The Mass is without a doubt one of the most privileged moments in the life of a Christian. It is there that we hear the Word of God proclaimed once again among the community of the faithful. It is there that we gather as a community around the altar of sacrifice, offering ourselves and our intentions and uniting them to the one true sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross. It is there that we receive His very Body and Blood—the “source and summit of the Christian life”—which makes us united to God and to each other, giving us the strength and grace to live our mission as disciples in the world.
In the reforms to the liturgy called for by the Second Vatican Council, the council fathers explicitly stated that their aim was to consider before all else the “full and active participation by all the people.” It’s a phrase which has been oft-misunderstood in the fifty years since the close of the council. But primarily, this “full and active participation” consists of every individual offering their entire selves in the Mass—by engaging themselves in the Mass in every aspect: praying with the priest, singing, and, where appropriate, serving the liturgy through various roles.
One of those ministries of service—and a privileged one at that—is altar serving. An altar server is entrusted with serving the priest in the act of sacrifice. This entails holding the book during the various prayers offered by the priest, helping to prepare the altar, receiving the offertory gifts alongside the priest or deacon, and carrying the cross, incense, or candles during the processions into and out of the Church. But more than the mere responsibilities of the altar server, the role is privileged because of its proximity and importance to the Mass. Altar servers have a unique opportunity to serve directly the Body and Blood of Christ, to be present in the sanctuary for the sacrifice of Calvary, and to aid the priest as alter Christus (an “other Christ”).
Our Cathedral parish has a faithful corps of men and women, girls and boys who assist the priests and deacons at the altar, and for that we are all very grateful. Nevertheless, we invite anyone who has considered this ministry in the past or who is currently interested to come forward and join our team. This new year of God’s grace is a perfect opportunity to offer your full and active participation in the liturgy by joining this ministry— or any of our other opportunities to sing, pray, and serve.
Fr. Michael Friedel is a Parochial Vicar at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.