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Ordo Missae of the 1962 Missale Romanum

Handbook for Altar Servers

by the Archconfraternity of St. Stephen

  Archconfraternity of Saint Stephen

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I WELCOME the appearance of a new edition of the handbook of the archconfraternity of Saint Stephen for Altar Servers. I thank and congratulate its present compiler and wish every blessing to its readers.

To serve at the altar, as to sing in the choir, is next to the priesthood the highest privilege which a human can enjoy. He represents the faithful and takes a most intimate part in the rich treasures of the church's liturgy and ceremonial. Those sacred ceremonies should be carried out with devotion, dignity and attention to detail.

I would say, therefore, to those who use this manual: Remember that whether you hold the office of Master of Ceremonies, or the more humble one of Torch Bearer, that you are in the service of the King of Kings and are always on parade. The success and the rhythm of a parade is secured by the attention given by each member to the minutest detail. So pay the greatest attention to every small detail.

But the value of your service will be measured and indeed enhanced by your own sanctity and by the personal love you have for our Blessed Lord and devotion to His sacred mysteries. This manual will help you to secure this.

May Almighty God and Saint Stephen bless all the members of the Archconfraternity.

Archbishop of Westminster.


Beatissime Pater,

ARCHIEPISCOPUS Westmonasteriensis infrascriptus ad pedes Sanctis Vestrae provolutus, humillime supplicat ut Apostolicum Benedictionem digneris Societati Altaris ministrorum Westmonasteriensi impertire, quam in hunc fineminstituit ut nimirum juvenes quorum est sacris Ecclesiae ritibus ministrare, tum normam, usum, ipsam historiam harum caeremoniarum exactius discant, tum praesertim ad zelum domus Dei, ad laetum servitium cordis ac corporis coram altari incitentur.

Quare, etc. L.S.
Archiep. Westmonasteriensis.
Westmonasterii, die 1 Octobris, 1905.

Dilectis filiis fausta quaeque et salutaria a Domino adprecantes Apostolicam Benedictionem peramenter impertimus.

die 5 No. 1905,


In Ecclesia Metropolitana Westmonasteriensi canonice instituta est Sodalitas nuncupata Societas Altari Inserventium Westmonasteriensis sub patrocino Sancto Stephani Diaconi et Protomartyris, eo fine ut pueri et juvenes, in Ecclesiae Ritibus instituti, sacris functionibus accurate simul et intelligenter peragendis incumbant. Quo magis autem Sodalium fervor et devotio augeatur, ipsa Sodalitas humillime petit ut Sanctitas Vestra eam Indulgentiis ditare dignetur, scilicet tribus Indulgentiis plenariis: una in die aggregationis Sodalium; altera in die festo principali Sodalitatis, nempe die 26 Decembris; tertia in articulo mortis; quatuor Indulgentiis septem annorum et totidem quadragenarum in sequentibus festis: scilicet, Sancti Joannis Ap. et Ev., die 27 Decembris; Sancti Joseph, die 19 Martii; SS. Apostolorum Petri et Pauli, die 29 Junii; et Sancti Michaelis Archangeli, die 29 Septembris: -insuper Indulgentia quinquaginta dierum quotiescumque quisque Sodalis Sacrosancto Missae Sacrificio inservit, necnon quando recitat orationem praeparatoriam ad inserviendum, h.e. Actiones nostras cum Salutatione Angelica Ave Maria.

Archiep. Westmonasteriensis.

N. 74120.
Ex Audientia SSmi habita die 22 Maii, 1906
SSmus D. N. Pius Div. Prov. PP. X referente me infrascripto S. Congñis de Propaganda Fide Secretario, benigne adnuere dignatus est pro gratia in omnibus justa preces, in perpetuum, servatis consuetis conditionibus.
Datum Romae ex Aed. S. C. de Pro'da Fide die et anno praedictis.
Pro Secreto -J. BRUNI, Offs.



