How to Be an Altar Helper in the Catholic Church

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How to Be an Altar Helper in the Catholic Church
How to Be an Altar Helper in the Catholic Church

In many Catholic churches, the priest prefers to have three to six altar helpers to help him with the mass. Although it has already been banned in the Catholic Church, women can be altar helpers these days, as long as the bishop of the diocese and the parish priest authorize the practice. If you would like to find more information on how to perform altar services correctly, read on.

Candidate Requirements for Altar Helper

The candidate must meet the following requirements:

  • Having made your first communion.
  • Know how to correctly genuflection.
  • Knowing how to make the sign of the cross.
  • It can be male or female, as long as your church agrees to the practice of women's services.


Be an Altar Server in the Catholic Church Step 1

Step 1. Prepare for tasks

Before arriving at church, be sure to wear good clothes, such as collared shirts and pants. Although, in some cases, this type of shirt is not used. Also, wearing elegant clothing is not essential as the congregation will not be able to see what you are wearing. However, make sure you are presentable, have good shoes, and can walk around quietly, as the congregation will likely notice this. Avoid your sportswear, high heels and sandals. If you have long hair, tie it up or put it into a ponytail to prevent it from getting tangled up in something. In some churches, altar helpers often carry candles; thus, if you don't tie your hair, you run the risk of burning it.

Be an Altar Server in the Catholic Church Step 2

Step 2. Arrive at the church at least 20 minutes before Mass starts (pay a visit to Jesus in the Holy Sacraments in the Chapel)

The sooner you arrive, the more time you will have to prepare. When you arrive at the church, remove any gum or candy from your mouth. It can be disrespectful and distracting to chew or eat something during mass. (note:

you will not receive Holy Communion if you have not consumed only water an hour before mass. If you have eaten or drunk anything else before, you must refuse to receive it to avoid a mortal sin.) If you cannot receive Holy Communion, please do not serve at the altar.

Be an Altar Server in the Catholic Church Step 3

Step 3. Go to the church sacristy which stores the albs, cassocks and surplices of the altar servers

Try not to speak loudly, but to whisper. Dress the alb correctly by buttoning or pulling the zipper completely. Some robes are just put on over the head. Whites are usually tied with a cord around the waist; put one that is neither too long nor too short. Try to dress her the same way as the other servants, but if you're unsure, ask a member of the clergy. If any of the albs are torn or damaged, let the priest know. Remember to choose an alb that suits you right down to your feet.

Be an Altar Server in the Catholic Church Step 4

Step 4. Decide who will do what services

Normally, the Master of Ceremonies, or deacon, decides this, but often the choice falls to the eldest of the helpers. If you're not sure what service you need to do, ask the deacon or priest.

Be an Altar Server in the Catholic Church Step 5

Step 5. Wait at the church entrance for the priest or deacon and, in some cases, the bishop to join you

Once the mass has started, please do not talk during the ceremony. Always have your hands together. Lead helpers should take turns with the younger ones on different tasks. Depending on the parish tradition, different helpers will lead the procession. Often the leader carries the cross, sometimes accompanies the acolytes/candles, but most of the time he will carry the thurible. Don't start going down the hallway before the priest gives you the signal. Once you reach the shrine, genuflect if you're not carrying anything. If you have something (a cross or candles), bow deeply in front of the altar. Then stay at your designated place. When walking along the altar, your partner should occupy the opposite side; one must go right while the other goes left.

Be an Altar Server in the Catholic Church Step 6

Step 6. Stay in your seat singing during the opening hymn, which you should have sung on your way down the hall

After the hymn is completed, the priest will welcome the congregation. After the Collection (opening prayer) you will be seated, as will the congregation. It's okay if you don't know the words: few helpers sing in church, and only Jesus and the people he serves will hear him. If you don't know the lyrics, sing the title or chorus several times, or remain silent.

Be an Altar Server in the Catholic Church Step 7

Step 7. During the homily, listen carefully to what the priest says

It is common for her to relate to the scripture read that day and carry important information about the faith.

