Steven Travale, Youth Speak News

The true gift of altar service

By  Steven Travale, Youth Speak News
  • December 18, 2015

I can fondly recall as a young boy the excitement that I, and many of my friends, felt as we approached Grade 4. The time had finally come when we were considered mature enough to be altar servers at our parish, St. Anthony of Padua.

I saw it as almost a quintessential rite of passage, between our First Communion and our Holy Confirmation. Whether it was carrying the cross in the procession, preparing the altar or holding the Roman Missal, we felt involved. We were part of a unique group of students that would be called upon during Sundays and special celebrations during the school week.

The involvement and the service which we were doing was vital to our faith development, even if we didn’t realize it then.

In serving at the Lord’s table, young boys and girls are given many important gifts. They must go through extensive training. When I went to practices back in Grade 4, it was no easy task getting all of us to fold our hands just so, or to walk in synchronization. We also had to learn all the responses and prayers to model them for the congregation and for our own understanding.

In being close to God on the altar and learning everything that happens in the Mass, down to the exact phrase and second of execution, altar servers get to know God more closely. They spend many hours in His presence and service. Their friendship in Him is almost inevitable. I firmly believe I would not be as faithful a Catholic had it not been for my many years of altar service.

While every minister in the church — liturgists, ministers of Holy Communion and choristers — have a special place, altar service is one ministry that inspires young people inside and outside of the Mass. In being young friends of Jesus Christ, a joyful spirit dwells within them, calling them to serve, love and respect others throughout their life. It’s no wonder that altar service is a channel for vocations to religious life.

However, some people believe that only boys should serve on the altar, precisely for the sake of vocations to the priesthood. Altar service however, is open to both boys and girls because all are called to a vocation of service to God which is not exclusively being ordained to the priesthood. The values and intimacy with God which is kindled in altar service are important in every vocation. Therefore, should we not be encouraging more young people to serve at the Lord’s Table?

My priest once said he wished to see 100 altar servers in our parish. While this is an exaggeration, his mentality is certainly in the right place. Let us all encourage our brothers and sisters, children and grandchildren to become an altar server; not only as a rite of passage but as something much more meaningful and God-centred, in order to share in the Lord’s work of building His Kingdom here on Earth.

(Travale, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Sacred Heart High School in Walkerton, Ont.)

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