THE object of the Guild is the sanctification of the Altar-Server by teaching him that to serve in the Sanctuary is a great religious privilege, by instructing him in the manner of observing the rites and ceremonies of the Church according to the rubrics and to the decrees of the Sacred Congregation of Rites and the interpretations of the most generally accepted authorities, and by encouraging him to understand the meaning and the purpose of the ceremonies in which he takes part.


THE guild was formed in March, 1905, by Father Hamilton MacDonald, chaplain to the Sacred Heart Convent, Hammersmith, by permission of the Archbishop of Westminster, the late Cardinal Bourne, and it was blessed by His Holiness Pope Pius X in the following November.

On the 4th December, 1906, the Holy Father erected the Guild into an archconfraternity "prima primaria" having the power to affiliate to itself other similar Guilds outside the Archdiocese of Westminster in the British Isles.

On the 19th February, 1934, His Holiness Pope Pius XI extended this privilege throughout the British Empire.


of the Guild is open to any boy or man, without any limit of age, who can serve Mass, and who has shown proof of a desire to conform to the object of the Guild. It is recommended that a server, after admission to the Sanctuary serve at least six months before being admitted to membership of the Guild. The local director of the church decides whether a candidate is eligible, and is empowered to perform the ceremony of enrollment according to the form prescribed on page 61 and to invest the server with the Guild medal. The medal and cord, and also the Guild handbook, may be obtained from the General Secretariat.

Every member on enrollment promises to observe the following rules:


1. To serve at the Altar reverently, intelligently and punctually.
2. To make the short acts of preparation before, and of thanksgiving after, serving Mass.
3. To observe silence in the sacristy, and great reverence in the Sanctuary.
4. To recite daily the Guild prayer.

Postulants and members are recommended to receive Holy Communion as often as possible, particularly when serving Mass. Enrolled members should always wear the Guild medal when serving.

Unless taking part in the ceremonies, members are recommended always to use a missal when assisting at Mass.


The Archconfraternity is divided into local chapters. At the head of the chapter is the Director, who is a priest.

The director oversees the whole chapter, leads the regular meetings, and enrolls the members into the Guild. The Director should appoint a lay President of that chapter, who directs meetings and practices in his absence.

The President should be a server who knows the serving rubrics thoroughly, has the ability to coordinate the other servers and is capable of serving as Master of Ceremonies for the more complicated ceremonies of the Church. The President is responsible for preparing a regular serving schedule and should also directly oversee the servers in their training and in their observance of the Guild rules.


The serving ranks within the Archconfraternity

Postulant. The Postulant is one who has the desire to join the Guild. He begins learning his Latin responses and the movements for Torchbearer at High Mass and 2nd Acolyte at Low Mass. The probation period is dependent upon the individual server's ability, though six months may be recommendable. When he has been admitted and enrolled into the Guild, he is done so as a Junior Acolyte.

Junior Acolyte. The requirements for having the rank of Junior Acolyte are as follows: He must have his Latin responses mastered, knows in detail how to serve as Torchbearer at High Mass and 2nd Acolyte at Low Mass and must have successfully passed a test regarding these positions. The Junior Acolyte wears a plain red cord with a pewter medal and upon enrollment is presented with a certificate of enrollment.

Senior Acolyte. The Senior Acolyte must know how to serve in detail Low Mass by himself, as well as the position of 1st and 2nd Acolyte and thurifer at High Mass and must have passed a test regarding these positions. The Senior Acolyte trades the plain cord for the red cord with tassels, but retains the pewter medal.

Master of Ceremonies. The MC must have proven his reliability as well as his fidelity to the rule of punctuality, intelligence and reverence while serving, must have a thorough knowledge of all the serving positions at Low Mass and High Mass and must have passed a test regarding the position of MC at High Mass. The MC trades his pewter medal for a gold medal, and retains the red cord with tassels.

President. The President wears a two-tone, gold and black medal with the red cord and tassels.


