Acolytes (altar servers) play an essential role in assisting the priests during Mass and other liturgical celebrations. Their primary responsibility is to support the smooth flow of the Mass and ensure that the liturgy is conducted reverently and efficiently. Here are some of the typical duties of Catholic Acolytes:
- Preparing the Altar: Before Mass, Acolytes help set up the altar with the necessary liturgical items, such as the chalice, paten, corporal, purificator, and sacramentary (or Roman Missal).
- Carrying the Processional Cross: An Acolyte may lead the entrance procession, carrying the processional cross, symbolizing the presence of Christ in the liturgical assembly.
- Carrying the Candles: Acolytes may carry the liturgical candles during the entrance procession and other parts of the Mass.
- Assisting with the Book: They may assist the priest in carrying the Roman Missal or Lectionary to the ambo (pulpit) during the readings.
- Incensing the Altar: In more solemn liturgical celebrations, Acolytes may be responsible for using a thurible (a censer) to incense the altar, the priest, and the assembly.
- Assisting with the Offertory: Acolytes assist the priest in bringing the gifts of bread and wine to the altar during the Offertory.
- Preparing the Lavabo: Before the Eucharistic Prayer, an Acolyte may assist the priest in washing his hands (Lavabo) as a symbolic act of purification.
- Assisting During Communion: Acolytes may assist the priest in distributing Holy Communion.
- Clearing the Altar: After Communion, they help clear the altar, collecting the used vessels and any remaining unconsumed hosts.
- Concluding the Mass: Acolytes may assist the priest in the recessional, carrying the processional cross and candles as the priest exits.
It’s important to note that the specific duties of Acolytes may vary from one parish or diocese to another, and the level of involvement may differ based on the type of liturgical celebration being conducted. Training is typically provided to ensure that Acolytes understand their roles and carry them out with reverence and precision.