Altar server training manual for st. Joseph’s catholic church last revised January 23, 2016 introduction


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  • Don’t forget to sign in at the white binder in the sacristy. If you do not sign in, you may not receive credit for serving at a Mass for which you were scheduled.


    Lighting and Extinguishing Candles

    1. Use a gas lighter to light the candle lighter in the sacristy. When lighting the candles, ALWAYS use the candle lighter. NEVER use a gas lighter.

    2. Walk onto the platform at a moderate pace to the LEFT altar candle and light it (the candle nearest the sacristy).

      1. If there is an advent wreath or Easter candle, light it before the LEFT altar candle.

      2. If there are multiple candles on each side of the altar, start from the innermost candle on the LEFT side and work your way outward.

    3. Light the RIGHT altar candle (the candle nearest the ambo) next, genuflecting toward the Tabernacle when you pass the center of the altar. Again, if there are multiple candles, light the innermost RIGHT candle first and work your way outward.

    4. Extinguish the lighter by pulling the taper down. Genuflect when passing the Tabernacle, and return to the sacristy.

    5. When extinguishing candles after Mass, repeat steps 1-3 above exactly except in the reverse order. That is, first extinguish the RIGHT candle(s), then the LEFT candle(s), and finally the Advent wreath or Easter candle. When extinguishing, begin with the outermost altar candles and work your way inward.

    6. If possible, two servers can light/extinguish candles together. The additional server walks in front and removes the glass candle covers for the server with the candle lighter.

    Replacing Tapers in the Candle Lighter

    1. Tapers are located in a drawer in the cabinet containing the sacred vessels. Use a pair of scissors to scratch about an inch of wax from an end of the taper. DO THIS OVER A TRASH CAN!

    2. Separate the two strands of string. Push the candle lighter switch all the way up and tie the string through the hole.

    3. Carefully pull the taper into the candle lighter. Hold the candle lighter upside down or have another server hold it so that it doesn’t break as you are pulling it in.

    4. Make sure there is enough taper left in the candle lighter after Mass. Servers may not have enough time to replace one before the next Mass.


    1. When the lector says “We now take up the collection for the support of our parish” (or when directed by the MC), the escorts will walk across the platform and down the RIGHT steps, bow profoundly toward the altar, and then process down the aisle side by side.

    2. When the gifts are ready, you may begin to process down the aisle. Walk together at a moderate pace down the aisle. The aisle is very long, so you don’t need to wait for the priest to leave the altar before beginning.

    3. Look straight ahead as you process with your hands folded in a prayerful position. Don’t look around.

    4. When you reach the front row (marked by the black line), both escorts make a head bow together to the priest before separating to stand at either side.

    5. After the priest has received the gifts, head bow with him to the gift bearers.

    6. Ascend the stairs on the side of the altar that you are on.


    1. When everyone has returned to the platform after receiving the gifts, 2 servers need to get the lavabo ready. The server on the left will hold the bowl in his left hand and the ewer in his right, while the server on the right will hold the manuterge at the corners and let it hang down.

    2. After preparing the lavabo, stand at the end of the credence table nearest the priest’s chair. This way you will be nearer the altar and not blocking the credence table.

    3. Watch the priest closely. He will say a prayer over the bread, then the wine. After he sets his chalice down, he will bow toward to altar and say a prayer.

    4. While he is bowing and saying his prayer, start walking to him. Stop at the end of the altar. When he has finished praying you will wash his hands. He should not have to walk over to where you are. Don’t be afraid to use too much water when pouring.

    5. When finished, place the ewer, bowl, and manuterge back exactly where they were before and return to your seats.

    6. When the Extraordinary Ministers begin to return to the platform, the servers will take the lavabo as before and stand near the Tabernacle (see diagram below). When finished, return the ewer, bowl, and manuterge to their place.

    7. If there is a deacon, Fr. David will come to you to have his hands purified. If there is not deacon, another server will take the water cruet to Fr. David at the altar.

    Vessel Bearer

    1. When the lector says “We now take up the collection for the support of our parish” (or when directed by the MC), you may begin to take vessels to the altar. The vessels should be arranged on the credence table before Mass so that you can easily take them up in order.

    2. Vessels are carried to the altar in the following order:

      1. Missal with bookstand (sometimes the deacon/priest will take this to the altar himself); (NO BOOKSTAND NEEDED FOR FR. DAVID)

      2. Priest’s chalice

      3. 2 ancillary chalices

      4. Last ancillary chalice with purificators

      5. Water cruet (leave cap upright on the credence table)

      6. Pyx (if on credence table; open before placing on altar)

      7. Empty ciborium (if on credence table, bring after Sign of the Peace

    3. After receiving the gifts, the ciborium and wine flagon will be placed on the altar. Make sure that all vessel handles face the priest so that he can easily use them.