With the object of increasing the fervour and devotion of members of the Guild, the Holy Father, on the 22nd May 1906, granted the following indulgences:


    (1) On the day of admission.
    (2) On the patronal feast of the Guild, 26th December.
    (3) At the hour of death.

II. AN INDULGENCE OF SEVEN YEARS AND SEVEN QUARANTINES (Forty Days) on each of the following feasts:

    (1) Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist, 27th December.
    (2) Saint Joseph, 19th March.
    (3) Saints Peter and Paul, 29th June.
    (4) Saint Michael, 29th September.

AN INDULGENCE OF 300 DAYS every time a member before serving Mass recites the prayer: Direct, we beseech Thee, O Lord, our actions (p.6).

In England and Wales an INDULGENCE OF 200 DAYS may also be gained every time a server recites the Guild prayer: O God, Who dost graciously accept the ministry of Thy servants (p.6).

(to be recited daily)

O GOD, Who dost graciously accept the ministry of Thy servants and allow us to share in the service of Thine Altar: grant that, whilst in serving Thee we follow the example of our Patron, Saint Stephen, the first Martyr, we may, like him, come to see Thy Son standing at the right hand of Thy Majesty, and so enter into the Kingdom of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Who livest and reignest with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end.

Hail Mary
Saint Stephen, Pray for us.


IN the name, etc.
Come, O Holy Ghost, fill the hearts of Thy faithful, and kindle in them the fire of Thy love.
V. Send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be created.
R. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray:
O God, Who hast taught the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Ghost, grant that, by the gift of the same Spirit, we may be truly wise, and ever rejoice in His consolation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

O GOD, Who dost graciously accept the ministry of Thy servants and allow us to share in the service of Thine Altar: grant that, whilst in serving Thee we follow the example of our Patron, Saint Stephen, the first Martyr, we may, like him, come to see Thy Son standing at the right hand of Thy Majesty, and so enter into the Kingdom of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Who livest and reignest with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

DIRECT, we beseech Thee, O Lord, our  actions by Thy inspiration, and further them by Thy continual help; that every prayer and work of ours may always begin from Thee, and through Thee be likewise ended. Amen.
Hail Mary,
V. Saint Stephen,
R. Pray for us.


Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.

Anima Christi

SOUL of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from Christ's side, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within thy wounds, hide me.
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee.
Against the malignant enemy, defend me.
At the hour of my death, call me,
And bid me come unto Thee,
That with Thy Saints I may praise Thee
Forever and ever. Amen.

Prayer Before the Crucifix

BEHOLD, O kind and most sweet Jesus, I cast myself on my knees in Thy sight, and with the most fervent desire of my soul, I pray and beseech Thee that Thou wouldst impress upon my heart lively sentiments of faith, hope, and charity, with true contrition for my sins, and a firm purpose of amendment, while with deep affection and grief of soul, I ponder within myself and mentally contemplate Thy five wounds; having before my eyes that which David the prophet put on Thy lips concerning Thee: "They have pierced My hands and My feet; they have numbered all My bones."

V. Saint Stephen,
R. Pray for us.


FIRST THOUGHTS: "No ministry, except that of those who by ordination are set apart for the service of the Altar," wrote the late Cardinal Bourne in his preface to the first edition of this handbook, "deserves greater thought and consideration than the duty entrusted to those laymen and youths who have the office of assisting the priests of God in the discharge of their sacred functions." Willingly you have come forward to take up this exalted office, to enjoy the privilege which Holy Mother Church grants you of wearing the sacred dress of a cleric, namely, cassock and cotta, and of performing duties in the Sanctuary for which originally men were set apart from others by tonsure and minor orders. Your first impulse is a generous one. You value the high privilege and you feel a secret joy at giving yourself to it. You are going to be often in a holy place, performing sacred duties, and you will appear very publicly in the sight of all the congregation. To fulfill such an office worthily you will need to be holy in your own life, and edifying always in the sight of other people. Your great help will be Prayer, Holy Mass and the Sacraments. 


Ordo Missae - Order of Mass - 1962 Roman Missal