The Video at the bottom of the page was sent to me today and I want to say that I find it beautiful.

What makes the video so good is that it inspires a spirituality for the server that includes some of the following encouragement and advisement:

  1. That the Mass is mystical, beyond mere human sight, and that the server must learn to be sensitive to what lives beyond ordinary perception and become more spiritually aware.
  2. In so doing he should lead others to greater reverence by the example of supreme awareness of the presence of God.
  3. He should also, by his reverence  lead others to understand that what takes place on the altar is the making present of the most important moment in all of human history.
  4. The Altar server also provides practical leadership for the congregation as to when to sit, stand and kneel.
  5. Even the folded hands, pointed upward are meant to direct attention upward to God.
  6. The manner of his clothing (e.g. dress shoes, pressed trousers etc) are meant to and ought to show that what he is doing is a matter of utmost seriousness and importance.
  7. Our body, (posture etc) and our clothing impact our disposition, so all we do should be to help our hearts worship, and lead others to the same.
  8. Prayer, especially the rosary, is a good way to prepare one’s heart to be a better server.
  9. The goal is to have your heart in the right place.

A couple of other things I like about the video, that the man interviewed models well a piety that is serious but not somber looking. Not everyone gets this balance right, and some who are trying to look prayerful merely look sad, angry, or bored. But the man in this video shows an appropriate balance, a kind of natural and serene sobriety well suited to the Mass.

The images throughout the video are also beautiful and the photography is wonderful.

I suspect (sadly) that not all will be happy with some of the more traditional elements in the video: the ad orientem celebration of mass and the expressed preference for the cassock and surplice, rather than the alb. There is also no reference to girls serving. However, none of these aspects is forbidden. Perhaps a word about each.

  1. The ad orientem celebration of Mass (I speak here of the Ordinary Form), while less common, is not forbidden. I use it occasionally, after proper catechesis, in smaller settings in my parish. We have several side altars in the Church that I use on occasion, and I have also used the high altar for that purpose from time to time.  The catechesis I use includes the fact that the priest does not have his back to us. Rather we are all facing God, looking to the liturgical east for Christ to come again. I will say I would not adopt this position in my main Sunday liturgies at this time without consulting with the Bishop, simply out of respect for the fact that he is the chief liturgist of the diocese. But for smaller liturgies of a more private or intimate character, I do use the eastward orientation occasionally.
  2. The cassock and surplice - the preference here for this vesture is traditional. And while the current norms speak of the alb as being the common vesture for ministers of every rank in the Mass, (GIRM # 336). However the cassock and surplice are not forbidden and tend to be worn today especially by clerics who assist at mass but are not celebrating or concelebrating. As such, the cassock and surplice have a more priestly look. For this reason I think it unadvised that a girl or woman should wear the cassock and surplice. In my own parish the seminarians that assist us, as well as some of the older men wear the cassock and surplice. The younger boys and all the girls and women wear the alb.
  3. That only males are envisioned as servers – Here again, while it is common in most parishes today that box sexes serve, it is not required that the pastor observed this permission. For pastoral reasons, such as encouraging priestly vocations, the pastor may employ only men and boys as servers if he sees fit. In my last parish that is what we did. In my current parish, I inherited a server program that uses both sexes, and younger as well as older people. The mix is good and I see no reason to change it. But it is neither wrong for a pastor to make use of only males in this role. Neither is it wrong for the lay faithful to seek to encourage this sort of approach, as the video makers do.

I hope you will find this video as inspiring and beautiful as I do. And, just as the video we looked at last week did not please all, I do pray and ask for charity toward, and the presumption of good will by those who have made and produced this video. It is a good effort and has an important message in regard to reverence and spiritual preparation for altar servers.

53 Responses

  1. Matthew_Roth says:

    I thought this video was awesome. I am the oldest server in my parish at the principal Sunday Novus Ordo Mass, and I would like to share this with the other boys. An idea I have is to enroll the servers n the Brown Scapular and the Angelic Warfare Confraternity, and do some sort of renewal for those who are already enrolled.