    4. When the priest/deacon is finished with the water cruet and wine flagon, go remove them from the altar as soon as possible.

    5. Extraordinary Ministers will usually return the ancillary chalices to the credence table. Ciboria will be returned to the altar, however, and will need to be removed to the credence table when the priest/deacon is finished with them.

    Bell Ringer

    1. After the Sanctus when everyone kneels, the bell ringer will kneel next to the credence table.

    2. Quietly slide the bell out from under the credence table. After the priest says the words of consecration over the Blessed Sacrament (“ … THIS IS MY BODY, WHICH WILL BE GIVEN UP FOR YOU”), ring the bell three times. Each ring should be about 1-3 seconds long, crisp, and distinct from the others. (Note: Fr. David will elevate the host briefly in each direction; try to synchronize the rings with his movements).

    3. Either hold the bell still in your hand or gently set it down. Do not set the bell down immediately; let the ringing sound linger. While holding the bell, your empty hand should be held flat against your chest.

    4. Bow profoundly when the priest genuflects.

    5. Ring the bell as in step 2 after the priest consecrates the Precious Blood (“ … DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME”).

    6. Bow again profoundly when the priest genuflects.

    7. Quietly set the bell down and slide it under the credence table.

    8. Note: sometimes a priest will want the bell to be rung before the consecration at the Epiclesis. To do this, ring the bell ONCE when the priest extends his hands over the chalice and paten. DO NOT DO THIS WITH FR. DAVID.


    1. The crucifer will always be in front of the procession unless there is a thurifer. Be sure to hold the cross high enough so that everyone can see it!

    2. Line up to process down the aisle in the back of the nave. When the choir begins to sing (not when the music begins), the crucifer will being the procession. When Fr. David celebrates Mass, the corpus should face you so that the congregation can see it as you process.

    3. Walk down the center of the aisle at a moderately slow pace. Whatever you do, do not rush down the aisle. It is better to walk too slowly than to walk too fast.

    4. Upon reaching the first pew of the nave, walk diagonally so that you end up directly in front of the far RIGHT altar candle. Wait for everyone else to line up in front of the altar.

    5. When the priest bows or genuflects, make a moderate bow. Turn to your left and process up the stairs to the crucifix stand.

    6. After the final blessing, the choir will begin to sing. Immediately go to remove the crucifix from its stand and walk to the top of the RIGHT stairs. When the other servers and priest are ready, you may begin to walk down the stairs.

    7. Line up exactly where you did at the beginning of Mass: in front of the RIGHT altar candle. After everyone has reverenced the altar, turn to your right (so that you see the priest) and begin to process slowly down the aisle.

    8. Process down to the very end of the aisle so that you pass everyone with the crucifix. At the end, turn left and return to the sacristy.

    9. REMEMBER: until you reach the sacristy, you are still in procession. This means that you should walk orderly and solemnly.



    1. To simplify things, the candle bearer on the TABERNACLE’S RIGHT is the right candle bearer, or RC. The one on the TABERNACLE’S LEFT is the left candle bearer, or LC. This will allow us to use consist notation and avoid confusion. The RC and LC will bear the same candle throughout Mass. It is important that the candle bearers perform all of their actions smoothly, orderly, and in unison.

    2. During procession, the candle bearers will position themselves immediately behind and on either side of the crucifer.

    3. Candles should be held with the inside hand near the base, the outside hand near the knob or midpoint. The dish for collecting wax should be at eye level.

    4. Upon reaching the first pew, the candle bearers separate. The RC will stand to the crucifer’s left (with some space in between), the LC will go far left with space between him and the LEFT altar candle. When everyone has lined up, the candlebearers should be on the outside.

    5. The RC will go up the RIGHT stairs, the LC the LEFT stairs. Both candle bearers will go to the altar and SIMULTANEOUSLY place their candles on the altar. They will then meet behind the altar at the center, bow profoundly to the altar, and go to their seats.

    6. As soon as the Alleluia begins, both candle bearers go to their candles (the RC walks across the front of the altar). They will pick up their candles in unison.

    7. The priest/deacon will reverence the altar and pick up the Gospel. When he begins to walk to the ambo, the RC and LC will walk with him and will position themselves on either side of the ambo in their respective places. They will face each other during the Gospel, not the congregation.

    8. Remember to make a head bow for the name Jesus and a half-head bow for the name Mary.

    9. When the priest/deacon has completed the Gospel, walk in front of the ambo and altar to replace the candles. Afterwards, meet behind the altar at the center, bow profoundly to the altar, and return to your seats.

    10. After the final blessing, watch for the crucifer. When he stands, immediately go to your candle (again walking in front of the altar) and pick it up. Pick up your candles simultaneously. When the priest has reverenced the altar, then descend the stairs (the RC down the rights stairs, the LC down the left stairs). Stand on the outside of everyone else just as you did at the beginning of Mass.

