THE ALTAR SERVERS MANUAL
For the Parishes of St. William and St. Francis, Warwick, RI
Effective Fall 2004
Table of Contents
The Order of Mass
Altar Server's Prayer
Thank you for volunteering to serve at the altar of the Lord at St. Francis and St. William! As altar servers, you play an important role in the celebration of Holy Mass, and are a valuable asset to the priest and the parish community. This packet is a rundown of the various responsibilities of the altar server and is primarily meant to help servers to serve Mass well. Remember that you are serving Almighty God at each Mass. Again, thanks for serving your parish and our Lord!
Although the duties of the altar server are many and varied, the most important responsibility of the altar server during Mass is to pray!
- To be an altar server at St. Francis and St. William, you must first have received the Sacrament of Reconciliation and made your First Communion.
- An altar server must attend every Mass they are scheduled for. If for some reason the server cannot attend the assigned Mass, it is the server's responsibility to find a replacement. If there is a problem finding a replacement, contact either Father McMahon or Father Kiley.
- Please arrive 20 minutes before Mass begins. Upon arrival, the server should vest in alb and cincture (the rope) or cassock and surplice.
- At St. Francis, black cassock with surplice is worn from the Third Sunday in September until Pentecost Sunday. From the Sunday after Pentecost to the second Sunday in September, servers vest in alb and cincture. Red cassocks are worn during Holy Days and solemn celebrations (for example, Christmas, the Easter season, and Confirmation).
- Appropriate Attire: Dress as you would to go anywhere important. Male servers should dress in collared shirts, dress pants or khakis. Female servers should wear dresses, skirts, or some other appropriate atttire. Blue jeans, beach attire, gym clothes and T-shirts are never to be worn at Mass. Such clothing is not appropriate dress for serving at the altar.
- NO SNEAKERS, WORK BOOTS or FLIP-FLOPS. Appropriate dress shoes should be worn (preferably black shoes for male servers). Also, black sneakers are discouraged.
- Everyone, including altar servers, should genuflect when crossing in front of the tabernacle, or entering a pew when Jesus is present, Body and Blood, in the Eucharist.
- Servers must demonstrate the ability to make use of the "tools of the trade," such as matches, candle lighters, books and candles, etc.
JOB DECRIPTION AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Typically, there will be three servers assigned to a particular Mass on Sundays at both parishes. The three positions will be defined as the following:
- The Cross/Book Bearer
- Server One
- Server Two.
The Cross/Book Bearer: This is typically the older or more "seasoned" server, who carries the cross during the Entrance, Offertory, and Closing Processions. He or she will be responsible for also holding the book for the priest during the opening and closing prayers (a.k.a. the “Let us Pray” prayers). This server will be responsible for lighting the candles before Mass as well as extinguishing them afterwards. The Cross bearer should supervise other servers, and will make sure everything is in its proper place before and after Mass.
Server One: This server is one of the candle bearers for the opening, gospel (at St. Francis), and closing processions. Server One will also be responsible for the following tasks: Bringing the book to the altar during the preparation of the gifts, going down to the foot of the altar with the priest to receive the gifts, holding the wine for the priest and deacon, assisting in the washing of the hands, ringing the bells during the consecration, and taking the book off the altar after communion.
Server Two: Like Server One, this server is a candle bearer for the opening, gospel (at St. Francis), and closing processions. However, during the Offertory, this server will bring up the chalice to the altar, and will be responsible for un-assembling and re-assembling the chalice during the appropriate times at Mass. Server Two will be responsible for the following tasks: assist in receiving the gifts at the foot of the altar with the priest, holding the water for the priest and deacon during preparation of the altar, pouring the water when the priest washes his hands, and bringing the water to the priests for the purification of the chalice after communion.
Please Note: On occasion, there will be a need for a fourth server to serve as an incense bearer on special liturgical occasions. This server will be responsible for lighting the incense, and disposing of the leftover charcoal after Mass.
THE ORDER OF MASS
Before Mass & Entrance Procession
- All servers should be vested and ready to go 5 minutes before Mass.
- The candles are lit by the cross bearer approximately 10 minutes before the start of Mass. At St. Francis, please light all candles by the tabernacle. Likewise, use the appropriate instrument to light the candles. If possible, avoid taking flames from the votive candles, as was the previous practice.
- Typically, a brief prayer may be said before the start of Mass with the priest and other liturgical ministers.
- The procession forms at the main entrance in the foyer of the Church.
- The order of procession will consist of the following: (1) Cross, (2) Servers One and Two holding the candles, the lector, the deacon (if present), and the priest.
