Family Altar Servers


Our parish has just announced they will be having family altar servers (Mom Dad, brother sister etc) all serving together at mass.

Is there any direction about this - is it permitted?

It seems to me to further diminish the special nature of altar servers under the misunderstood directive of “active participation”

I know there is no upper age limit for altar servers, but has anything been written about this?

Thanks for your help.

As long as both men and women may serve at the altar, just what is wrong with having a family serve together?

We’ve tried it in our parish but few adults want to be ‘up there’ so we had only one father/son team for a few months at the anticipated Mass, which is where we use the few adults willing to serve at the altar since that Mass is rarely attended by server-aged children.

Personally, I think it is a great idea. Especially if your parish is having a hard time getting young men to serve.

I know that many see Altar servers as a way for young men to begin discerning a vocation to the priesthood, but marriage and family are vocations too.

What about Altar Girls ? youtube - Cardinal Arinze

Did this come from your Diocese Bishop ? Or is this an merely an idea of your Parish Priest ?

Who is your Diocese Bishop in Florida ?

Our Bishop has female altar servers, and he is rather conservative.

Also, if you notice from the Cardinal’s statement, it has never been divine law that girls could not serve at the altar (time stamp 2:05)

I noticed that you are from Peoria.
I didn’t see anything about female alter servers on your Diocese web site unless I missed it.

However, if the males - both boys and men do not step forward to serve at Masses after they have been requested to do so, the women will have to pick up the slack. It is that simple.
Get with it Men !

Not only are men shirking their duties serving at Mass, they also seem to be shirking their duties in leading their Families to Christ.

Amen! If women would encourage their sons, husbands and brothers to volunteer for these duties rather than seeking to take them on themselves, the men would be compelled to pick up the slack. Thank you for posting the excellent YouTube video. At one point in the talk, Cardinal Arinze says if he had his way, altar girls would not be used. I pray earnestly one day that he will have his way!

They are quite noticeable when one attends Mass with the Bishop at the Cathedral. Which I do quite frequently.

I dunno, maybe it’s just me but since the advent of the VII Mass and fairly recent participation of deacons at Mass the role of the altar server is greatly diminished. Servers no longer are the liturgical respondents to the celebrant they are pretty much gofers who fetch things like water and wine, etc.

In light of the current situation, minimal duties and the use of females as servers, I think the family idea is a pretty good one. Of course that will likely mean that the family servers will be in street clothes, not a such good thing, unless the parish can afford a very large range of vestments to lend.

Two things I see that could be issues:

  1. Female Servers
    I’m not going to start the long argument again, but male servers just makes more sense, along with being the norm for basically forever, up until VII. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.

  2. Family Issues

I can see it not working well with kids serving with their parents, just by nature of their relationship. Brothers with brothers is one thing, but (honestly) I wouldn’t be the first to volunteer to serve with my dad.

it seems to be one more innovation in the Church like so many others. perhaps even a way to promote married priests. now and days in the Church, we are called to recognize the enemies of the Church which are many. they are plotting to bring down the Church, how would you recognize them? this is the question.

I agree that they have been greatly diminished. Honestly, I don’t see how being an altar server at an OF would help one discern a vocation. However, I can see it with the EF. Let’s see, they carry the crucifix, hold a book, and give the priest the gifts.

From the 2002 General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) approved for the USA, which can be accessed from :

"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; they may carry the cross, the candles, the thurible, the bread, the wine, and the water, and they may also be deputed to distribute Holy Communion as extraordinary ministers. …

  1. The liturgical duties that are not proper to the priest or the deacon and are listed above (cf. nos. 100-106) may also be entrusted by a liturgical blessing or a temporary deputation to suitable lay persons chosen by the pastor or rector of the church.[footnote 89: Cf. Pontifical Commission for interpreting legal texts, response to dubium regarding can. 230 § 2: AAS 86 (1994), p. 541.] All should observe the norms established by the Bishop for his diocese regarding the office of those who serve the priest at the altar."

Only men can become instituted acolytes, not women. If there were enough instituted acolytes it would be wrong to replace them with other lay people.

There isn’t a plethora of instituted acolytes out there. In Canada, the instituted ministries are only open to those who are seeking to become deacons, whether transitional or permanent. As I understand it, although that rule doesn’t apply in the US, in practice the situation is pretty much the same in all but a few dioceses.

I agree!!

When I met a little boy for the first time (he just received his First Communion today too!!) He said, hi, my name is __, and I am going to be an altar server one day. :stuck_out_tongue:

It really is the devoutness of the family, and also the priest and parish, that will inspire young boys to want to serve :slight_smile:

All of the things you mention here are done in our OF Mass.

Thank you for all your comments.

I live in the Diocese of Saint Petersburg.

Famil altar servers seem to me to further diminish the special nature of altar servers under the misunderstood directive of “active participation.” I served at a time when it was all boys. People now say the boys will not step up so the girls have to take over. Well in the younger age groups girls tend to be more assertive and their presence elimates many boys from considering serving.

In Redemptionis Sacramentum it states about altar servers, “Associations for them, including also the participation and assistance of their parents, should be established or promoted, and in such a way greater pastoral care will be provided for the ministers.” It also states earlier, “It is altogether laudable to maintain the noble custom by which boys or youths, customarily termed servers, provide service of the altar after the manner of acolytes, and receive catechesis regarding their function in accordance with their power of comprehension.” I think they are misreading this (if they are reading at all) at my current Parish. Above I believe to be speaking about assistance and participation of the parents in the association - not in the serving.

I should not be surprised as this is the same parish that had last year’s RCIA participants walk around the church sprinkling the congregation with Holy Water and consistently allows the Asoociate to ad lib during the Eucharistic Prayer.

Looks like I need to find a new parish.

i’ve seen families serve in the past, but in different roles

currently, i don’t have participation in the mass but i teach PREP, while my wife sings with the choir. my son is still a baby but no doubt i’ll encourage him to be an altar server

as for a family as altar servers, as long as the bishop and the parish priest allows it, why not?

Yes, I was describing what they do at the OF. It is way less meaningful than what is done in the EF. Honestly, I don’t see how the modern altar server would make anyone discern anything.

Fixed that for you. :wink:

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