Is this common?


Hello again, all.
I had the great pleasure of attending another Latin Mass this morning, in the Capuchin Church where I attended my first Latin Mass not too long ago.

The first Mass was given by the priest alone, with no assistance from any kind of server, man or boy. I have since observed that it is common for the priest to have at least one person assisting him while he gives the Mass.

This morning, as we were all sitting there in silence waiting for the Mass to begin, I observed a nun as she walked in and took the bells to where she sat down, which struck me as a bit odd. She then proceeded to carry out the office of substitute altar server, giving all the replies normally given by the altar boy/server, as well as ringing the bells when the server normally would. Naturally she was not by the priest’s side assisting him like a server normally would, but from her seat outside of the altar she was basically being a server.

I am curious whether it is normal practice for a nun to perform these duties.


Was this at a Traditional Latin Mass or the Ordinary Form? I’m asking because I have never seen an altar server be by the priest’s side at the OF Mass, only a Deacon does that.


Any answer I give would have to be conjecture, since the information on the internet is so sparse. But as I mentioned, the first mass I attended at that same church was conducted by the priest alone, so perhaps it was an Ordinary Mass(?)

The church itself appears to adhere to the rules of the old school Mass, the priest came in dressed in the traditional black robe [edited] before re-appearing in the white garments for the Mass. This is why I found it so puzzling that a nun would be allowed to participate in the Mass in this way. Have you seen such a thing before?
Nothing against it, of course. Just curious!



I don’t know about the specifics at this particular Mass.

But even when the extraordinary form was THE form, when Mass was said at convents, the nuns would act as servers. They didn’t necessarily have the luxury of importing male altar servers to say the responses or to ring bells.


I don’t know the answer to your question, but the “traditional black robe” you refer to is probably a cassock. That said, not all priests are required to wear the cassock [edited].

The “white garments for the Mass” are likely the alb (and possibly an amice as well), plus the stole and chasuble if the liturgical color for the day was white.

I’m inclined to believe the Mass you attended was in the Ordinary Form because I have never seen a nun assist with an Extraordinary Form Mass. At the ICRSS oratory near where I live, if there is no concelebrating priest or deacon or subdeacon or cleric, the priest offers the Mass alone. I do realize you don’t live where I do, however, so things may be different in your corner of the planet. In light of the historical reference SMHW provided, I leave room in the universe that the Mass could have been EF.

So the upshot is that I have probably been of no assistance whatsoever :o


I’ll start by saying: I’m not sure about the bells.

That having been said, it’s not uncommon for those who are not vested, or not able to serve the Mass to give the responses from the other side of the rail for the priest. At the FSSP parish in Rome, Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini, it wasn’t uncommon for a priest to celebrate a private Mass at one of the side altars during a regular Mass time. It also wasn’t uncommon for a parishioner who knew the responses to go and kneel at the altar rail and give the responses for the private Mass.

I’m not sure what the rubrical stance on this is, but I know it’s not unheard of. I know it’s also preferable to always have at least one person to make the responses.


[edited] If it was a religious priest then it may not have been a cassock but the dark brown habit of the Capuchins. If so then it is entirely possible that it was neither the EF or “old school” Mass but rather the Seraphic Mass.

And the sister was not “outside the altar” but outside the sanctuary.

It is an exquisite Church. I like the high windows which let in the light but don’t distract with views to the outside. It reminds me of the Benedictine Abbey Churches which are built this way.



Even “back in the day” (the 1950’s) the priests in our parish, who belonged to a religious order with a distinctive habit, wore a black suit and Roman collar when out on business or parish household calls. [edited].


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit