Altar Server Question

First, apologies to the moderators if this is in the wrong forum!

Recently I’ve been asked at our parish if I’d like to become an Altar Server - I’ve thought/prayed about it for a while now and I really think its something I’d like to do; I’m trying to discern whether I’m called to the priesthood or marriage right now, so it seems a step in the right direction.

Really, I’m just looking for more information on what would be involved, whether I’d be capable of doing it or not (I’ve never done anything more complex than help with the offertory collection), and if anyone who has done it before has any advice or tips for someone thinking of doing it.

Thanks! :slight_smile:

My best advice would be to continue to pray, watch the daily EWTN Mass to see well trained servers, watch how the servers serve at your own parish and take everything seriously.

I serve and I think perhaps the two best qualities one can have next to reverence is the ability to concentrate and the ability to be invisable.

The EWTN can be fairly ticky-tacky but the servers are typically outstanding.


I was called up when I moved to a new parish and there were no other young people serving. I served only for the Ordinary Form (not sure if that is the form you will be serving for). It is a fairly straightforward job. Among other things, you will assist the celebrant by:

Holding the book during prayers
Handing him water/wine
Pouring the water and holding the towel for the Lavabo
Carrying a processional cross
Carrying the censor when needed
Taking the sacred vessels from the priest after they have been purified
Carrying the bucket of holy water for the Rite of Sprinkling

Also possibly lighting candles and the censor

There are some other duties you may have to perform on Holy Days, especially if you serve the Easter Vigil, but you will pick that up when you need to.

It is a wonderful duty to perform and I enjoyed it very much.


It’s very simple… my daughter has been doing it since the age of 9 and hopes to make Server Captain by 12. :smiley:

Isn’t there a training program for new altar servers at your parish? We have one awesome couple that does this for our parish. They have monthly meetings for instruction and practice, and to go over any changes from the diocese or the pastor, or to reinforce areas of weakness. That would be the best way to learn.

If you parish is asking you, then ask them what instructional material or assistance they have for you.

Good luck! :smiley:

You would assist the priest at Mass by doing the things servers are supposed to do (hold the book for the priest, set up the altar, etc.). Serving at the altar is a great way for any man to be involved in the Church, and has traditionally been a breeding ground for vocations. If you are interested in being a server, talk to the priest.


Just what is a “server captain?”

First off, you spelled “altar” correctly. That’s a good portent. I think you should do it!

Because you are in the UK you might want to take a look at this:


A Server Captain is a senior server (at least 2 years service), chosen by the pastor and the coordinators of the altar server program, to serve as a mentor to younger servers and help enforce standards and keep everyone in line and on their toes. The two outgoing captains this year (they serve for 2 years) are two very fine young men, one of whom is heavily involved in pro-life ministry with his mom, and the other who goes to school with my daughter, and is the only server trained to serve the once-monthly Latin Mass at our parish.

We are very blessed at my parish to have a vibrant, successful, well-trained altar server corps. We even have an autistic child who is able to be an altar server because this ministry is so well-run!

BenM, just looked at your profile. Being 22, perhaps sitting in with the kids on their training session might be uncomfortable! :smiley: I’m sure if you and the priest did a couple of run-throughs privately, you would be able to learn what you need to do pretty quickly.

Absolutely no way. Then again we all have different standards.

I was thinking the other day about what I do when I and others serve Mass at my parish.

First we set-up the sacred vessels, linens, gifts, bells, etc. from the sacristy to the credence table. Admittidly some parishes have sacristans that do that. Serving at a parish with 3 priests (who each like a little different set-up) this prt alone can be a challange.

Did we check to see how many hosts are reposed in the tabernacle – both the “regular” hosts and the smaller/thinner ones preferred by the elderly/ill?

Then we servers set the ribbons for the Sacramentary and the Lectionary. After they have been reviewed we place them on the credence and ambo.

Then we vest and figure out who is going to do what.

Once that’s done you light the candles.

Will there be incense at the Mass? At what points will we incense? In the absence of a deacon does the celebrant what one of us to cense him and the faithful?

