I arrived at the church the usual thirty minutes prior to Mass as I normally did but little did know what would happen that night. I am a bit unusual as an altar server in general, I know the Novus Ordo in English, Spanish, Polish and Latin, the Extraordinary Form (Tridentine Mass) and Byzantine Rite in both Aramaic/Ukrainian and English. With this varied experience I should be ready for anything right?
After I had vested Father informed me that he would be celebrating the Mass Novus Ordo Ad Orientem (Mass of 1969 facing east). This was a bit abnormal for our daily Mass schedule as we normally celebrate Mass Versus Populum or facing the people. After I had set up the altar and lit the candles I went back to the sacristy to say the server’s prayer. When it was time for Mass we processed to the sanctuary and to my surprise there was only 4 people in the pews for this Mass. As it came time for the responses I had to speak up and truly be the voice of the people for the Mass. Being closer to the priest as he was facing east I responded for the people in a clear voice so that those in the pews could follow along better.
It was then that I was reminded that as a server I was there not only to physically assist the priest with the various tasks but also to lead the congregation in prayer. This is something that many people (not just servers) can take for granted. Most think that it is the choir who makes the responses, and they do most of the time. But it is the duty of the server to be the voice of the people on the altar, the server represents those praying, and so at all times must be ready to respond aloud and not just mumble as they think about what they are going to do after church. When people see you (whether a server or not) responding in prayer, listening to the readings and homily, and singing it will help them to feel more comfortable to pray and sing the hymns as well. Remember as an altar server… YOU ARE A LEADER!!!
By John Thomas
Photo by John Thomas