ALTAR SERVERS GUIDELINES
Altar Servers Posture and Practices
It is important to 'look alert' at all times during the Mass,
not slouching when sitting or looking around unnecessarily.
When not seated, hands should be folded as follows:
1. Palms and fingers together
at chest level, pointed at a 45 degree angle
2. Left thumb over the knuckle of the right thumb
Sign of the Cross
1. Folded hand position (keeping left hand on chest)
2. Keeping fingers
together, touch the head (Father), above stomach (Son), left shoulder (Holy) to right shoulder (Spirit)
3. Return to folded
This is a sign of reverence shown to the Blessed Sacrament, exposed on the altar*
or in the Tabernacle. One should genuflect when entering the church (at one's seat), when leaving and if crossing in front
of the Blessed Sacrament. If no Tabernacle is present, a reverent, deep bow to the altar is appropriate. To genuflect...
Stand still with body erect
2. Kneel with the right leg (move the right leg back slightly, touching the knee to the floor)
After a brief pause, return to upright position
4. * When the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, a double genuflection (where
the left knee is brought to the floor after the right knee, then raised first), is used
5. At each step of this process,
a brief, distinct pause should be included
Carrying the Cross
Walking at a moderate, dignified pace ...
1. Hold the cross straight,
with the corpus (Body of Christ) directly forward
2. Bottom of the pole is knee level, right hand is throat level with
the left hand twelve inches lower
3. Approach the altar without pausing and proceed to the appropriate side to place the
cross with the corpus facing the congregation
Carrying a Candle
There are normally two candle bearers...
1. Walk on opposite sides of the
cross bearer, carrying the candles straight
2. The outside hand should be at the knob (near the top) of the candle holder,
with the other hand under the base
3. The right hand is the height of the chest
Holding a Sacramentary
The book should be held as steadily and and high as possible in the position
directed by the priest. One hand should support the weight of the book in the middle to avoid unnecessary movement.
Not all parishes utilize bells. Below is a general outline of some appropriate times...
The entry of the priest at the start of Mass (usually this is a hanging bell assembly on the wall)
2. Bells may be rung
following the prayer over the gifts and after the consecration of the bread and the wine
3. Bells should be rung distinctly
and quickly...never for an extended period
4. Bells are normally rung in sets of three (ring-ring-ring)
Use in incense will vary from parish to parish, as will the role of the altar serve
in the process. Below is relatively detailed and complete review of the process...
1. The four times for using incense
... the altar before Mass begins
... before and after the reading of the Gospels (the book only the first time,
then priest and book)
... gifts, altar, servers, celebrants and congregation during the preparation of the gifts
Body and Blood of Christ after each is elevated
2. Carry the thurible in the right hand (left hand on chest) holding the
chain just below the top to the right side with a gentle swinging motion
3. Carry the boat to the right of the thurible
carrier in the right hand, or in the left hand if carrying both
4. Transfer thurible to left hand prior to the celebrant
adding incense, using the chain to raise the lid. Make a head bow before giving and after receiving the thurible
... Transfer the end of the chain to your left hand, grasping the chain with the right six inches above the
... Raise the right hand to the chin, twelves inches from the body, the chain lying on the index finger secured by
... Swing with the arm and hand smoothly
... Bow the head before and after the start of each set of swings
Everyone gets three distinct swings expect the deacon (two only)
... The celebrant is incensed after he has incensed the
altar, before washing his hands
... When incensing the congregation, swing center, left and then right separately
The boat bearer adds to the thurible incense at the end of the 'Sanctus', and the thurbifer goes to the center, genuflects
to the Sacrament and turns and kneels behind the altar
... Each elevation is incensed three swings
6. Benediction: after
the celebrant incensing the Sacrament, the thurifer takes the thurible and knells about three feet behind the celebrant. Three
double swings accompanying each movement of the Sacrament and remains kneeling until the Sacrament is reposed
This is held under the celebrant's arm as he distributes the Host to the congregation.
Move with the motion of the celebrant to insure it is always below the Host
The Mass: Actions
< center>This page is designed to highlight some of the most
common and vital parts of an altar server's duties. It is closely related to Postures and Practices and the two pages should be used together.
If the cross and/or candle holder is at the front of the sanctuary, dress in in the servers alb before getting them. Make sure it is as straight and neat as possible. If a Tabernacle is in the sanctuary, genuflect
when entering (if there is no Tabernacle, a low bow to the altar is proper). Carry the cross at all times correctly
(there are no 'off duty' times with the cross). Carry the cross to the center in front of the altar, pause briefly facing
the altar or Tabernacle, and then walk to the rear of the church.
If the altar server's duties also include lighting
the candles, prior to taking the cross, use an 'extinguisher' (lights with one side and snuffs with the other) lit prior to
approaching the altar area (sanctuary). Facing the front of the church, start on the right side (if there are multiple candles,
light the one closest to the altar first). When crossing, genuflect/bow and then light the left side. (At the end of the service,
do the opposite...extinquish the left side of the altar first from beginning with the outermost candle).
The cross and candle bearer lead the procession to the altar (see this page for details). Pace should be steady, not rushed. There is no genuflection or pause in front of the
altar...proceed smoothly to the side to place the crucifix in it's appropriate stand facing the congregation. Remain standing
as the Mass begins.
Preparation of the Gifts
1. If crossing in front of a central Tabernacle and it is necessary
to cross in front of it to prepare the altar, always remember to genuflect every time a complete crossing is made.
Move the items from the credence table to the altar in the positions shown below (items are shown as if facing the congregation)
3. Note: the central figure separate stacked items for viewing (paten, corporal (actually white), purificator and chalice
4, To the left is the Sacramentary (Missal) and to the right the cruet of water (this may be brought later in some parishes)
5. After items are placed, take the cross and walk in a steady and dignified way
to the back of the church. Process forward when the priest comes forward to receive the gifts. Place the cross back in its
place after passing the altar.
6. Return to the credence table and hold the cruet of water, basin and the finger towel
(draped over the arm) beside the priest. After he washes, return them to the credence table and return to your seat.
Aside from a straight posture, hands should be folded throughout the communion itself,
including while kneeling after reception.
1. Remove the cross from its stand when the priest kisses the altar at the end
2. Follow the priest as he walks to the front of the altar, passing around him and turning to face the altar.
After the priest turns from bowing/genuflecting, slowly lead the procession out.
4. As the congregation is filing out,
return the cross (center aisle) to its stand in the sanctuary. Make the appropriate bow or genuflection when leaving the sanctuary.
** If candles are part of your duty, extinquish them after placing the cross in its stand.