A boy or man who acts as a server, especially at Mass, but who has not been officially appointed or delegated to the ministry of acolyte.

I was one, a long time ago (3 years, oh well.)

I was an altar boy at Holy Name Church in Philadelphia. We had several duties before and after mass, including:

Before Mass:

  • Get the chalice out for the priest
  • Fill the wine and water cruets (little glass pitcher-like things)
  • Take the chalice, hosts, and cruets out to the little table near the altar
  • Light the candles, if one of the little oil canisters had burned out, replace it.
  • If it was a funeral, or a holy day, get the cross and two hand candles, light those candles, and meet the priest in the sacristy door.
  • Mass begins...
After Mass:
  • Bring everything back to the sacristy
  • Clean off the cruets (wine is sticky stuff, and the stopper would get stuck if you didn't clean them out after every mass.)
  • Blow out the candles
  • Put the chalice and cruets away
  • And thats about it.
Believe me, the mass itself is the hardest part. You have to remmember the order in which things happened, when to sit, when to stand, when to kneel, when to start and stop walking, etc. You can't fidget at all (you may not think that teens fidget a lot, but consider this: by the time I left Philly, my school was asking 5th and 6th graders to help the church out and had opened this role up to girls too.)
I was an altar boy for 11 years. Think you had it hard? We had to do the same things, plus answer the priest in Latin. To this day, anytime I hear Introibo ad altare Dei I automatically answer: Ad Deum qui laitificat jueventutem meam, and can still recite the Confiteor and the Dies Irae, all 20-odd verses.

Why, when I was a boy....

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