    • Margaret Ann Clifford says:

      I wonder if those within the archdiocese who train our altar servers are aware of the amazing program called Our Lady’s Knights of the Altar that Brother Joseph of the Friars of the Immaculate, has devised. This past summer I witnessed one of their knighthood ceremonies at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wisconsin, where Brother Joseph is on staff, and I also had the chance to spend an afternoon with the altar servers and their families at a picnic outing which Brother Joseph held on the grounds near the cave below the Shrine there. What a great group of boys (elementary through college age), several who are planning to become priests, and others already studying for the priesthood. There’s an unbelievable number of vocations springing from this effort. I have provided here some sites to introduce you to Our Lady’s Knights of the Altar.

      http://airmaria.com/2012/08/27/video-general-news-15/
      http://www.knightsofourlady.com/
      http://www.marymediatrix.com/site-communities/la-crosse-wi.html (Brother Joseph is pictured on the far right)

  2. Gabriel says:

    EXCELLENT ANALYSIS!!!!

    Thank you for sharing!

  3. [...] An Inspiring and Beautiful Video for Altar Servers – Msgr. Charles Pope, DC Archdiocese [...]

  4. Donna says:

    This is beautiful! I’m having my 11-year old – an alter server – watch this. Recently our parish had a special ceremony for alter servers who had finished their training… my heart was filled with joy!!

  5. Joseph says:

    Just for your reflection, here is the prayer of blessing for the Clerical Cassock from the 1962 Roman Missal, translated by Fr. Weller:

    O Lord Jesus Christ, Who hast condescended to cloth thyself with our wounded nature, we beg thee of thine immeasurable goodness to bless + this garment which ecclesiastical superiors have sanctioned for clerics, as a token of the innocence and humility which should be theirs. Laying aside the vanity of secular garb, may these thy servants (or this thy servant) wear the cassock , and in so doing may they (he) likewise put on thee, and be recognized as men (a man) dedicated to thy ministry. Who livest and reignest, God, in eternity. Amen.

  6. Greg says:

    Msgr.,

    Thank you again for the beautiful video. My only comment would be that the attitude of the altar server depicted in the video should be the attitude of each and every parishioner attending Mass. Why should the altar server be the only one truly participating in the Mass with hands in prayer position, nice, respectful clothes, “invested in the Mass” by praying the rosary each day? We should all be doing what the altar server is doing. Imagine how few distractions there would be at Mass if everyone attending had this same disposition!

  7. RichardC says:

    As ‘Amen!’ is said three times to show highest emphasis: ‘Amen! Amen! Amen!’, so is the cassock to the Roman collar.–and the Roman collar itself is awesome.

  8. Gabriel says:

    Will be using this as an instructional for my altar boys as well as for my CCD class. What an excellent resource. Thanks!

  9. Nathan says:

    Great analysis of three, sadly, contentious points. I pray I’ll live to see the day these three elements of historic Catholic worship are universally re-established. Thanks for the post and the video, Msgr!

  10. Rick DeLano says:

    This young man is a blessed man indeed.

    While I will always seek out and assist at the Traditional Latin Mass, may I say that a Novus Ordo Mass celebrated like this cannot possibly be called “evil” by any Catholic.

    It is impossible that the SSPX is right when it calls this Mass “evil”.

    In this they are as certainly wrong, as are the modernist heretics who insist that salvation can be found outside the Catholic Church.

  11. Sherry says:

    This is a wonderful video. We were very blessed to have reverent altar servers at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Rhode Island. Their reverence carried over to the congregation. Thank you for showing the video.

  12. Emmanuel says:

    Finally, some recognition for altar boys . God bless them and may St. John Berchman pray for them.

  13. Romulus says:

    We badly need more male altar servers, especially adult men. I wish priests would see how critical this is, from so many points of view, for the New Evangelization.

  14. J says:

    Just watched it with my kids. When it was over, my daughter, 2, said, “Can we watch another one?”

  15. J Maier says:

    As a lad I really didn’t “get it” but now years later I am ever so grateful for those beautiful moments so many years ago.

