Redemptionis Sacramentum 47

The conclusion of our document’s look at active participation covers the matter of altar servers:

[47.] It is altogether laudable to maintain the noble custom by which boys or youths, customarily termed servers, provide service of the altar after the manner of acolytes, and receive catechesis regarding their function in
accordance with their power of comprehension. [Cf. De Musica Sacra 93c] Nor should it be forgotten that a great number of sacred ministers over the course of the centuries have come from among boys such as these.[Cf. Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts,  Response to dubium, 11 July 1992: AAS 86 (1994) pp. 541-542; Congregation for  Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Letter to the Presidents of  Conferences of Bishops on the liturgical service of laypersons, 15 March 1994: Notitiae 30 (1994) pp. 333-335, 347-348.] Associations for them, including also the participation and assistance of their parents, should be established or promoted, and in such a way greater pastoral care will be provided for the ministers. Whenever such associations are international in nature, it pertains to the competence of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to establish them or to approve and revise their statutes. [Cf. Pastor Bonus 65] Girls or women may also be admitted to this service of the altar, at the discretion of the diocesan Bishop and in observance of the established norms. [Cf. Pontifical Council for the  Interpretation of Legislative Texts,  Response to dubium, 11 July 1992: AAS 86 (1994) pp. 541-542; Congregation for  Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Letter to the Presidents of  the Conferences of Bishops concerning the liturgical service of laypersons, 15  March 1994: Notitiae 30 (1994) pp.  333-335, 347-348; Letter to a Bishop,  27 July 2001: Notitiae 38 (2002) 46-54]

My sense is that the Church, through its parishes, loses a number of opportunities in its work with altar servers.

While the view that many altar servers become priests is undeniable, the real sacrament that should be attended to in their formation is baptism, not orders. A sense of service to Christ extends beyond the liturgy for healthy clergy. So it should be for young people, boys and girls, who are liturgical ministers. This is a more important issue than political tussles over girls and boys.

Note also that the diocesan bishop has the final say on girls as altar servers.

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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2 Responses to Redemptionis Sacramentum 47

  1. FrMichael says:

    “Note also that the diocesan bishop has the final say on girls as altar servers.”

    Don’t have time to find the citation, but I don’t believe that is true. The diocesan bishop decides whether he wishes to allow altar girls in his diocese, and I believe it is up to either the Mass celebrant or pastor to decide at the parochial/individual Mass level. But a parish has the freedom to decide to exclude them, even if the diocese as a whole allows them. Since I allow altar girls it isn’t anything I have had to concern myself with, but I have offered Mass at parishes without altar girls.

  2. FrMichael says:

    Hey, turns out my faulty memory was right. Link for my assertion:

    http://www.adoremus.org/CDW-AltarServers.html

    If the bishop allows female altar servers, then the priests determine whether they want them at their Masses.

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