First off I am new here, but have been reading for the past couple of years and love this place. I have been an altar server since I was 7, and am approaching my 22nd birthday. I absolutely love the ministry and the ability to be a part of it in a different way. The majority of my service, I have always worn a cassock and surplice.
I serve at a Cathedral in Louisiana, and we recently recieved a new pastor. We have used Albs as long as I have known at this particular church. When someone brought up the idea, he said Cassock was reserved for clergy and seminarians according to Canon Law. He is a Canon Lawyer, and am sure is right, however I have not heard of it being prohibited from altar servers. Can anyone shed some light on this for me?
Acolytes, altar servers, readers, and other lay ministers may wear the alb or other suitable vesture or other appropriate or dignified clothing. (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, no.339) All servers should wear the same liturgical vesture.
The Code of Canon Law does not once mention “cassock” or “surplice”. It doesn’t mention “alb” either. The only reference to vestments I can find in Canon Law is can. 929: “In celebrating and administering the Eucharist, priests and deacons are to wear the sacred vestments prescribed by the rubrics.”
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal allows for the alb to be replaced by a cassock and surplice, except in certain conditions (and those conditions apply only to ordained ministers):
The sacred garment common to ordained and instituted ministers of any rank is the alb, to be tied at the waist with a cincture unless it is made so as to fit even without such. Before the alb is put on, should this not completely cover the ordinary clothing at the neck, an amice should be put on. The alb may not be replaced by a surplice, not even over a cassock, on occasions when a chasuble or dalmatic is to be worn or when, according to the norms, only a stole is worn without a chasuble or dalmatic. (GIRM 336)
Since “altar servers” are non-instituted substitutes for instituted acolytes (cf. GIRM 98, 100), it seems appropriate that they be allowed to wear the vestments of the acolytes, whether that be the amice, alb, and cincture (amice and cincture optional), or the cassock and surplice. I can find no prohibition in the liturgical documents of the Church. There is a general impression among many, though, that female altar servers should not be dressed in cassock and surplice.
what an interesting thread! I don’t very often serve at Mass but was asked to do so yesterday by the priest. I went to the closet in the sacristy for altar servers and saw albs on one side and cassocks and surplices on the other. I decided to go for the choir dress and it felt wonderful! IMO it certainly helps a great deal towards achieving solemnity and reverence in the liturgy.
Glad to hear about your service Viet. It is a very rewarding ministry, and I hope you continue to partake in it. I am discerning the process of becoming a Deacon later in my life, and I believe it is a good way to learn and experience the beautiful liturgy in the Mother Church!
The altar servers at our parish wear a cassock and surplice. Our pastor only allows boys/men to be altar servers. There are over 100 boys serving so no shortage there. At other parishes where girls also serve, I do see all the servers (boys and girls) wearing albs. I have never seen it mixed–some in cassock and some in albs.
Our church is phasing out Female servers (new priest new vision). I have caught wind that we are switching to Cassocks and Surplices for the boys. The remaining girls will be required to wear Albs. Our priest says cassocks and surplices are male attire.