  16. Agapatos says:

    After thinking about it a long time, it seemed to me that female altar-serving was a natural outgrowth of the mass turned around “Versus Populum.” When the priest and servers face the people, it WILL be more personal, in lots of ways. Under these circumstances, it is not an issue of WHAT you are doing anymore, so much as an issue of WHO you are (boy / girl / black / white / hispanic / family-connected / independent / extrovert / introvert, etc.) . Moreover, since congregants are seeing faces now, not backs of heads, they even desire to see female faces, which are, after all, more aesthetically pleasing. By contrast when the priest and servers are facing away (as in a mass “Versus orientem”), you WANT to see something purely functional . . . short hair and precise, ordered movements, not lax posture, or dangling hair to distract you. So precise, functional, even militaristic rubrics call for men, but an extra-friendly, communal, and personal atmosphere calls for women. These two diametrically opposite spirits/attitudes within the Mass–one divine-oriented, the other neighbor-oriented–each bring with them a boatload of accompanying moods, attitudes, and expectations which they elicit in the people. One says: “I’ve got a sacred job to do.” The other says, “We are in this together.” The real question is, how can we strike a happy medium, to promote them both?

  17. Pam H. says:

    Fr. Bart!!! He brought my husband into the Church!

  18. susanna says:

    We have the very best altar boys, 12 or 14 at traditional high Mass counting the little torchbearers. They are awesome. They add so much to the reverence and dignity of the liturgy. Their mothers must be proud of them.

  19. Maria says:

    Excellent video. I’m a proponent of all male altar servers to help develop vocation awareness in boys AND girls.

  20. john says:

    Absolutely good and holy. I am speechless.

  21. Patt says:

    Been instructing and scheduling our Altar Servers (boys age 10 and up) for over 20 years and have stressed many of the points on the video. The dress code, hand folding, reverence are so important to serving well. People have pointed out how respectful our servers are in their role–and of course–I hear about their mistakes…

  22. poverello says:

    A wonderful and encouraging presentation. I will send this to my daughter to have it on hand for my grandsons when they reach the appropriate age. Perhaps similar video “encouragements” could be made for Lectors, Extraordinary Ministers and — dare I say — members of the Assembly!

    Thank you for your continuing ministry, Monsignor.

  23. cONNIE says:

    AMAZING VIDEO WOW! This young man is truly a very fine and outstanding Altar Server this young man truly spoke from his heart and the depths of his soul he truly knows aabout GOD’S GRACE AND KINDNESS every Altar Server should view this Video This fine and outstanding young man may Prayfully one day have his own discernment call from our LORD JESUS CHRIST to continue to serve our LORD so very very well Thank You so very much for sharing this Reverant Video May God Continue to bless this fine and outstanding young man Amen

  24. Elizabeth says:

    What a beautiful video. I wish all pastors of Novus Ordo parishes would watch that, listen to that, pray about that, and make the change back to tradition. Enough of girl-altar-boys.

    The altar (and altar servers) is for boys and men. Not because us girls and women are “less”. It’s not about US! It’s about Our Lord and His Holy Mass, His priests, His sacrifice. For that we need priests, holy priests, and young men and boys who are encouraged and allowed to hear the quiet voice inside them if God calls them.

  25. Maggie Goff says:

    I would so love to see more reverence. This was beautiful.

  26. Chris says:

    Our late parish priest refused to allow my then 10 year old daughter to serve at Mass. She was very hurt and now aged 29 has not attended Mass in many years. Not a good move on his part.

    • Yes, there are pastoral issues involved in such decisions. In my current parish I inherited a server program with both sexes and would not interfere with that since it would cause pastoral problems and unsettle the faithful. In the end pastors have to make local decisions about this and what is best for the parish in question.

      • Debbie White says:

        Gabriel (the young man who made this video) is the head of adult education at our parish. He makes great videos for Life Teen, young adults, Catholic education. He is a wonderful asset to our Parish and for Holy Mother Church. To see more of his videos search True Faith TV on youtube. Please pray for his ministry.

    • Dave says:

      So she took her football and went home?

