For the Parishes of St. William and St. Francis, Warwick, RI

Effective Fall 2004

    Table of Contents

    Preliminary Rules
    Job Description
    The Order of Mass
    Helpful Definitions
    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!
Father McMahon


Although the duties of the altar server are many and varied, the most important responsibility of the altar server during Mass is to pray!


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: 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.


Before Mass & Entrance Procession

Opening Rite

Liturgy of the Word


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.

Liturgy of the Eucharist

End of Mass

Additional Things to Keep in Mind


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."


Open my mouth, O Lord, to bless your Holy Name.
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.

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