Pope John Paul II to Gathering of Altar Servers
On August 12, 2001, Pope John Paul II addressed the one thousandth audience of his pontificate. The audience was attended by more than 2,000 young men and women altar servers to whom the Holy Father addressed a substantial portion of his remarks.
Dear altar servers! Yesterday you crossed St. Peter΄s Square in a long procession to be near the basilica΄s altar of Confession. By so doing, you prolonged in some way the path that the youth of the world began in the Holy Year. The motto of your pilgrimage to the Eternal City, "Toward a New World," is a sign of your willingness to take your Christian vocation seriously.
I greet you affectionately, dear young people, and I am happy that this meeting has taken place. In particular, I thank Auxiliary Bishop Martin Gächter, president of Coetus Internationalis Ministrantium, who has spoken such cordial words to me on your behalf. With special joy I address the altar servers of German-speaking countries, who numerically constitute the largest group. It is beautiful that so many young Christians have come from Germany!
Your commitment to the altar is not only a duty, but a great honor, a genuine holy service. In connection with this service, I wish to propose some reflections to you.
The altar server΄s clothing is very special. It recalls the garment that each one puts on when he is welcomed in Jesus Christ in the community. I am referring to the baptismal gown, whose profound meaning St. Paul clarifies: "For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ" (Galatians 3:27).
Even if you, dear altar servers, can no longer fit into your baptismal gown, you have put on [the clothing] of altar servers. Yes, baptism is the point of departure of your "authentic liturgical service," which places you next to your bishops, priests and deacons (see Sacrosanctum Concilium, No. 29).
The altar server occupies a privileged place in the liturgical celebration. The altar server presents himself to a community and experiences firsthand that Jesus Christ is present and active in every liturgical act. Jesus is present when the community comes together to pray.
and render praise to God. Jesus is present in the Word of sacred Scripture. Jesus is present above all in the Eucharist under the signs of bread and wine. He acts through the priest who, in the person of Christ, celebrates the holy Mass and administers the sacraments.
Therefore, in the liturgy, you are much more than simple "helpers of the parish priest." Above all, you are servers of Jesus Christ, of the eternal High Priest. Thus, you, altar servers, are called in particular to be young friends of Jesus. Be determined to go deeper and to cultivate this friendship with him. You will discover that in Jesus you have found a true friend for life.
The altar server often has a candlestick in his hand. How can one not think of that which Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount: "You are the light of the world" (Matthew 5:14). Your service cannot be limited to the inside of a church. It must shine in everyday life: in school, in the family, and in different realms of society. Because, whoever wishes to serve Jesus Christ inside a church must be his witness everywhere.
Dear young people! Your contemporaries wait for the real "light of the world" (see John 1:9). Do not hold your candlestick only inside a church, but carry the light of the Gospel to all those who are in darkness and are living through a difficult time in their life.
I have spoken of friendship with Jesus. How happy I would be if something more sprang from this friendship! How beautiful it would be if some of you were to discover a vocation to the priesthood! Jesus Christ has urgent need of youths who will be at his disposition with generosity and no reservations. Moreover, might not the Lord also call one or two of you girls to embrace the consecrated life to serve the Church and the brothers and sisters? Even for those who wish to be united in marriage, the service of altar servers teaches that a real union must always include readiness for reciprocal and free service.
Guidelines on Altar Servers
The Secretariat for the Liturgy frequently receives inquiries concerning the vesture, recruitment and training of Altar Servers. In June, 1994 the Committee on the Liturgy provided guidelines on Altar Servers which are reprinted here for the benefit of our readers. The suggested guidelines may be used as a basis for developing diocesan guidelines.
- Although institution into the ministry of acolyte is reserved to lay men, the diocesan bishop may permit the liturgical functions of the instituted acolyte to be carried out by altar servers, men and women, boys and girls. Such persons may carry out all the functions listed in nos. 98-100 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal.
The determination that women and girls may function as servers in the liturgy should be made by the bishop on the diocesan level so that there might be a uniform diocesan policy.
- No distinction should be made between the functions carried out in the sanctuary by men and boys and those carried out by women and girls. The term "altar boys" should be replaced by "servers". The term "server" should be used for those who carry out the functions of the instituted acolyte.
- Servers should be mature enough to understand their responsibilities and to carry them out well and with appropriate reverence. They should have already received holy communion for the first time and normally receive the eucharist whenever they participate in the liturgy.
- Servers should receive proper formation before they begin to function. The formation should include instruction on the Mass and its parts and their meaning, the various objects used in the liturgy (their names and use), and the various functions of the server during the Mass and other liturgical celebrations. Servers should also receive appropriate guidance on maintaining proper decorum and attire when serving Mass and other functions.
- Since the role of server is integral to the normal celebration of the Mass, at least one server should assist the priest. On Sundays and other more important occasions, two or more servers should be employed to carry out the various functions normally entrusted to these ministers.
- Servers should normally be vested. This is within the tradition of the Church and prevents difficulties regarding appropriate dress for these ministers. All servers should wear the same liturgical vesture.
- Servers carry the cross, the processional candles, hold the book for the priest celebrant 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, assist the priest celebrant and deacon as necessary.
- Servers respond to the prayers and dialogues of the priest along with the congregation. They also join in singing the hymns and other chants of the liturgy.