    • Patt says:

      IF she did not get her way in this then I doubt seriously that that was her only issue for leaving the church—

  27. teomatteo says:

    OK, what to do? My 12 year old son and i attend the ‘latin mass’ and i think it would be good if him to be an altar server. He is quite shy and can tell that its complicated. Hence he doesn’t want to do it. So, do i kinda make him/convince him to do it a couple of times (torchbearer) and then He can cont. of not? I didn’t serve cuz i was shy and intimidated. Wish someone had got me to do it.

    • Ann says:

      Have you asked someone involved with training the servers about your son? They might be willing to take him under their wing. Or what about other boys who serve? Maybe an older boy can work with him, or rather befriend him, help train him etc. If other servers take an interest in him it might help. He still might not want to serve. At that point, I think you have to let him be. Don’t forget to pray about it.

  28. Roger says:

    An excellent video and brings up a topic that’s close to me. I was an alter server and a fell away from the church (long story). When I came back, I noticed about 90% of the servers are girls in the church I attend. I’ve read on this topic and believe that for this reason, it has contributed to the decline of young men wanting to be priests. Our church has not produced one young man in 25 years to be a priest. The alter server is the apprenticeship to the priesthood and the bishops need to address this issue.

  29. Rev. Fr. Rolly C. Petronio says:

    We have good altar servers, well behaved. The problem is that the Liturgy Committee has never thought of improving the situation. It’s just what goes is okay. This is my problem. This should be the way and there is no other way to encourage our altar servers. They are just wonderful young men who need a little bit more of a dignity at the altar.

  30. Vijaya says:

    So many of us do not realize how important Mass is (the most important thing of all) and the narrator does a beautiful job of explaining his role. We watched this a couple of time with the kids and it spoke to them in a way I never could. Thank you.

  31. Court says:

    In our diocese we formed an order of altar servers compromised of all men 18+. We augment server programs at parishes. Our charism is to elevate the solemnity and honor given by us and in turn draw the congregation deeper into the mystery. Through disciplined practice and uniformed way of serving and vesting we allow the celebrant to pray the Mass while we coordinate and serve the Mas and the Lord’s holy priests.

  32. karyn says:

    What a beautiful video. My son has just started serving and while they are teaching him the duties of the job, they aren’t teaching him all of the “little” yet significant things like holding your hands in prayer position and bowing before the tabernacle when moving back and forth. So I have been trying to teach him these things myself – it’s tricky, though, since I was not raised Catholic, I entered into a pretty liberal church (the only one around in our neck of the woods) and I’m a woman and never served on the altar.

    Some people have expressed a preference for adult males to serve. I sort of prefer the boys. While the men seem more reverent, since they, presumably “get it”, I like to see the boys serving because I imagine some of them becoming priests some day (perhaps even my own son!).

  33. Charlene says:

    The least our Church can do is allow women on the altar as Eucharistic Ministers and girls as altar girls. If we are prohibited from these, we will begin to believe that our Church does not want us, except to clean up after clergy, and do the house/office type of work. That would be a fine how-do-you-do! I never thought much about women priests, but in light of the push against girls and women on the altar, I now think women should be priests. We certainly would no longer have these idiotic discussions. Times have changed and we have to change with them. Tossing out women with the bath water will fly no longer. We have a right to be heard in OUR CHURCH, instead of being dismissed out of hand! And I suspect that more will be heard from us!

    • Yes, here is one view. Perhaps each parish can decide its own way?

    • Court says:

      Charlene, I hear this from time to time. First, at least in my diocese, the prorogative of our Bishop is to have Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion(EMHC) and girls be altar servers. The altar server role is a development of the order of acolyte which was a minor order for priest held only by males. As time progressed and the lack of male acolytes the Church in her wisdom opened the door to Altar servers to fill the roll. Which I think was a beautiful time where it was tradition to have men serving along side boys and/or their sons. In my position inside our order of acolytes most of my time is spent planning and preparing for the Mass, with only about 10% or less being the actual Mass. I spend many hours with loving care to wash the linens and then iron them so they are just right for the Holy Sacrifice. I do not see in my humble opinion a push to remove girls from the altar. I do see the Church being whole she is and that is Catholic. With men only being priests this was established by Jesus Christ in the 12 apostle, Jesus chose only men in a time when there were many women priestess in other religions. Since this was established by Christ, the Church can not go against Christ. It would no different then the Church deciding that it would do away with teachings of Christ. My suggestion is to get involved at your local parish, women play a key role in parish council, and other programs that are not cleaning up. The most perfect created being was a woman, Mary, the new Eve. Quis Ut Deus.

