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


Bishop - a successor to the Apostles who is consecrated to the fullness of the priesthood. Boat Bearer



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Bishop - a successor to the Apostles who is consecrated to the fullness of the priesthood.

Boat Bearer - an altar server responsible for carrying the incense boat and helping the priest charge the thurible during Mass and other sacred rites.

Book Bearer - the altar server responsible for holding the Missal for the priest. Fr. David uses a lectern, and so a book bearer is no necessary when he celebrates Mass.

Cantor - a singer who leads the congregation in singing the Responsorial Psalm.

Crucifer - the altar server who carries the crucifix during processions.

Deacon - assists the priest and reads the Gospel at Mass. Deacons wear a stole diagonally across the left shoulder under a dalmatic. A deacon is transitional if he is preparing to be ordained a priest and he is permanent if he is not preparing for the priesthood.

Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion - Either an Instituted Acolyte or a lay person who helps to distribute Holy Communion at Mass.

Instituted Acolyte - a man who has been permanently commissioned to assist at the altar, and who, by virtue of his office, is an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. Usually he is a seminarian or deacon candidate.

Lector - a person charged with reading the Scriptures, prayers, and announcements at Mass.

Master of Ceremonies - a priest or layman who ensures that servers are performing their roles correctly. We typically only have an MC at special Masses, such as at Easter or when the archbishop is celebrating Mass.

Ordinary Minister of Holy Communion - a bishop, priest, or deacon who by virtue of their office ordinarily distributes Holy Communion.

Priest - an ordained minister of the Church entrusted with leading worship at Mass, celebrating sacred rites, and administering the sacraments.

Sacristan - a person who cares for the sacristy and its contents.

Thurifer - the server responsible for the thurible during sacred ceremonies.

Torch Bearer (Candle Bearer) - servers who carry the candles during the procession and when the Gospel is read.
The Church Building

Altar - the place on which the Sacrifice of the Mass occurs; central location for the Liturgy of the Eucharist

Altar Stone - a piece of natural stone containing the relics of three saints that is inserted in an altar.

Altar Candles - candles placed upon the altar that are lit for Mass.

Altar Crucifix - a large crucifix displayed behind the altar to remind us that the Mass is a re-presentation of the events that occurred at Calvary 2,000 years ago. St. Joseph’s does not have one.

Altarpiece - a piece of art or sculpture depicting religious imagery that is suspended behind the altar.

Altar Rail - a railing that sets the sanctuary apart from the rest of the church and where, traditionally, people knelt to receive Holy Communion. St. Joseph’s does not have altar rails.

Ambo (lecturn) - place from where the readings of Sacred Scripture are proclaimed during Mass. May also be used for the homily.

Ambry - a locked cabinet used to store blessed oils used for Baptism and Confirmation.

Baptismal Font - a large font containing holy water for baptisms.

Credence Table - table near the altar on which are located the sacred vessels to be used during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Font (stoup) - a bowl used to hold holy water located at the entrance(s) of the nave

Narthex - the enclosed area leading to the nave of the church (can also refer to the outside, covered area of the church).

Nave - main part of the interior of a church, where the pews are located.  

Paschal Candle - a large, white candle that is blessed and lit at the Easter Vigil; this candle remains in the sanctuary and is lit for Masses during the Paschal (Easter) season

Platform (predella) - the highest step on which the altar rests.

Sedilia (Priests’ bench) - the chair/bench used by the officiating clergy during Mass. Today it is often referred to as the Presidential chair.

Reredo - an altarpiece, screen, or other decoration behind the altar that depicts religious art and imagery. St. Joseph’s does not have one.

Sacrarium - a sink-like receptacle in the sacristy, which drains directly into the ground. It is used for disposing of water which may have come into contact with sacred things. St. Joseph’s Church does not have one.

Sacristy - the room where sacred vessels are kept and where the priest and deacon vest when there is not a separate vestry.

Sanctuary - part of the church building where the altar is located, separated from the nave by altar rails; the altar, tabernacle, and ambo are located within the sanctuary.  

Sanctuary Lamp - a fixture containing a candle, usually suspended by a chain. It is located near the tabernacle and has a red glass cover. When lit, it indicates the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle.