How about the rite of sprinkling? Is that gonna happen this morning? Whole is going to hold the bucket and walk with Fr? Because of the size of the church does Fr. want one of us servers to do some of the sprinkling in the absence of other priests or deacons?

Once the Mass begins have we made sure that we have a glass of water for celebrant #A or if it’s celebrant #B have we placed an extra hand towel near his chair to help with his excess sweating?

What happens if Fr’s battary-powered mic goes dead during Mass. Are we prepared well enough to have a spare battary in our pockets? Are we wearing vestments that allow access to our pockets?

I could continue on and on but no child server that I know of was ready to go after 3-4 Masses. I guess that’s probably the same at your parish else there wouldn’t be a need for a “captain server.”

Neither of the items I bolded are the jobs of the altar servers at my parish! No one but the priests go into the tabernacle and the priests also check the Sacramentary–they are the ones deciding which optional prayers ect will be said.

We also don’t use the holy water or incense at every Mass. Incense is used more often, but only on certain feast days.

Our servers are all boys and young men from 5th grade up through college. One of the priests is in charge of training them and the olders do help the youngers, but we don’t have anything like server captains.

I would definately say it takes more than 3 or 4 Masses to get everything just right–especially since the boys aren’t scheduled every week. However, an adult who is motivated will certainly pick things up faster than a 5th grade boy.

Oh and I would also agree that getting everything just right for each priest who has his own preferences is also difficult to get straight–especially since each of those first few Masses you serve can be for a different priest.

Everything you listed is a simple task… Sorry but I serve all the time and it just isn’t that hard. Simple to me might not be simple to you…It also dosen’t mean since I think it’s simple you have more reverence than me. I take all my duties very very serious and I show extreme reverence and it still very simple.

I never said they were difficult tasks. But you don’t learn which 78 out of 122 total you’re supposed to do for any given Mass after serving 3-4 Masses. That’s rediculous. I think a lot of people think it works that way – and it shows in how they serve. That fact may not be evident to you but it is to some of us who demand a perfectly served Mass no matter what comes up.

Keep in mind there are different levels of serving as there are different complexities of Masses. Possibly from what you are used to all the way to pontifical Masses that take a couple of monsignors to “serve.”


OhMalley, many of the tasks you listed are handled by the sacristans and Mass captains at my parish. No altar server is allowed to open the tabernacle! It seems to me that an awful lot is being asked of the altar servers in your parish. As for different priests and their preferences, well, our kids have seven different priests to keep track of, depending on the season. (I mean that meteorologically, not the Church year.) We are a community that swells with retirees in the winter, and a few priests come here to do the snowbird thing, too.

I’m sure tons of us have been to Pontifical Masses. :rolleyes: Where are all these different levels of complexity you describe coming from? There’s Sunday Mass, daily Mass, and during certain seasons or on some HDOs where there are special functions like incense or sprinkling that the servers have to help with. Having never been to our Latin Mass, I can’t speak to that one.

Absolutely! How on earth are children permitted to open the Tabernacle?

Or are your altar-servers adults, OhMalley? Or are there some adults among the children and so they are the ones to do this?

Setting the books isn’t such a huge task, as page numbers are itemised in the Ordo, a copy of which should be in the sacristy. I regularly set them, as sacristan. The lectionary is simple, but the Sacramentary can take some care, as it has options. However, if the Deacon is available, it’s a deacon’s job to set it, or at the least check, and I defer to him with great pleasure., But there’s no way a child would be asked to set the books.

You explained your duties, I explained the duties at my parish. Why the rude remark?

Please stay on topic, everyone. Don’t get sidetracked by discussing issues not useful to the OP. Thank you all.

Thanks for the info everyone!

I don’t yet know what kind of training program we have, only that there seems to be some kind of practise on Saturdays, and I was told I could just come along sometime and our deacon would teach me. I might have to learn along with the kids, but I find the idea of that pretty funny :smiley: so it wouldn’t be too much of a problem (also might be good for learning some humility, too! ;)).

Anyway, if I can find out the details I plan to head over there tomorrow - I guess we’ll see what happens next!

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