- Servers should be seated in a place from which they can easily assist the priest celebrant and deacon. The place next to the priest is normally reserved for the deacon.
- Servers may not distribute holy communion unless they have been mandated for this function by the bishop.
- The Order for the Blessing of Altar Servers, Sacristans, Musicians, and Ushers (Book of Blessings, nos. 1847-1870) may be used before servers first begin to function in this ministry.
Liturgical Calendar 2003
The USCCB Secretariat for the Liturgy has prepared the 2003 edition of the liturgical calendar for dioceses of the United States of America. The calendar lists each day's celebration, rank, liturgical color, Lectionary citations and Psalm cycle.
Previously, the information in the annual calendar prepared by the Secretariat was made available only to commercial publishers of other calendars and similar publications in the United States. However, for the past several years it has been published in an inexpensive format and made available to anyone who wishes a copy.
The Liturgical Calendar 2003 (81/2 x 11", 3 hole punched and shrink-wrapped) can be purchased by writing to: Sister Clelia Cecchetti, SP, USCCB Secretariat for the Liturgy, 3211 4th Street, NE, Washington D.C. 20017.
All orders must be accompanied by a check made out to "Committee on the Liturgy" in the amount of $7.00 per copy, covering printing, postage, and handling. An electronic file of the calendar is available in WordPerfect 9.0 format for $10.
Father Martin Completes Term as Associate Director
Father Kenneth J. Martin, Associate Director of the USCCB Secretariat for the Liturgy since December, 2000, completed his service to the Conference on June 30, 2001. During his time at the Secretariat Father Martin completed the final editing of the Ritual de Exequias Cristianas and several other Spanish language liturgical projects. The Committee and its Secretariat are grateful to Father Martin for his contributions and assure him of our continuing prayers.
Publication of the Lectionary for Mass
Licenses for the revised Lectionary for Mass have now been issued by the USCCB and publication is anticipated before the first-use date of Ash Wednesday, 2002.
For the sake of clarity, the terminology used to refer to the various books which make up this Lectionary has been refined. Up until now, it has been customary to refer to the Lectionary for Mass as consisting of two volumes: the first (previously referred to as volume I) consisting of readings for Sundays and Solemnities, and the second (previously referred to as volume II) consisting of all other readings (weekdays, sanctoral, ritual Masses, etc.).
Due to the large amount of text, what was previously referred to as volume II will be published in three separate books, bringing to four the total number of volumes in the Lectionary for Mass.
Volume I, first published in 1998, consists of readings for Sundays and Solemnities.
Volume II will include Week I of the Proper of Seasons for Weekdays, as well as the complete Propers and Commons of the Saints.
Volume III will include Week II of the Proper of Seasons for Weekdays, as well as the complete Propers and Commons of the Saints.
Volume IV will include Ritual Masses and Masses for Various Needs, including Masses for the Holy Church, for public needs, in various public circumstances, for various needs and Commons of the Saints. Volume IV will also include Votive Masses and Masses for the Dead.
National Pastoral Musicians: Twenty-Five Years of Service
From July 2-6, 2001, more than 4,000 liturgical musicians gathered in Washington D.C. to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of National Pastoral Musicians. The event also marked the retirement of NPM's founding president, Father Virgil Funk, and the beginning of Dr. J. Michael McMahon's service as NPM's new president. Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on the Liturgy, sent the greetings of the Committee to the NPM convention in the following letter:
To the Participants in the Twenty-Fifth Annual Meeting of National Pastoral Musicians:
A little over twenty years ago, Father Virgil Funk wrote to the chairman of the NCCB Committee on the Liturgy, Archbishop John Quinn. It was seven days before the birth of a new national organization entitled, National Pastoral Musicians and Fr. Funk was ready to offer a practical and pastorally supportive vision of what Church music needed to be. He said:
It is our intention to bring together interested parish priests and parish musicians to focus on the problems facing us in the area of Church music. Almost universally one hears the complaint that we must improve Church music; my experience has been that usually everyone blames everyone else: i.e. the musicians talk about uncooperative pastors, pastors speak of temperamental musicians, both speak of the need for episcopal leadership. The approach of NPM will be definitely focused on parishes, all sizes, both rural and urban.Twenty-five years later, I am pleased to congratulate both the author of that letter and the membership of National Pastoral Musicians on translating these noble aspirations into reality. And now, on the occasion of his retirement, we will miss Father Funk, who for a quarter century has done so much to shepherd NPM and to foster a song of joyous praise in the hearts of every priest and parishioner in this country. At the same time we are all consoled that NPM will continue into its next quarter century to nourish and sustain all the ministries of liturgical music which build up our Church.
For twenty-five years Father Funk and NPM have labored at this good work. It is the work first described by Saint Ignatius of Antioch,who before his martyrdom called us all to unity in the great sacrificium laudis. "In the harmony of your minds and hearts," he wrote, " let Jesus Christ be hymned. Make of yourselves a choir, so that with one voice and with one mind, taking the key-note of God, you may sing in unison with one voice through Jesus Christ to the Father, and he may hear you and recognize you as members of his Son."
Through your good work, may Jesus Christ be hymned!
The USCCB Latin/English edition of Liturgiam authenticam will be available in the near future.