Altar servers: the mission that helps adolescents to appropriate the liturgy

The national pilgrimage for altar servers ended on Friday August 26 in Rome, after four days of meetings and highlights. This Church service, open since the Second Vatican Council to all the baptized, allows many adolescents to embark on a path of human and spiritual growth. It is part of a desire to deploy the Christian education of young people in the liturgy.

Claire Riobé – Vatican City

In Rome, more than 2,500 altar servers from France gathered from August 22 to 26 for a national pilgrimage, around the theme “Come, serve and go”. The event, which takes place every ten years, had been postponed twice due to the Covid crisis. It will have enabled children and teenagers from 51 dioceses to visit the Eternal City, while discussing their mission as altar servers.

“We are closer to God”

After the liturgical reform desired by Vatican II, the service of the altar was opened to all baptized lay Christians wishing to place themselves at the service of the liturgy. For children and adolescents, this mission appears more and more as a true place of Christian education. Through times of meetings and training, the pastoral care of Altar Servers is a gateway of choice to help young people understand and actively participate in the liturgy.

Many altar servers bear witness to the “chance” to have been entrusted with this service which often arouses the desire to begin or pursue a journey of faith. Claire, 21, from the parish of Auvers-sur-Oise in the diocese of Pontoise, testifies as follows: “Once I started I couldn’t stop, I found it great to be an altar server. It brings us so much closer to faith. Before, during mass, I had a little trouble concentrating. Being an altar server made me feel much closer [de la messe], closer to the priest too. We are just closer to God, I think!”

“I learn about God faster from being an altar server than faithful, I think,” recognizes for his part Johan, 14, also from the diocese of Pontoise.

A path of human growth

Among the testimonies comes back regularly the joy of living this service of altar within a group, mixed or not mixed, according to the parishes. At an age when children and adolescents are building their identity, these moments of sharing and transmission, supervised by the parish priest or accompanying parents, can be special opportunities for human growth. “It is appropriate to educate children in liturgical action in an intelligent way so that they may be missionary witnesses, for tomorrow and the day after tomorrow”, indicates Father Laurent Jullien de Pommerol, of the diocese of Lyon, also in charge of the department of altar servers in Paris. “The goal is for young people to grow together and for the liturgy to be alive for them. Otherwise, they will leave it to go see other idols. he points out.

Harmel, 14, from the diocese of Créteil, says: “By being an altar server, I pray of course but I also help others to pray. And what I especially like is meeting other altar servers on Sundays. Because we create friendships, we get to know each other.”

Learn the spirituality of service

The service of the altar can finally be this place of apprenticeship in the spirituality of service, to which every Christian is called, in the image of Christ. “The question posed by the service of the altar is the following: ‘Why do the baptized commit themselves to the life of the Church?’», thus questions Mgr Jean-Marie Le Vert, auxiliary bishop of Bordeaux, and member of the episcopal conference for sacramental and liturgical pastoral care.

“There is something of our baptism, and therefore of our holiness and our joy, which arises in the fact of placing ourselves at the service of others whom we have not chosen. It is one of the great principles of the life of the Church, and it is found in the liturgical life. And it’s our work as pastors and servants to help our communities to enter into this evangelical logic of service.»

Father Laurent Jullien de Pommerol concludes for his part: “If the service of the altar does not participate in some way in this, if the liturgy is not the place of growth [pour ces jeunes]so I don’t think it’s achieving its goal.”

Altar servers: the mission that helps adolescents to appropriate the liturgy – Vatican News