Altar Serving

Please arrive 15 minutes early.

•    Get vested.  Make sure your cassock is long enough to touch the top of your shoes.
•    After you get vested, please pray the prayers for the altar servers.
•    Remember to always be mindful that we are serving God and not distracting people from worshiping Him.
•    Your hands should be always folded in prayer, unless there is something in them. If you are using one hand the other should lay flat across the chest.
•    You may do more than one of the following tasks, such as cross bearer and book bearer, or candle bearer and general duties.

Cross Bearer

•    Get the cross from the sanctuary.
•    You will start at the front of the procession (unless there is incense; then you will follow the thurifer).
•    When you arrive at the steps of the Altar, go to the left side and wait there.
•    Once the rest of the procession gets there and genuflects, the cross bearer, without bowing, goes and puts the cross in the sanctuary.
•    At the offertory, the cross bearer goes down and leads the gift bearers to the altar.
•    Once the cross bearer gets to the altar stairs he goes around the priest and puts the cross back, and if necessary, goes back to help collect the gifts.
•    At the conclusion of the Mass, pick up the Cross and head down to stand in between the two front pews facing the altar.
•    Once the ministers have venerated the altar, the cross bearer turns and leads the procession down the aisle. Once you get to the entrance of the Church, go up the side aisle and put the cross in the sanctuary.
•    Help take the items back to the sanctuary.

Candle Bearers

•    Get your candles from the sacristy, light them if you are able, otherwise ask a senior server to light them.
•    When you carry the candles you are to carry them on the outside of your body; one hand should be on the base and one near the top. Try to have the candle’s wax tray level with your eyes. If the other server is taller or shorter than you, try to get both candles at the same height.
•    When you approach the altar you should split and go to the outside of the band on the carpet. Once the priest joins you in the middle he will genuflect; you make a slight bow then proceed to your chair placing the candles by the sanctuary lamp. Do not extinguish the processional candles; leave them lit.
•    The candles will stay there for the rest of the Mass. The only time they will be used during the Mass is if there is a Gospel procession. If there is a Gospel procession, the two candle bearers will wait on either side of the altar. Once the priest or deacon picks up the Gospel book, the two servers will process with the candle bearers to the lectern. They will then stand in front of the lectern until the Gospel is over. When the Gospel is over, the two servers will make a slight bow and return to their seats, placing their candles by the sanctuary lamp. 
•    Another time the candles may be used is during the Solemn Mass when we incense the elevation of the Eucharist. At the Holy Holy Holy you would pick up your candle and go and kneel on the steps in front of the altar. The thurifer would be between the two candle bearers. At the elevation, the thurifer would incense the Eucharist. After the two elevations, you would get up and go back to your seat putting your candles back.
•    At the end of Mass, the candle bearers would get their candles ready before the closing prayer. Once the priest has said “The Mass is ended” you would go to the bottom of the steps before the altar, similar to when you came in. After the priest genuflects, you turn and process out.

Book Bearer

•    The book bearer will hold the book for the priest or Bishop (celebrant) at Mass.
•    The Missal is heavy and only older servers should attempt to carry it.
•    Always try to make the book easy to read for the celebrant. 
•    The first time the Missal comes to the celebrant will be near the end of the Gloria.  At the words “For you alone are the Holy One” you will approach the celebrant, make a slight bow and hold the Missal open to the celebrant.
•    If there is a Master of Ceremonies (MC) or another celebrant, you will show them the Missal and they will adjust it to the right page.
•    Once the celebrant is finished the prayer they may touch the book to indicate they are done or sit down, simply bow and go to your place. Leave the Missal on the brass altar stand.
•    The next time the book bearer is needed is for the Creed and intercessions, which is right after the homily.
•    You approach the Celebrant with the brown folder and make a slight bow.
•    When the intercessions are over make a slight bow and go back to help set the Altar.
•    The book bearer should put the Missal and stand on the altar and open it to the proper page.
•    The Missal should be placed on the far left of the Altar near the edge.
•    The tab you open on the fancy Missal (which is used for Sundays and solemnities) is a green tab that is between the grey and a blackish tab. The words “Blessed are you Lord God of all creation” should appear when you open the Missal.
•    After Communion when the priest is purifying the Sacred Vessels, you should remove the Missal and the stand from the Altar.
•    Once the Altar is clean the Celebrant will say “Let us pray”.  At that point you bring the Missal to him, making a slight bow as you approach. When the Celebrant is done the prayer he may choose to do a solemn blessing, if so, you will stay for it.
•    When the Celebrant is finished, he will dismiss you.
•    You make a slight bow and place the book on the stand and prepare to process out.
•    There may be other times you will bear the Missal, or another book, when additional Sacraments are being performed. You will be instructed accordingly.

