I go to a Catholic University, where there is a Campus Ministry Group that interested students can join so that they might know how to serve/read at mass in the said school. I joined the group and was taught how to serve at the altar, however there wasn't any formal blessing that was given to us before we started the ministry. So my question is is it neccessary to have this blessing of the altar servers, or anything like it before one can start the ministry? I've read that it's optional in the US, however I live in the diocese of Cubao, in the Philippines, and I admit I haven't inquired to the authorities here about it yet. I guess I just wanted to know what the Church says in general. Thank you, and again, God Bless!
In the USA there is an official liturgical book, called “Book of Blessings”. It includes a blessing for readers (chapter 61) and another for altar servers, sacristans, musicians and ushers (chapter 62). I do not know if the Vatican has given permission for such blessings in any other country.
The Latin edition of this liturgical book does not include these blessings. They are additional ones for the USA.
A concern I have with these blessings is that they may cause confusion between instituted ministers and those without institution. The 2002 General Instruction of the Roman Missal makes the distinction:
“100. In the absence of an instituted acolyte, lay ministers may be deputed to serve at the altar and assist the priest and the deacon …”
“101. In the absence of an instituted lector, other laypersons may be commissioned to proclaim the readings from Sacred Scripture.”
The USA’s Book of Blessings has before the reader blessing: “1828 This order is not intended for the institution of readers by the bishop, who uses the rite contained in the Roman Pontifical. Rather, this blessing is for parish readers who have the responsibility of proclaiming the Scriptures at Mass and other liturgical services.” (Book of Blessings, Liturgical Press, Minnesota, 1989, ISBN 0-8146-1875-8, page 691.)
So in the USA there is an approved blessing for those who do the jobs when the instituted reader and instituted acolyte are absent. To my mind it would be better to institute people who will do the job, rather than creating a separate category of “blessed, but not instituted, readers”. But I accept that in the USA this is permitted.
But I am not aware of anything that makes these blessings compulsory.