Tabernacle - place of reservation for the Blessed Sacrament placed behind the altar.

Vestry - the room where the priest vests for Mass.
Sacred Vessels, Books, and Linens

Ablution Cup - a small cup with a lid placed next to the Tabernacle to purify the fingers of the priest or deacon when removing the Blessed Sacrament.

Altar Bell - a bell rung at important parts of the Mass to draw attention to the miraculous events occurring on the altar

Altar Cards - cards placed on the altar containing the prayers of the Mass. They are only used in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

Aspersorium (pl. aspersoria) - a vessel that holds the holy water used to sprinkle the congregation during Asperges

Asperges - the rite of sprinkling holy water over the congregation during Mass using the aspergillum and aspersorium

Aspergillum (pl. aspergilla) - an instrument used to sprinkle holy water.

Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament - a short rite following exposition of the Blessed Sacrament during which the Eucharist is returned to the Tabernacle

Blessed Sacrament - the consecrated Host and Precious Blood in which the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus are present after consecration by a priest

Book of Blessings - a book used by the priest to bless people, places, and objects.

Book of the Gospels - a book containing the gospel readings for Mass; also called the evangeliary

Burse - 1) a square cloth envelope of the liturgical color of the day, in which the corporal may be placed when not in use. 2) a small pouch for carrying a pyx, with a cord that hangs around the neck (called a pyx burse)

Chalice - sacred vessel made of gold or silver (the interior is always gold) that contains the wine that, after Consecration, becomes the Precious Blood.

Chalice Veil - a cloth in the liturgical color of the day which may be placed over the chalice and paten.  

Ciborium (pl. ciboria) - sacred vessel for holding consecrated or unconsecrated hosts.

Communion Host - a small wafer of unleavened bread, which is consecrated in the Mass so as to become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ.  

Communion Paten - a metal plate, sometimes with a handle, which is held by an altar server to catch any fragments of the host that might during the distribution of Holy Communion.

Corporal - square linen which is unfolded on the altar during the liturgy of the Eucharist.  The chalice and paten are placed on the corporal.  It is folded in a way that captures any fragments of the host that might have fallen. Before being placed in the laundry, it is soaked, with the water being poured down the sacrarium. Corporals are larger than purificators.  

Cruets - glass vessels that hold water and wine for Mass

Flagon - a pitcher of wine that is brought to the altar by gift bearers when Fr. David celebrates Mass

Incense Boat - a small vessel that holds incense and a spoon for charging the thurible

Lavabo and Ewer - 1) the small bowl and small pitcher used to wash the priest’s fingers during Mass. 2) the ritual in which the priest washes his fingers after the Offertory and prior to the Eucharistic Prayer

Lectionary - a book containing the Scripture readings for Mass.

Luna - round glass case within which is kept a large consecrated host so that it may be inserted into the center of the monstrance.

Manuterge (finger towel) - the towel used by the priest to dry his fingers during the lavabo

Monstrance - the sacred vessel which holds the luna with the consecrated host so that the Blessed Sacrament can be displayed for Adoration.

Pall - square shaped stiff material covered by linen which is used to cover the priest’s chalice and paten.

Paten - small metal plate on which hosts are consecrated during Mass.

Precious Blood - a term for the Real Presence of Jesus Christ under the appearance of wine.  

Purificator - a small, rectangular linen cloth folded three ways, which is used to purify a chalice after Communion is received.  Before being placed in the laundry, it is soaked, with the water being poured down the sacrarium. Purificators are smaller than corporals.

Pyx - small metal container used to carry the sacred hosts when Communion is taken to the sick or homebound; it is carried in a pyx burse.

Ritual Books - any official book approved by the Church, containing the rites used in the liturgy and the administration of the sacraments.  

Sacred Vessel - any vessel which is used to hold the Blessed Sacrament or Precious Blood.  Sacred vessels must be made of gold (at least the inside) and blessed prior to being used.

Roman Missal - the liturgical book which contains the prescribed prayers, chants, and instructions for the celebration of Mass in the Roman Catholic Church

Taper - a long metal instrument used to light the altar candles before Mass.

Thurible - a metal censer suspended from a chain which is used to burn incense during Mass and Benediction, and other rites.

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