Altar Server who has no official duties during the procession

•    You walk up behind the candle bearers with hands folded.
•    When you reach the stairs leading to the Altar, go and stand to the left of the candle bearers.
•    Reverence the Blessed Sacrament at the same time as the Celebrant.
•    Go to your place.
•    At the end of Mass when the Celebrant has dismissed the people, go to the left side at the foot of the Altar (Mary’s side). 
•    Wait for the Celebrant, then genuflect with Him and follow the candle bearers out with hands folded.
•    When you get to the entrance of the Church, go up to the side aisle and help clean up the Sanctuary.

General Duties during the Mass

•    It is important to assign different duties before the Mass so as not to create a lack of confusion during the Liturgy. There is to be no fighting while in the sanctuary.  If there is a problem, or you think something is unfair, please refer to the senior Altar server or the Celebrant after Mass. Remember, we are never to call attention to ourselves, unless it is an emergency.

The General duties are as follows:
•    Setting up the altar
•    Getting the Gifts
•    Bringing up the Water and Wine
•    Washing the Celebrants Hands
•    Ringing the Bells
•    Using the Patens for Communion
•    Cleaning the Altar
•    Clean the Sanctuary after Mass.

General Duties

Setting up Altar

•    Setting up the Altar goes as follows: the Missal should go on the Altar first and be placed with its stand on the far left of the Altar.
•    The Main Chalice should be then put on the Altar.
•    The burse on the top of the Chalice is placed off to the side and the altar veil folded so it makes nice square and can be placed on top of the Burse.
•    The corporal is then taken out of the burse and unfolded carefully and placed in the centre of the altar (there is a line in the altar cross to indicate where the middle of the Altar is). Care must always be taken when opening the corporal because there could be Precious Particles on it. A corporal should never be flipped or folded or unfolded with haste.
•    The purificator should be place beside the corporal and the pall beside the corporal slightly above the purifcator.  The rest of the Chalices should be brought forward and lined up on the altar on the right side near the edge. These purificators should be put on top of the purificator from the main Chalice, up beside it, between the corporal and the Chalice.
•    Take the Chalice veil and the burse back to the credence area.

Receiving the Gifts

•    After the Altar is set up, get ready to receive the gifts.
•    Three servers maximum are needed for this.
•    Process down with the celebrant to the bottom of the floor.  The first server should go to the left side of the celebrant to receive the offering basket.
•    The next server will receive the wine, which you take back to the credence area.
•    The last server receives the bowl paten and brings them directly to the altar, placing them in the middle of the corporal.

Water and Wine

•    Two servers should bring the water and wine to the altar right away. The stopper should already be off and left on the credence table.
•    Once the Celebrant uses them you make a slight bow and go back to the credence area.

Washing Hands

•    The washing of the hands is next (except if there is incense used, in which case it would be after the incense).    
•    Two servers are needed.  One gets ready with the lavabo and pitcher; the other with the towel. They once again approach the Celebrant together and wash his hands (make sure you don’t hold the bowl too high).  When you are done, bow to the Celebrant and turn inwards and return the items to the credence table.

Ringing the Bells

•    There are three times when the bells are rung: at the Epiclesis, at the elevation of the Body and at the elevation of the Blood.
•    The Epiclesis is when the Priest calls down the Holy Spirit on the offerings. You can tell it is the Epiclesis because the priest holds his hand over the gifts. At this point you ring the bell once.
•    When the priest holds up the Body you will ring the bell three short times.
•    The Celebrant will then genuflect, rise and then consecrate the Blood. When he holds up the Chalice, you will once again ring the bell three short times.
•    The Celebrant will again genuflect and when he rises from genuflecting the server will rise as well.

