Why It’s Great to Be an Altar Server
Not sure if being an altar server is a good choice for your child? Erin Carelse gives five reasons to consider encouraging your child for this meaningful role.
With a child’s busy weekend schedules—all the sports, cultural and social activities—being an altar server has to compete.
We know the benefits that extramural activities promise, so what does serving have to offer?
Serving during a church service or Mass can be a gift to a child, not an obligation. It should be seen as a special honour and a great privilege.
Your child will do and learn things that others may never, and see the Mass in ways that others don’t
Pope John Paul II, in an inspiring address to altar servers in 2001, encouraged them to understand the responsibility they have in this service to the Church.
“The altar server has a privileged place in liturgical celebrations. Those who serve at Mass present themselves to a community. They experience from close at hand that Jesus Christ is present and active in every liturgy,” John Paul said.
“In the liturgy, you are far more than mere ‘helpers of the parish priest’. Above all, you are servants of Jesus Christ, the eternal High Priest.”
Any child who has received the sacraments of baptism and First Holy Communion in the Catholic Church can be an altar server. It is a great opportunity for them to grow in their faith and become more active in the Church.
Just as you involve your child in activities at home — whether it’s setting the table for supper or tidying up the kitchen together after—inviting your child to join in activities at church, such as becoming an altar server, will help them increase in skill and interest.
The sanctuary is very sacred, and serving there requires the utmost respect. To be an altar server requires discipline and conscientiousness.
Your child will have to pay more attention to the whole Mass to help remember sequences, and will also learn to follow instructions. Altar servers have to pay attention as to when to give the wine and hosts, ring the bell, or process back to the entrance of the church.
The discipline and attention to detail which a child learns as an altar sever provides valuable skills they need to become responsible adults.
Understanding the Mass
Altar servers assist the priest and deacon during Mass.
As an altar server your child will begin to learn the names of objects used during Mass, like the thurible, cruet, ablution cup, chalice, vestment pieces, and other liturgy-related terms.
Altar servers carry the cross and the processional candles; hold the book for the priest when he is not at the altar; carry the incense and censer; present the bread, wine and water to the priest during the preparation of the gifts, or assist him when he receives the gifts from the people; wash the hands of the priest; and assist the priest celebrant and deacon as necessary.
When appropriate, a server may also ring the bell as a signal to the faithful.
It makes all the symbols of the Mass so much more understandable and interesting.
Fostering a future vocation
Another reason to become an altar server is that it helps your child to discern their vocation better, whether they choose a religious vocation, one of married life, or of some form of service.
Every vocation helps to further their faith life and leads to a greater and deeper understanding and relationship with God.
If a religious vocation isn’t something your child chooses, being an altar server might encourage them to want to do more in the church, like becoming a reader.
Leadership and life skills
Serving on the altar is a great place to start building skills.
Altar servers learn skills such as communication and teamwork, and gain in self-confidence.
Some children may start off a little anxious but often this changes, and parents notice their children taking pride in what they do, and in turn, this encourages them to mentor younger servers.
It’s a great way to build friendships and self-esteem.
Being an altar server is a meaningful way for your child to stay connected with their faith, and it makes learning about their religion more “fun”. Reading about something or even watching something doesn’t compare to actual hands-on learning experience. To participate offers something more.
In discussing the option of a child becoming an altar server, choices involving faith should never be forced; rather have an open discussion with your child.
And if the above-mentioned motivations aren’t enough, you could always let the reluctant child know that an altar server always has the best seat in the house!