Altar Servants

Some of you may or may not be aware that altar servants are eligible to be members of a guild. In England and Australia it has been traditionally the Guild of St Stephen.

The Australian Guild’s Motto is “We Serve The LORD”, and our hymn is the Salve Regina (the traditional Latin chant). You’ll be surprised how young children manage to learn Latin Hymns!

A revival of the guild has taken place in Sydney, where we now actively recruit and train altar servants. It’s still only a very small guild, but we’re building it up, and we have managed to gain a reputation for good training where members from far and wide come to learn how to serve properly.
The 2011 Guild Conference attendees. This year we focussed on training for the new translation of the Roman Missal. I received some introductory training as a Master-of-Ceremonies. My weakness is turning the pages of the missal - I really have a hard time following it around.
Myself acting as Crucifier (Crucifix Bearer) during the last Night Prayer at the end of the Conference. I landed this job, mostly because I was the tallest one there.
Myself (right) during my training mass as a Master-of-Ceremonies. The missal is a nightmare to navigate, especially when one of the boys decides to mess up the ribbons!

I know that of the members here with more traditional leanings would wish for me to wear a gothic surplice, but after paying for a tailored cassock, I had to wear what-ever I could lay my hands on, and this one is on permanent loan from a good friend (it’s too big for him).

I wear a white alb at my own local parish church under the direction of my parish priest. The cassock and surplice were worn at my university chaplaincy (where I served most masses), and when with other groups where cassocks are still normally worn.

The guild also has a medal which may be worn when altar serving (with the permission of the parish priest or presiding priest). The Australian medal is different to the English one. The English one is illustrated below, unfortunately I do not have any pictures of the Australian guild medal.

That’s brilliant stuff! Thanks for sharing it with us Hartley and well done! :thumbsup:

Wonderful collection and effort.

Setting the missal traditionally belonged to the priest. This has to be so for the new form too, especially for the options for the canon, which is his choice. In our Church this is done before the mass, and the server brings the already prepared missal to the altar before the Mass.

I am sure, if you ask any priest he will give you a half our lesson about the structure of the mass, and how to set the ribbons.

I am not familiar with new missal (1970 and later) but if you ever will serve for Mass in the older form, you need ribbon for

  • the proper of season
  • for the ordinary of the Mass
  • for the proper of Saints
  • for the common of saints
  • for the votive mass, is that is celebrated.

Usually one need an ordo, to find the proper mass for a day; usually the hand missalets which are printed for each years (3 or 4 volume) give sufficient information. In this topic also the priest has choices since 1960.

Thanks for sharing this - It’s great stuff.
I use to love to serve mass and when it came time for me to choose a confirmation name, I chose Tarcisius because, as a server (and deacon?) he died defending the host.


Thanks for posting this it is very interesting.
At my parish our priest has been a family friend for multiple years. He taught me to serve more than 8 years ago. When I started he had me doing book at the Altar like you are doing. I was so short being in only the 4th grade that I couldn’t see the full line of texts in the missal (only bottom half of page) so it required me to do some extra study of them and the structure of the mass. It was always my job to set the missal if he hadn’t done it during his prayer time that morning. I reccomend getting an ordo, it tells what needs to be set in the missal for each day of the year. We always tried to keep certain ribbons reserved for certain things/parts of the mass. (green for the mass of that day) (white for marian) (red for blessings/prayers) (yellow for kyrie) (blue for preface) etc. This greatly helped with learning the mass. I also found that it is good if you memorize the texts with the priest somewhat so that you know when to turn specifically for him. For example: my pastor goes from the eucharistic prayer to the second page of the communion rite because he knows it from memory. It also helps I find if you go through the mass in the missal before Mass that way you are familiar with the texts of that day.
My pastor also does hand signals for which page to turn or if I turned the wrong one. (lays down number of fingers with left hand for which Eucharistic prayer, whole hand down if I turned to the wrong one or if it is like reconciliation 1/2 etc. Also to tell me when he is ready to genuflect, since I do it with him.

I hope that this might help you a bit & that God will continue to bless you as you keep growing in your faith. Good luck on the missal! :thumbsup:

God bless you and your important ministry at the altar. I too belong to the Guild of St. Stephen.

Thanks for the wonderful post, hartley! I just have one tiny little correction…

It’s “crucifer”, not “crucifier”. A crucifier is someone who crucifies someone else! Let’s not have any more of that, eh? :wink:

It really is wonderful to see an altar server guild.

In the USA it was the Knights of the Altar.

Ribbon: Mass of the day from Ordo. (“proper”)
Ribbon: Preface ("common’)
Ribbon: Creed (if needed)
Ribbon: Memorial acclamations (if used)
Ribbon: Preparation of gifts (Sacramentary is set to this when placed on altar)

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