Serving at Holy Communion

•    After the sign of peace, the servers that are using the patens for Holy Communion are to go and get them.
•    After receiving Communion, servers would go with a Celebrant or priest or Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. If there are not enough servers to serve all the priests, start with the Celebrant and then the other person in the main aisle. 
•    When using the paten you always stand on the outside of the minister. Be careful not to tip the paten and be mindful to keep it up right.
•    The purpose of the paten is to catch Precious Particles and Hosts if they fall.
•    Once Communion is over bring your paten and put it on the Altar.

Cleaning up after Communion

•    If the Bishop is the main celebrant, and there are other priest and deacons there, as soon as he is finished distributing Communion, his hands are to be washed. If there are no other priests or deacon, he will do the ablutions of the Sacred Vessels himself.
•    Bring the water out immediately as soon the celebrant is back at the Altar.
•    If there is no book bearer, take the Missal from the Altar with the stand and place it on the stool besides the Bishop’s chair.
•    Following this, take the items the Celebrant or deacon is putting to the side of the altar and bring them to the credence table.
•    On one of the trips make sure you bring the burse and the Chalice veil back to the Altar.
•    Keep returning to the Altar until everything is cleaned off.
•    Do not take more than two items at a time. Most times only take one item.

Cleaning up the Sanctuary after Mass

•    The first thing is to put out the candles. You should use the candle snuffer. One should take caution to use it gently - not pushing down too hard but simply holding it over the candle.  This causes the candle to burn out.
•    You should take the vessels back from the Sanctuary. The Chalices, bowl patens, the lavabo bowl and pitcher and the cruets.
•    You should take off the used purificators and place them in the laundry bag. The lavabo bowl is emptied, dried out using the towel, the towel is then put in the laundry bag and the pitcher is refilled.  The lavabo bowl and new towel are returned to the credence table in the Sanctuary.
•    The cruet of water is refilled and returned to the credence table.
•    You then say the concluding prayer and neatly hang up your cassock and surplice and you are done. If you notice the cassock and surplice are dirty, please tell the priest so he can get them laundered.

Ablution Cup/ Lavabo Bowl - 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.

Acolytes' Candles - These two candles are carried either side of the cross in the entrance procession. They are then used to flank the Gospel when it is proclaimed.

Alb - A long linen tunic, worn since the fourth century. The name comes from the Latin word, 'albus', meaning white. This garment worn by the priest, deacon, and in some cases, the altar servers. The alb is symbolic of Baptism.

Altar - The place where the Eucharistic Sacrifice takes place. The altar is sacred and often contains relics of saints.

Ambo - The platform, lectern or pulpit from which the reading and homily are given.

Aspergillium - The holy water sprinkler.

Baptismal Font - This is a pool or vessel of water in which people are baptised. It reminds us of our baptism, when we were washed clean of sin and became a member of God's family.

Book of Gospels - Contains all the Gospel readings for the Church's year. It is brought to the lectern during the Gospel acclamation. It may be carried into church as part of the entrance procession or put in a special place before the celebration begins.

Candle Snuffer – A device that is used to extinguish candles.

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.

Chapel of Reconciliation/Confessional Box - Here we meet with the priest to confess our sins and, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Penance, receive God's forgiveness in the prayer of absolution.

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.

Cincture - A rope belt that is tied around the waist.

Corporal - Its name comes from the Latin word 'corpus' meaning a 'body'. It is a square of white cloth, on which the chalice and paten are placed during the Mass, to catch particles of the Blessed Sacrament, should any fall from the vessels. 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. The corporal is placed on the altar during the preparation of the gifts.

Credence Table - The table in the sanctuary where the cruets, chalices and ciborium are kept before and after the Consecration.

Crozier - Carried by a Bishop. Looks like a shepherd's crook and reminds us that the Bishop is chief shepherd of the flock of Christ in any given area.