    11. Recess down the aisle directly behind the crucifer as you did at the beginning of Mass.


    Washing of Hands

    Da, Domine, virtutem manibus meis ad abstergendam omnem maculam ut sine pollutione mentis et corporis valeam tibi servire.
    Give virtue to my hands, O Lord, that being cleansed from all stain I might serve you with purity of mind and body.
    For the Alb

    Purify me, O Lord, and cleanse my heart; that being made white in the Blood of the Lamb I may come to eternal joy.
    For the Cincture

    Gird me, O Lord, with the cincture of purity, and extinguish in me all evil desires, that the virtue of chastity may abide in me.
    For the Server’s Cross

    Grant me, O Lord, that I may carry this cross so as to merit His grace. Amen.
    For the Cassock

    Dominus, pars hereditatis meae et calicis mei, tu es qui restitues hereditatem meam.
    O Lord, the portion of my inheritance and my chalice, You are He who will restore my inheritance.
    For the Surplice

    Indue me, Domine, novum hominem, qui secundum Deum creatus est in iustitia et sanctitate veritatis.
    Invest me, O Lord, as a new man, who was created by God in justice and the holiness of truth. Amen.
    Before Serving

    Open my mouth, O Lord, to bless Thy Holy Name. Cleanse my heart from all evil and distracting thoughts. Enlighten my understanding and inflame my will that I may serve more worthily at Thy holy Altar. O Mary, Mother of Christ the High Priest, obtain for me the most important grace of knowing my vocation in life. Grant me a true spirit of faith and humble obedience so that I may ever behold the priest as a representative of God and be willing follow him in the Way, the Truth, and the Life of Christ. Amen.

    Anima Christi (after receiving Communion)

    Anima Christi, sanctifica me.

    Corpus Christi, salva me.

    Sanguis Christi, inebria me.

    Aqua lateris Christi, lava me.

    Passio Christi, conforta me.

    O bone Jesu, exaudi me.

    Intra tua vulnera absconde me.

    Ne permittas me separari a te.

    Ab hoste maligno defende me.

    In hora mortis meae voca me.

    Et iube me venire ad te,

    Ut cum Sanctis tuis laudem te,

    In saecula saeculorum. Amen.

    Soul of Christ, be my sanctification;

    Body of Christ, be my salvation;

    Blood of Christ, fill all my veins;

    Water from Christ’s side, wash out my stains;

    Passion of Christ, my comfort be;

    O good Jesus, listen to me;

    In Thy wounds I feign would hide;

    Never to be parted from Thy side;

    Guard me, should the foe assail me;

    Call me, when my life shall fail me;

    Bid me come to Thee above;

    With Thy saints to sing Thy love;

    World without end. Amen.

             Translated by Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman
    Act of Thanksgiving after Mass

    I give You thanks, holy Lord, Father almighty, everlasting God, that you have vouchsafed to feed me, a sinner, Your unworthy servant, for no merits of my own but only through the goodness of Your great mercy, with the Precious Body and Blood of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. I ask that this Holy Communion may not add to my guilt for punishment but become a saving intercession for pardon. May it serve as an armor of faith and a shield of good will. May it drive out my evil inclinations; dispel all wicked desires and fleshly temptations; increase my charity, patience, humility, obedience, and all my virtues. May it be a firm defense against the plots of all my enemies, both seen and unseen; a perfect quieting of all movements to sin, both in my flesh and spirit; a strong attachment to You, the only and true God, and a happy ending of my life. I beg of You to deign to bring me, a sinner, to that ineffable feast where You, with Your Son and the Holy Spirit, are to Your holy ones true light, perfect satisfaction, everlasting joy, consummate pleasure, and perfect happiness. Amen.

    Abbreviated Thanksgiving after Mass

    I give You thanks, Father almighty, that you have fed me, an unworthy sinner, for nothing that I have done but only through Your great mercy, the Precious Body and Blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ. I pray that this Holy Communion will not be my condemnation but my salvation. May it drive out my evil desires and fleshly temptations; increase my charity, patience, humility, obedience, and all my virtues. May it attach me to You, the only and true God. I beg You to bring me to that heavenly feast where You, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are to the saints true light, everlasting joy, and perfect happiness. Amen.

       St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church
    After Serving

    O Lord, Jesus Christ, Eternal High Priest, I thank Thee for the privilege of having served at the holy Altar of Thy sacrifice. Now, as I put aside the garments of that service, I ask that I may at all times think of Thee, and always act accordingly, as a privileged Altar server. May I ever seek Thee and find Thee; may I always follow Thee; may Thy priestly spirit be my guide, and Thy service of love be my example. May Thy Holy Name always be on my lips, and to Thy praise and glory may every work of mine be done. Ever ready in Thy service, may I always know and do Thy Holy Will in all things. May I remain pure and blameless and be found worthy to be Thy servant, and by Thy grace may I persevere to the end. Amen.

