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Acolytes and Altar Servers

Servers

Acolytes

The office of acolyte is reserved to men. Canon 230 §1 says: "Lay men whose age and talents meet the requirements prescribed by decree of the bishops’ conference can be given the stable ministry of lector and of acolyte, through the prescribed liturgical rite . . . "

The position of altar server involves much less responsibility than the position of acolyte. Acolytes had many duties that have now been broken up and distributed to different people—for example, carrying the cross during the opening processional used to be performed by the acolyte, but now the crucifer fulfills that role.

Altar Servers

The office of altar server was created around a thousand years ago so there would be a group of people who could stand in for acolytes when none were available. Today that is the case in most parishes, and therefore the position of altar server has come to predominate at most Masses.

However, the position of altar server is not sacramental and so need not be reserved to males. Currently, the Church allows the use of female altar servers: "Where the needs of the Church require and ministers are not available, lay people, even though they are not lectors or acolytes, can supply certain of their functions, that is, exercise the ministry of the word, preside over liturgical prayers" (CIC 230 §3).

Today, nearly all that remains for altar servers is to hand the priests the unconsecrated elements and the cruets and to help him wash his hands.

NOTES:

Click here for your printable copy of the Acolyte/Server Handbook
Click here for the Altar Server Schedules

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