Crucifix - A cross on which is the figure of Jesus.

Cruets - The vessels containing the water and wine used at Mass.

Gospel Book - A large decorated book containing only Gospel readings for the Mass. The deacon usually carries it.

Host - The consecrated Body of Christ.

Humeral veil - A long rectangular garment, held by a clasp at the front, worn by a priest or deacon when carrying a Ciborium or Monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament.

Incense - A substance that gives off clouds of sweet smelling smoke when sprinkled onto burning charcoal.

Incense Boat - So called because it is usually shaped like a boat, it contains the incense, which will be burned in the thurible.

Lavabo Bowl and Towel - At the preparation of the gifts the priest washes his hands to signify the cleansing of the sins of those gathered and to prepare himself for what he is about to do.

Lectern - The desk from which the readers, deacon and priest proclaim the readings.

Lectionary - The book of readings used for the Liturgy of the Word. It usually contains all the biblical reading used for the three-year Sunday cycle of readings and the two-year cycle of daily Mass readings.

Lunette - A crescent-shaped clip made of gold or of silver-gilt, which is used for holding the Host in an upright position when exposed in the monstrance.

Mitre - A tall pointed hat in two pieces as worn by a Bishop. It reminds us of the tongues of fire that seemed to light upon the apostles on the first day of Pentecost.

Missal - A book that the priest uses at his chair and at the altar.

Monstrance - A metal container on a stand. It is used at exposition and benedictions of the Blessed Sacrament. It may be plain or very elaborate, but it always has a little glass window through which you can see the Host.

Pall - A square piece of cardboard or plastic which is covered by linen and used to cover the chalice.

Pascal Candle – A special candle that speaks of our Lord's resurrection from the dead. During the Easter season this paschal candle has its place in the sanctuary. Thereafter it is placed next to the font for use during baptisms.

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.

Presidential Chair - The chair on which the presider sits.

Processional Cross - This is carried into church at the head of a procession, as a sign of our faith, and is the basic symbol of Christianity. It reminds us that Jesus died for us.

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.

Pyx - A small metal container, used to take Holy Communion to the sick and housebound.

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.

Sacristy - The room where the clergy and servers prepare themselves for the service.

Sanctuary - Sacred part of the church where the Altar, lectern and presidential chair are located.

Sanctuary Lamp - The lamp that is kept burning on the sanctuary to show that the Blessed Sacrament is present.

Stations of the Cross - These depict, usually in fourteen stages, the journey of Jesus to Calvary, his crucifixion on the cross and his laying in the tomb.

Stock - The metal containers used to hold the oil of the catechumen, the oil of chrism and the oil for anointing the sick.

Stole - This important vestment, worn around the neck, shows that the priest is celebrating one of the Sacraments. It also shows that the priest has the duty to preach the Word of God.

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.

Tabernacle - The large, decorated box or safe in which the consecrated Eucharistic Bread is kept. It is located in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

Thurible - The special vessel which holds burning charcoal and into which incense is placed. The device holding the incense is called the "boat."

Vimpa – veils that an acolyte wears when serving the Bishop at a Pontifical Mass to carry his mitre and crozier.

Liturgical colours

Green - Worn during "Ordinary Time." Ordinary does not mean ordinary in the sense of common or normal. Ordinary means counting, as in the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Red - Worn on Passion (Palm) Sunday, Good Friday, Pentecost Sunday, and on the Feast Days of Martyrs including the Apostles and Evangelists.

Violet - Worn during Advent and Lent or at Masses for the dead.

White – Worn during the Christmas and Easter seasons, celebrations of Mary, the Angels, Saints who were not martyrs, All Saints, Birth of John the Baptist, Chair of Peter, Conversion of Paul, St. John the Evangelist and is the preferred color for Masses for the dead.

Gold or Silver - Worn on days of solemnity in place of white

Rose / Pink - Worn on the 3rd Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday) and the 4th Sunday of Lent (Laetare Sunday).

Black - Was traditionally worn at Masses for the dead. Especially November 2nd 

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