Step 8. In preparing the gifts, sometimes called an “offering,” bread and wine are brought to the altar

Sometimes a cross is carried and placed in the center to accompany gifts from the altar. Most of the time, the priest and deacon will go to the entrance of the sanctuary to offer the gifts and give them back to the helpers to put them back on the altar.

Be an Altar Server in the Catholic Church Step 8

Step 9. The helpers should stand by the altar and give the deacon (or priest) water and wine from the cruets or jars, as appropriate

Then, with water and a towel, stay in the same place so the priest can wash your hands.

Be an Altar Server in the Catholic Church Step 9

Step 10. If bells are used, ring the epiclesis once (when the priest summons the Holy Spirit by extending his hands over the gifts), and three times each time he raises the host and chalice

Kneel after the “Agnus Dei” (Lamb of God).

Be an Altar Server in the Catholic Church Step 10

Step 11. Follow local customs when receiving Holy Communion

After receiving Communion, the helpers return to their seats.

Be an Altar Server in the Catholic Church Step 11

Step 12. After the priest or deacon says farewell, all the helpers will move to the entrance to the sanctuary in pairs, usually in the same order as they followed in the procession

Walk ahead of the altar, giving enough space for the other helpers and clerics to stand behind you and facing the altar. Everyone should genuflect (except those who hold something in their hands - if that's your case, you can bow your head). Turn around and head to the back of the church walking down the center aisle. The priest and deacon will usually stop at the church entrance to talk to people as they leave.

Be an Altar Server in the Catholic Church Step 12

Step 13. Organize things

The helpers' work is not over just because the Mass is over. Before removing the garments, extinguish all candles using a metal extinguisher which will prevent hot wax from being spilled on the altar, floor or yourself. In keeping with parish custom, the deacon/master of ceremonies will tell you if anything else needs to be done or if something has been forgotten - for example, preparations for the next Mass. Hang the alb and belt in place.


  • When walking or sitting, your hands should be together, on your lap or chest.
  • Always go to the bathroom before mass. This is a label that is required.
  • Hang your garments after you wear them. Do not throw them on the floor or furniture; this is disrespectful to church officials.
  • Keep quiet in the sacristy and avoid making unnecessary noise. This is when you can say a prayer before Mass begins.
  • If two helpers need to move, the two must move together, never without their partner. Usually helpers have partners unless they are doing certain jobs, such as carrying the cross.
  • Many priests do not normally genuflect at the altar. They just do it at the tabernacle. If so, just bow in front of the altar, but don't genuflect.
  • Be ready to help the priest or deacon, especially if he is a visitor to your parish. He might ask a few questions about the way Mass is held in his church. If you ask these questions, try to answer them clearly and concisely.
  • Try to keep things divided between yourself and the other helpers. Don't make a helper responsible for all the tasks! If there is a master of ceremonies or deacon distributing the works, he will ensure that this does not happen.
  • Remember that you will be watched by the faithful during mass. They make comments to priests and masters of ceremonies about the behavior of helpers. Although they often praise helpers, the opposite can happen. To avoid this, you should not laugh or chat during service. However, it can receive instructions during mass and help other servants who are unsure of their tasks.
  • As a beginning helper, it is common to receive suggestions. Try to heed the suggested corrections and say thank you when you're greeted.
  • Try to get practice in serving. If you really don't like it, don't do it! Churches want happy helpers, not sad and angry helpers!
  • Unless you are serving a church with few people, you may not be able to participate as a helper every week. Even in small communities, you may not be called upon to help! Likewise, even the most experienced helpers are not called upon every time! Try not to get too attached to altar services. You are doing this for God, not friends.


  • If something goes wrong, don't show it! Act as if everything is running normally; thus, the congregation will not notice.
  • When lighting candles or handling fire, keep the flame away from your clothing and hair. Whites can catch fire or, depending on the material, melt and stick to your body.
  • Be dressed appropriately. Sports shoes are not normally accepted, but black shoes can do if it's not a special occasion. This means that you should not wear brightly colored shoes.
  • In case the weather is bad, remember to leave your house a little earlier than usual.
  • Remember to sleep well the night before - there is nothing worse for the congregation than seeing a tired helper at the altar.

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