- In cases where there is an incense bearer, that server will lead the procession (ahead of the cross).
- Please begin the procession as soon as singing begins. Please do not walk too quickly; it is not the Boston Marathon.
- Once at the altar, the Cross bearer should make a slight, reverent head bow, and then proceed to place the crucifix in the proper stand, and then go to your place. (At St. William, the stand is located next to the ambo, a.k.a. the pulpit.)
- The Candle Bearers should make a slight head bow as well. At St. William, these two servers would proceed to place the candles on the altar. At St. Francis, the processional candles will be placed in their appropriate place by the credence table. The servers then go to their places.
- At St. William - The servers will be seated in the chairs provided next to the credence table and altar. At St. Francis, servers will sit it chairs provided for them in the sanctuary.
- After the procession, the servers stand at their respective places.
- The Gloria will be recited or sung, except during Lent and Advent. Near the end of the Gloria (at the line “For you alone are the most high”), the Cross/Book Bearer will approach the priest with the Sacramentary (the big red book) opened to the proper page for the opening prayer.
- Keep the pages as flat as possible, and keep your fingers away from the text. When the priest is finished, the server will put the book back to the proper place by the credence table.
Liturgy of the Word
- After the Opening Prayer, all the servers sit to listen attentively to the Word of God.
- The tradition at St. Francis is to use the candles for the Gospel procession. During the Alleluia, all stand. After the Deacon or Priest approaches the altar to pick up the Gospel, Servers One and Two to come forward with the processional candles to lead the deacon or priest to the pulpit. The servers will stand on opposite sides facing the people during the proclamation of the Gospel. After the Gospel, the candle bearers place the candles in the appropriate place and go to their seats.
- At St. William, the Gospel procession is typically not done for Sunday Mass. However, on special occasions this may be implemented. The priest will tell the servers before Mass if a Gospel procession will take place.
Immediately after the Prayer of the Faithful is completed (and the people sit down and the collection begins), Server One brings the Sacramentary to the altar, opened and place at the left hand side of the altar.
- At the same time: Server Two will unveil the chalice and take the corporal out of the Burse (the matching item placed on top of the chalice) at the credence table. After doing so, Server Two will immediately proceed to place the chalice, corporal, purificator, and the other chalices used for the precious blood on the altar.
- When the collection is nearly completed, the cross bearer will proceed to the back of the Church to lead the offertory procession.
- Servers One and Two will proceed with the deacon or priest to the front of the altar to receive the gifts of bread and wine.
- When the priest goes to the altar to say the offertory prayers, Servers One and Two will promptly come to the altar with the cruets filled with wine and water to be poured into the chalice. Either the deacon or the priest will take them from you. After the pouring is completed, return the cruets back to the credence table.
- After the offertory prayers have been said, the priest will turn to his right, and servers one and two should come forward to the priest with the lavabo to wash his hands. (Server One should hold the towel, and Server Two should pour the water.) After this action is completed, the servers should make a slight and reverent bow to the priest, and then return to their place.
Liturgy of the Eucharist
- After the “Holy, Holy”, all servers kneel at their place.
- Please Note At St. William: The servers will kneel on the side step. Server One should kneel at the end by the bells. At both parishes, Server One will ring the bells on three occasions during the Eucharistic prayer.
- First Ring: When the priest stretches his hands over the gifts. (Please be attentive to this action, for it varies depending on what Eucharistic Prayer is used) Here, the bells are rung only once.
- Second Ring: When the priest raises the host. Server One will ring the bells three distinct times.
- Third Ring: When the priest raises the chalice. Server One will again ring the bells three distinct times.
- After the Eucharistic prayer is completed, all will stand for the recitation of the Lord's Prayer and Sign of Peace. Important note to all servers: Please exchange the sign of peace only with those immediately around you in the sanctuary. Although it is well meaning, it is liturgically improper to go around the Church to exchange peace, for it disrupts the flow of the liturgy.
- After the Extraordinary ministers approach the altar after the Lamb of God, the altar servers stand in their respective places to receive Communion. Servers should make a slight bow before receiving the Eucharist.
- During the distribution of Communion, Server One will take the book off the altar and return it to the proper place.
- After Communion, any remaining hosts are placed back in the tabernacle by the priest or deacon. After the hosts are returned to the tabernacle, Server Two will come forward with the water cruet for the cleansing of the ciboria and chalice. Please Note: the priest may take the cruet from server, or ask the server to do the pouring.
- After the chalice and ciboria are cleansed by the deacon or priest, Server Two will take the chalice and ciboria back to the credence table, and re-assemble the chalice there (placing the veil over the chalice, and the corporal back in the burse).
