Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Is it Prayer? #2: Servers

A continuation of Is it Prayer? #1
Gradually, gradually here we are making our liturgy more prayerful, the advantage we have over others here is a church that is slowly becoming more beautiful as we restore it. The environment helps a great deal.

The congregation here is quite transient, most people live in pre-Edwardian houses converted into flats, so there aren't many families here, after the first child couples tend to move away, hence there are not vast numbers of children. In a different parish I might do things differently but here we do not have trillions of children serving. Indeed I am not keen on children of either sex serving. It seems absurd to have a man, doing the most important thing a man can do, surrounded by small boys or small girls. Nowadays, with the scandals, it has also just become a bad sign and tends to trivialise the Liturgy. Though I was very impressed by a contribution of a six year old on Fr Tim's blog.

In the Eastern Churches the servers are ordained to the Minor Orders, which presumes some knowledge and some understanding of the sacred function of their role, it presumes they pray and have an active spiritual life within the Church rather than just being "Father's little helper". It also presumes they are as necessary as the priest within the Liturgy. Post Vatican II liturgy can be celebrated just as well without servers, I know a couple of older priests who generally celebrate without servers.

Here, we generally only have men serving, most can serve the Usus Antiquior as well as the Usus Recentior. They know what they are doing, they have a love of the liturgy, they understand that they are there to assist at the sublime sacrifice, that their own own prayerfulness assists the congregation in prayer.

We are fortunate with our Master of Ceremonies, he knows the Liturgical Law as well as me and being a lawyer can argue his case a little better than me. He also has an Oxford degree in theology, both his Latin and Greek are better than mine. That means that unlike most priests I do not have to worry about being the MC as well as Celebrant  during the Liturgy, which means I am free to pray to focus my own attention on God, which is incredibly liberating. As with Clare who runs our choir, Andrew knows his stuff, or rather the Church's stuff, so as far as the Liturgy is concerned it is possible to implement a vision of "collaborative ministry".

Pope Benedict's idea of ars celebrandi seems to suggest the priest is recollected and absorbed by the Sacred Liturgy itself, it is only then that he diminish and the Lord increases, gradually members of the congregation are catching on, people are beginning to come from surrounding parishes and I think there is an atmosphere of prayer at our Masses.

Because our servers are familiar with both forms of the Roman Rite the two forms do tend to influence one another. At least at our main Sunday Mass, our servers are beginning to arrive early enough to pray before Mass, they vest, prepare the sanctuary, light candles reverently, they chatter less in the sancristy. Recently we have started to pray the prayers at the foot of the altar before Mass in the sacristy, I started doing it in the vernacular, the servers asked for it in the Church's own tongue.

They are of course free to receive Holy Communion as they want to but they choose to receive it according to the norms of the Church kneeling and on the tongue, which seems to help the congregation to receive reverently. On occassion some choose not to receive which in itself is teaching, and I am quite pleased by.

They might be criticised for being a little too drilled or formal but they know clearly what to do. They themselves seem to be praying and have acquired the ars celebrandi which is as importantant to servers as it is to clergy.

We men are actually are comfortable if we know what is expected of us; when to genuflect, when to bow, how to walk, how to sit, how to stand. During the Triduum it was good to have people commenting on the "choreography" of the serving, I think they meant simply they knew what they were doing.


Colin said...

"Archbishop Conti tells clergy: do not promote the Extraordinary Form of the Mass – there is 'no call for it'"


parepidemos said...

Colin, May I ask you to provide your source for the comment regarding the Archbishop of Glasgow? Many thanks.

Dr. Adam DeVille said...

Not all servers in the East are ordained. Most, in fact, are not, but some, especially the Greeks, permit boys to be vested as subdeacons and to function as such even without benefit of ordination.

motuproprio said...

The other important quality to foster in servers is 'sanctuary sense', which contributes significantly to the whole 'ars celebrandi'. Where boys are concerned there has to be a system of progressive responsibility, so that a boat boy serves in that position for a minimum period before he can advance to higher duties and so on.

George Carmody said...



Colin said...

@ Parepidemos
Archbishop Mario Conti’s Ad Clerum letter to the priests and religious of the Archdiocese of Glasgow quoted in the national press.

Savonarola said...

Well, at least it gives Tridentinists something else to be up in arms about. Since their stance seems to be one of constant combativeness, one wonders if there is any place for God in Catholic traditionalism. I thought the fruits of the Holy Spirit (for those who truly know him) are supposed to be love, joy, peace ...
Perhaps Bishop Conti had in mind the recent instruction on the EF mass, which said that those who request it should not be opposed to the legitimacy of the OF. That may the case in an abstract legalist sense, but if you go on about how superior the EF is, more prayerful, more theologically correct etc., you are really questioning the OF in a divisive way and bishops are the ones who have to promote the unity of the Church.

Pablo the Mexican said...

We old guys need to get out of the way and get young boys into the Sanctuary.

Priests are formed in the Sanctuary, while as young boys they learn from serving at Mass.

It is a great disservice to our Lord and a matter of Pride when a man claims to be smarter than the rest because some fool college gave him a paper after he memorized some stuff.

All the theology we need, and all the catechism we actually need can come from attending Mass.

Who says you can't step out of your parish boundaries and speak with parents that are dying to have their children become Priests?

I have two grandchildren I will send you; remember when parents used to send their children to become Priests at an early age?

The Devil has set the trap against children that they not become Priests.

Bow up on Satan's plan, Padre, and get a few kids and dedicate them to our Mother.

Many children since Vatican Council II could have become Priests that would lead the Church through this storm; Satan killed them through Catholic families having abortions or using birth control.

Women in the Sacristy and old codgers being important in the Sacristy have killed vocations also.

The Novus Ordo forms Protestants.

The Tridentine Mass forms Catholics.

Mixing the two creates Roman Protestants.

What do you want to present before the Lord?

And remember, the Novus Ordo might be fun with dancing, clowns, mariachi bands, and live entertainment, but the Tridentine Mass is the one for when I die.


Pablo the Mexican said...

"The disciple is not above his master: but every one shall be perfect, if he be as his master."

The best example of why children should be under the authority of a Catholic father and a Holy Padre that I know of.


georgem said...

I think it's a shame not to have boys serving Mass alongside experienced servers. That's how they learn.

In the olden days a boy who had made his First Holy Communion, learned how to serve and would progress from novice to candle holder to boat boy to thurifer and, eventually, to MC.

There's no better formation in the Mass imo. At Westminster Cathedral the boy choristers have a turn at serving.

With enough adults around, fears of the kinds of scandals which have beset the Church are obviated.

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