme privilege to kneel so close to the altar as our loving Saviour, Jesus Christ, becomes truly present in the Eucharist. Thus, it is both wise and necessary for a server to perform all assigned duties with attention, dignity and reverence.

Who May Serve

A server can be any baptised Catholic of good standing who has received at least first confession and Holy Communion. Each bishop of the diocese and each parish may have additional requirements but basically there are no other universal Church restriction about age or gender. The server leader should discern the reasons a candidate wants to serve and be reasonably certain that the candidate, and not parental pressures, are the main motivation. A reluctant or disinterested server is a distraction during the Mass and may have a negative effect on parish faith.

Basic Knowledge of the Mass

A server candidate is required to know the principal prayers of the Mass: The Gloria, Our Father, Nicene Creed, Lamb of God, Lord, I am not worthy and Holy, Holy, Holy to demonstrate they have sufficient interest in being a server. Not knowing these prayers usually results in a server who just stands in ignorance of what to do during these prayers and becomes a distraction to the parish.

What else should a Server Know
  1. All candidates should know the definitions of the liturgical items and their purposes.
  2. All candidates must demonstrate their ability to make use of the “tools of the trade” such as matches, candle lighters, books and candles, processional cross, preparation of credence table, chalice, Mass colours, etc.
  3. All server candidates must know the proper way to make the sign of the cross, kneel, stand and sit during Mass
What do Servers do
  1. A server is not a wall decoration. They are primarily there to assist the priest and to discern their vocation if they have one. Here is a short list of server duties.
  2. The servers duty is to set up for Mass, or if there is a sacristan present, to assist the sacristan in setting up for Mass. It is not the priest’s or deacon’s task to do so. The server must be willing to get to Church early, usually 15 minutes, to perform the appropriate setup for their parish.
  3. The Server must also stay after Mass to return the Church to its non-service condition. This includes offering help to store linen, books and other items in their proper places, if a sacristan is present.
  4. Servers should not handle any consecrated bread or wine unless specifically directed by the priest or deacon in an emergency situation. If the server suspects any consecrated fragments or wine remain on the sacred vessels they must inform the priest or deacon immediately.
  5. Servers must remain in the sanctuary during the entire Mass and are not to leave the sanctuary during Mass for any reason other than Illness or the direction of the priest or deacon. Altar servers are on duty from the time they enter the sanctuary at the start of Mass until the priest exits at the end of Mass.
  6. Servers have three primary positions when not performing a specific duty. These are standing, sitting and kneeling. In any of these positions they should maintain a straight formal posture.
    • In the standing position hands should be held in the praying position.
    • In the kneeling position hands should be held as in the standing position. You must kneel upright, not slouching or sitting on your heals.
    • When sitting the hands should be held on the lap or at the sides. Never slouch. Never play with your cinctures, pick your nose or otherwise cause a public reason to take notice of you.
  7. Remember, you are not on stage; you are serving at the altar of Our God.
  8. Every altar server must attend every Mass they are scheduled for. When a server cannot be present, that server must arrange for a replacement.
Proper Dress

 The server should dress in proper clothes and footwear for Mass. It is recommended that you wear solid colours, especially colours which would not reveal your insides, when looked at a certain angle and when there is certain lighting present. Likewise pants, dresses and skirts should also be of some solid colour. Proper shoes should be worn. Sneakers, no matter how expensive, are for casual dress and sporting events and have no place at the Altar of Our God. Servers must show respect for the Mass they attend at.

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