    • Wayne says:

      Lord have mercy… and all this time I thought the Mass was about Christ and His Church… I guess I never got the memo that its about allowing everybody to do something.

  34. Epic Bob says:

    Cool.

  35. David Dusek says:

    Thank you for producing this video. I found the reverence, dressing neat, and showing how one behaves in the presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist to be very refreshing. Being a 61-year old altar server and getting a late start at this (my wife and I came into the Catholic Church 5 years ago), being reverent goes along so well with what we have learned about the Eucharist. Casual attitudes around the altar and the chancel I believe do a dis-service to our Lord.

    I agree with the earlier writer: “Perhaps similar video “encouragements” could be made for Lectors, Extraordinary Ministers and — dare I say — members of the Assembly!”

    And praying the rosary — very important. It helps set the tone and the proper attitude.

    • Michael Ballinger says:

      Thanks for your post. I am 54 years of age and consider it an extreme honor to serve at the altar. I was raised a Baptist and became Catholic at age 24, I came home. Being a server only enhances my life and makes me better aware of how I should live my life and carry myself. Being a server is 24/7, not just an hour each Sunday.

  36. Tom says:

    I am an alter server my self I am 13 years old.Me and my bother are one of the best alter serves in are church it is an honor to serve for God and the Preists.This is a great video.

  37. Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz says:

    My sons serve at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis., where Friar Joseph (of the Friars of the Immaculate who staff the Shrine) has started Our Lady’s Knights of the Altar (http://www.knightsofourlady.com/). He’s got all kinds of things set up for parishes to do something similar. The whole reason behind it is to help make the altar servers holy. Part of this is not just serving at the Shrine, but also developing a camaraderie, which is really great. Check out the photos and videos here: http://www.knightsofourlady.com/galleries/001/index.html.

  38. Irene says:

    A very inspiring video for me.

    • Harry says:

      Being an Altar server is a great responsibility but this video has surely has made me compassionate towards my goal of being more faithful to God and yes the rosary does make you a better Altar server i really am deeply inspired by this video

  39. fred says:

    that’s GabiAfterHours on YouTube – you’re welcome

  40. Julia Ferguson says:

    I am from Australia and found this quite by chance. What a wonderful video. Well done! There is definitely not enough reverence these days. All of us can take this to heart. I agree that people involved in other ministries could benefit from seeing this production. I have sent the link to this page to our Server Trainer. I am sure he will agree with it. I am very close to two 11 year old boys in our parish who will love this, too, so they will get the link, too.
    We Catholics have a beautiful church and we need to preserve it for the future, which doesn’t mean we should throw out the Novis Ordo or or the Latin Mass. I get a bit peeved at the way people on both “sides” go on about how their Mass of choice is the “right” one. There is a place for the old and the new and we need both to cater for us all.
    Prayer – Dear Heavenly Father, please help us to live in harmony with each other regarding the way the Mass is celebrated worldwide. Who are any of us to deny others the privilege of celebrating Jesus’ Last Supper, because it is not the old Latin Mass? Help us all to see that there is a place for both forms of the Mass and constantly renew us in our fidelity to our faith. AMEN.

  41. Leah Cassulo says:

    I am training our Altar Servers at our School/Church. I found this video so beautifully done. Narrator covered so many details that I will relate to our new altar servers. It is an awesome responsibility and this video correctly portrays it.

    The Catholic Church is so rich with tradition and hopefully this video will keep inspiring young boys and girls to partake of such a wonderful experience. It was unfortunate when I was growing up that they did not allow girls to serve…who knows I probably would have entered the religious life. I felt so apart from what was going on up there on the altar. This is a new beginning. THANK YOU!

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