History of Servers
At a very important time in Jesus’ life, He accepted the services of a young boy. This young boy provided five loaves and two fish for that very momentous miracle with which Jesus launched his teaching on the Holy Eucharist. The sacred writers do not tell us the name of the young boy, only his deed, and his act of service. Altar servers also perform a great deed of service. In past centuries, only priests or those ordained to the office of acolyte were allowed beyond the communion rail to assist in the worship of God. The Order of Acolyte is a step toward the priesthood. It is the highest of the four minor orders, before a man seriously commits himself to the priesthood with the three major orders. As seminaries grew, the Order of Acolyte became for the seminarian a step to the goal of priesthood, and thus not as many remained acolyte to assist priests in the sacred services. Therefore, the Church allowed lay men to perform the duties of that office. As it became more necessary for men to work steady hours to fulfil their duties as fathers and breadwinners, and young men were called to serve in war time, boys were taught to take on the responsibilities of assisting the priests in their service of God.
It is a very great honour to be an altar boy at the Lord’s altar for any Mass. An altar server helps the priest in those things which he does at the altar during the Sacrifice of the Mass and other liturgical events. He also sets a good example to the whole congregation, since he is highly visible and able to help the people in church to also be reverent. Many vocations to the priesthood have come from young men serving at the altar.
When serving the Tridentine Mass, one of the most important things that the server does is say the responses to the priest’s prayers in Latin. Very often, people in the congregation do not say anything at Mass using the older form of Mass, because there is an old tradition that the server alone was to make the responses for them. This means that the altar server must be able and ready to speak out clearly and accurately all the Latin responses that fall to him. Since they are the representatives of the whole congregation right up close to the altar in the sanctuary. The servers represent the angels serving the altar in heaven.
Resources for Altar Boys
Each server will be given a server manual when one has become an altar server at the Parramatta apostolate. This manual will clarify their roles and responsibilities for serving at the Altar of our Lord. This manual also includes guidelines for serving the different positions at Low Mass, High Mass without MC, High Mass with MC, server training information with the necessary Latin prayers and expectations for the behaviour, dress and responsibilities of being an altar server.
We recommend the following two online resources to assist Altar Servers learning the Mass responses in Latin.
Video 1 This Video focuses on the pronunciation of the Traditional Latin Mass responses
Video 2 This video contains the responses for Low Mass, Requiem Mass, and for Passiontide and the Easter Season.
There are more references for serving at the altar.
Parramatta Latin Mass Chaplaincy
Served by the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter