Et cum Spiritu tuo… If you are 50 years or older, chances are you would remember this response of the altar boys who served the Latin Mass in your local parish until the liturgical changes in the 1960’s. They remind us of the days where discipline and structure gave expression to our prayer life, when it was an awesome privilege to serve Mass, knowing that it was the re-enactment of Calvary.
This discipline still exists today in the Latin Mass communities like Saint Benedict Center where 25 altar boys serve the Center Masses and ceremonies throughout the year. And there are always more boys in training. A visiting priest once remarked that the Center was the “West Point” of altar boys.
During the year, many Latin Mass parishes ask for their assistance at weddings, funerals, special Masses and visits from the Bishop. Several serve as Master of Ceremonies. Brother Matthew, who trains the boys, starts by teaching them the Latin and its proper pronunciation. The students then spend several months memorizing the responses. While they are studying, they participate as acolytes or candlebearers in sung Masses and processions.
Passing the Latin test, they then begin to study the ceremonies of the Mass, starting with the Low Mass and then the sung Mass. Christmas, Midnight Mass, Easter Triduum, Corpus Christi and other Feasts offer additional challenges and a deeper knowledge of the Church’s rich liturgical tradition.
Most important of all, however, is the fact that the server realizes it is a privilege to serve at the most exalted act of worship possible to man. With this privilege comes the obligation of approaching his duties with the requisite piety, reverence and attention. A strict code of behaviour and appearance is required to maintain the position of altar server.
If you haven’t been to a Latin Mass in a long time look one up in your area. Support the return of this important liturgy. It only makes sense that God should be treated with the greatest of dignity and reverence. Deo Gratias!