End of Mass
- The Book Bearer will proceed with the opened book to the priest for the prayer after communion. Note: At St. William, this is done after the Stewardship Prayer.
- After the final blessing and dismissal, the Servers One and Two will immediately pick up the processional candles, along with the Cross Bearer and the cross, and proceed to the front of the altar waiting for the priest.
- The closing procession will follow the same order for the servers.
Additional Things to Keep in Mind
- After Mass, the Cross Bearer will extinguish the candles. Servers, please hang up albs/cassocks and surplices after use.
- If only two servers are present, there will be no candles used. The Cross Bearer will still lead the procession, and the other server walks in procession directly in front of the deacon or priest. In rare cases of one server, the cross will be used, and the server will assume all duties as needed.
- Weddings and funerals require minor adjustments. These will be explained to the servers as necessary prior to these liturgies.
HELPFUL DEFINITIONS ALTAR SERVERS SHOULD KNOW
Alb – The full white garment worn by the priest, deacon, and in some cases the altar servers. The alb is symbolic of Baptism. The rope tied around the waist is called a cincture.
Altar - The place where the Eucharistic Sacrifice takes place. The altar is sacred and often contains relics of the saints.
Ablution Cup - covered dish of water on the side of the tabernacle which is used by the priest, deacon or extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist to wash their fingers after distributing Communion.
Ambo - The platform, lectern or pulpit from which the reading and homily are given.
Aspergillium - The holy water sprinkler.
Burse - A square container for holding the corporal. It is selected for the liturgical color of the day. Used corporals should always be placed in the proper container for sacred cloths after Mass.
Cassock - A long tunic-like garment which reaches from the neck to the heels and is worn by some servers and clergy.
Chalice - A cup of precious metal that holds the wine which becomes the Blood of Jesus after the consecration. All chalices should be placed in their places after Mass. If the chalices were left unpurified by the priest or deacon for some reason, they should be left out on the presentation table for purification by the priest or deacon. Never put an unpurified chalice away.
Chalice Veil (peplum) - A cloth covering used to hide the chalice and paten up to the offertory and after Communion. It is selected by the liturgical color for the service.
Ciborium - A large cup or container of precious metal with a cover of the same material which will hold the Body of Jesus after the consecration for distribution of Holy Communion to the faithful.
Corporal - A white linen cloth, usually with a cross in the center, used to protect any particles of the Precious Body and Blood of Jesus from falling to the altar cloth. It is always folded and unfolded so as to protect any particles from being lost. The corporal is like the body winding sheet used to hold the crucified body of Our Lord in the tomb.
Credence Table - The table in the sanctuary where the cruets, chalices and ciborium are kept before and after the Consecration.
Cruets - The vessels containing the water and wine used at Mass.
Lavabo - The pitcher of water used when the priest washes his hands at the end of the offertory and before the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Lectionary - The book of reading used for the Liturgy of the Word. It usually contains all the biblical reading used for the three-year Sunday cycle of reading and the two-year daily Mass readings.
Pall - A square piece of cardboard or plastic which is covered by linen and used to cover the chalice.
Paten - A small saucer shaped plate of precious metal that holds the Host. No lay person should ever touch the paten, so be very careful when handling it in your official duties.
Purificator - A linen cloth used by the priest or deacon to dry the chalice after washing and purifying it. Used purificators must always be placed in the proper container for sacred cloths.
Sacramentary - The book containing the prayers said by the priest during the Mass.
Sacrarium (piscina) - A sink with it drain going directly into the ground usually fitted with a cover and lock which is used for the disposal of the following: The sacred linen wash and rinse water, used holy water, used baptismal water and blessed ashes. No other use is permitted.
Stock - The metal containers used to hold the oil of the catechumen, the oil of chrism and the oil for anointing the sick.
Stoup - The holy water fountains or bowls at the entrances of the church.
Surplice - A wide-sleeved linen worn over a cassock by clergy and altar servers in some parishes.
Thurible - The special vessel which holds burning charcoal and into which incense is placed. The device holding the incense is called the "boat."
ALTAR SERVER'S PRAYER
Open my mouth, O Lord, to bless your Holy Name.
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Cleanse my heart from all evil and distracting thoughts.
Enlighten my understanding and inflame my will
that I may serve more worthily at your holy altar.
O Mary, Mother of Christ the High Priest, obtain for me
the most important grace of knowing my vocation in life.
Grant me a true spirit of faith and humble obedience
so that I may ever behold the priest as a representative of God and
willingly follow him in the Way, the Truth, and the Life of Christ. Amen.