    Liturgical Colors

    The five liturgical colors are:

    White - used for Masses of Easter, Christmas season, Feasts and Memorials of Jesus, Mary, the Angels, Saints who were not martyrs, Weddings, and Funerals; symbolizes Purity, Holiness, Joy, Triumph, and the Resurrection.

    Red - used on Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday), Good Friday, Pentecost, feasts of the Apostles, Evangelists and Martyrs; symbolizes the Holy Spirit and the blood of martyrs.

    Green - used during Ordinary time; symbolizes Life, Growth and Hope.

    Purple - used during Lent and Advent; symbolizes Penance, Atonement and Expiation.

    Black - used for Good Friday and Masses of the Dead
    There are a few exceptions to these colors. If necessary, white is acceptable for all occasions. Silver may replace white and gold may replace red, white, or green. Rose is worn only on Gaudete Sunday (4th Sunday in Advent) and Laetare Sunday (4th Sunday in Lent).
    The Liturgy

    The Mass is typically divided into four parts: Introductory Rites, Liturgy of the Word, Liturgy of the Eucharist, and Concluding Rites.

    Antiphon – a short verse from Scripture (usually the Psalms) that is sung or chanted. The entrance antiphon is sung during the entrance procession, while the priest will pray the Communion antiphon after he has communicated himself.

    Collect – a short prayer of petition said by the priest after the Gloria that is unique to each day in the liturgical calendar.

    Confiteor (Penitential Act) – a prayer of general confession said to prepare ourselves to participate in the Mass. It is not a substitute for private confession to a priest.

    Elevation – the act in which the priest raises the consecrated elements for adoration. Two major elevations are done after the bread and wine have been consecrated separately. Both bread and wine are raised together for the final minor elevation.

    Epiclesis – the part of the Eucharistic prayer in which the priest invokes the Holy Spirit to come upon the bread and wine.

    Eucharistic Prayer – the prayer after the Sanctus in which the most important part of the Mass, the consecration, occurs. In 1970 three Eucharistic prayers were written in addition to the Roman Canon.

    Ordinary (of the Mass) – the parts of the Mass that do not change. These are the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo (Creed), Sanctus (Holy, holy), Benedictus, and Agnus Dei (Lamb of God).

    Preface – the first part of the Eucharistic prayer, which transitions in the Sanctus. There are many different prefaces which may be used according to the liturgical season, saint of the day, and individual preference of the celebrant.

    Propers – those parts of the Mass which are proper (specific) to the day or feast being celebrated. These include the entrance antiphon, collect, Scripture readings, Alleluia, prayer over the offerings, preface, Communion antiphon, and the prayer after Communion.

    Roman Canon – the Eucharistic prayer that has remained almost unchanged since its revision and arrangement by Pope St. Gregory I (590-604). Until 1970, it was the only Eucharistic prayer in existence.

    Sequence – a special hymn sung after the Alleluia for special feasts and Masses. Only 5 have been retained: Victimae Paschali (Easter), Veni Sancte Spiritus (Pentecost), Lauda Sion (Corpus Christi), Stabat Mater (Feast of the Sorrowful Mother), and Dies Irae (Masses for the Dead).
    Liturgical Vestments

    Alb - long white linen vestment that symbolizes purity.

    Amice - a rectangular vestment of fine linen that the priest wears beneath the alb around his neck and shoulders.

    Biretta - a stiff square cap with ridges and tuft traditionally worn by the priest during the procession.

    Cassock - an ankle-length garment traditionally worn by clerics (at all times) and altar servers (only at Mass).

    Chasuble - the sleeveless outer vestment worn by the priest at Mass.

    Cincture - a cord of linen fastened about the waist to confine the alb; it symbolizes chastity.

    Cope - a special robe worn by the priest for Benediction, Eucharistic processions, and the Asperges.

    Crosier - a staff conferred on bishops upon their consecration as a symbol of their authority.

    Dalmatic - the outer vestment with short, wide sleeves worn by a deacon at Mass.

    Humeral Veil - a large scarf used by the priest to hold the monstrance during Benediction and Eucharistic processions.

    Maniple - a band of silk worn on the left arm of the priest; it symbolizes servitude.

    Mitre - a liturgical head covering worn by a bishop.

    Shoulder cape - a cape sometimes worn by altar servers that covers only the shoulders.

    Stole - a long band of silk worn around the priest’s neck and crossed on the chest.

    Surplice - a white tunic worn by altar server’s over the cassock.
    The Ministers at Mass

    Altar Server - a boy or girl (or adult) who fulfills the duties of an acolyte at Mass.

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