“As Father Higgins says, he wants an army of servers”: Boston Herald on TLM altar boys

Here is an article in the Boston Herald which I think some of you will enjoy very much.

Boys step up to altar, en Mass
By Laura Crimaldi   |   Sunday, March 23, 2008 

A new generation of young altar servers captivated by the solemn rituals of Latin Mass is mastering the traditional rite in growing numbers in the Boston archdiocese as the liturgy makes a comeback after a four-decade hiatus.

“It’s really reverent. That’s why I like it,” said altar server Brendan MacKenzie, 12, of Marshfield, as he readied for the Tenebrae, or “Spy Wednesday,” service at Mary Immaculate of Lourdes in Newton during Holy Week. “It brings you closer to God.”

Since April, the number of young boys trained to perform Latin Mass in the Boston area has more than doubled, from eight to 18 servers, said the Rev. Charles J. Higgins, pastor at Mary Immaculate, where the old-style Mass is celebrated every Sunday at noon.

There are an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 altar servers throughout the Boston Archdiocese, a spokesman said. Keeping with the tradition, only boys serve at Latin Mass.

Higgins, 46, who is self-taught in the Latin liturgy, said the increase in boys studying the traditional Mass has more to do with his repeated appeals for volunteers than last year’s “motu propio” from Pope Benedict XVI. The Vatican order reversed 43 years of near banishment of the worship service by allowing priests to perform the liturgy without the authorization of a local bishop.

The devoted altar boys agree with this interpretation of how the pool of servers took on a more youthful look after years of just adult men on the altar.

As Father Higgins says, he wants an army of servers,” said Stephen Farynaz, 12, of Lunenberg, who has been serving at Latin Mass since he was 7 years old.

A minimum of nine servers is needed to perform the highly choreographed rite, which can be traced to the sixth century and is referred to as the Tridentine Mass. The training takes weeks and entails memorizing Latin responses and learning the ceremony’s many rubrics, such as how to walk, genuflect, hold your hands, stand and carry objects. [And the great thing is... they can do it!  If you raise the bar, boys will rise to the occasion.  And there is something about the precision and also knowing that what you are doing is important that will attract boys, who resonate with that sort of challenge.]

Frank Doyle Jr., 43, of West Roxbury, a veteran master of ceremonies who has been serving Latin Mass for 17 years, trains new servers in the nuances of the Mass while conveying that they need not be Thomas Aquinas to get the hang of it.

“When in doubt, genuflect. That’s an old MC’s joke,” said Doyle, who studied the work of English priest Adrian Fortescue to learn the Mass.

To teach some details, Doyle conjures up some fire-and-brimstone mnemonic devices. Take how to kiss the thurible, which contains incense.

“You kiss the top of the chain where there is a disc or you will be like the Prophet Isaiah and know what it’s like to have coal purify your lips,” Doyle said.

Angelus Davulis, 13, of Dorchester was first exposed to Latin Mass at age 7 when his uncle, the Rev. Dominic Gentile, performed a High Solemn Mass. Since the 1990s, the Boston archdiocese has offered Latin Mass at Holy Trinity Church in the South End. The Mass relocated to Mary Immaculate last year.

Davulis studies from a booklet titled “How To Serve Low Mass and Benediction” to learn the difficult Latin. He said he prefers serving at Latin Mass to serving at the Novus Ordo, or modern Mass, because he feels more involved.

“I just want to learn it now before it’s too late,” said Davulis.

MacKenzie’s older brother, Cameron, 14, said he resisted when his parents urged him to serve.

“I guess the first time when I served I realized I was serving God. I guess it just took me away,” he said.

Higgins said he is heartened by his new flock of servers and is training five priests to say Latin Mass.  [If boys can learn it, maybe priests can too?]

“They have an openness to the religious practice, which is very refreshing,” said Higgins. “I see it as a hopeful sign that when they come of age, that whatever stage of life they choose, that they will be strong Christian men whether as priests or family men.”

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63 Responses to “As Father Higgins says, he wants an army of servers”: Boston Herald on TLM altar boys

  1. Volpius says:

    That is wonderful.

    One question though, “A minimum of nine servers is needed”, is this correct? I have never attended Mass in the EF with that many servers. At the NO I noticed that the servers are largely redundant and spend most of the time just sitting around looking vacant, no surprise that boys at the NO look at that and think what is the point while in the EF they actually see a challenge and a chance for service.

  2. suaso! says:

    I love that picture. It is like one of those war room in those movies: “Look, men, I have the perfect strategy…”

    Only this is 10X better.

  3. FranzJosf says:

    It probably includes the option six boys who come out with torches during the Sanctus.

  4. TJM says:

    What a wonderful and heart warming article. I always thought it was the height of condescension to treat the “People of God” as if they
    were morons and couldn’t learn what the Faithful had been doing for centuries. Tom

  5. a rebirth of vocations, maybe. One can only pray.

  6. Augustine says:

    A minimum of nine servers is needed to perform the highly choreographed rite, which can be traced to the sixth century and is referred to as the Tridentine Mass. The training takes weeks and entails memorizing Latin responses and learning the ceremony’s many rubrics, such as how to walk, genuflect, hold your hands, stand and carry objects. [And the great thing is… they can do it! If you raise the bar, boys will rise to the occasion. And there is something about the precision and also knowing that what you are doing is important that will attract boys, who resonate with that sort of challenge.]

  7. Henry Edwards says:

    I have never attended Mass in the EF with that many servers.

    At the Easter Mass in our small TLM community, in addition to the MC and thurifer and 3 older altar boys serving as acolytes, we had 6 younger altar boys serving as torchbearers. I don’t know of any boys of age in our community who aren’t altar boys. And I know some still too young who are chomping at the bit. I believe the explanation is that young boys look up to the traditional priest, and naturally want to emulate him.

  8. Mark Jacobson says:

    I have the privilege of attending the weekly Traditional Mass at this church most Sundays with my family, and it is indeed a wonderful work going on there. The Liturgy is very precise and reverent and beautiful, in no small part due to the diligence and training of the altar boys. The music is also very worthy of the Liturgy. Thank you Fr. Higgins for what you are doing for the Boston area!

  9. I wonder what edition of Fortescue’s book most people use now…

    Fortescue himself seemed to be against the “constant” use of kisses and many genuflections, so he did not think that joke of “genuflect always” was funny, I guess.

    For the Triduum, the 14th ed. has some odd suggestions and omissions and, in general, it needed to have more/better editors of the text.

    That said, why do people go mainly with Fortescue’s work? Where is J. B. O’Connell in all this? Wapelhorst? Laurence J. O’Connell?

  10. Marcus says:

    What a great article!

    In our tiny TLM community (about 60-80 each week), there are tons of kids. Most of the little girls wear chapel veils and many of the boys wear coat and tie (& don’t seem to mind!). The boys all seem to look forward to being old enough to serve. Currently, we have about a dozen. I grew up in the N.O. days, but because virtually no servers are really needed (maybe just 1), I was never invited to serve, although I surely would have been glad to do so. How is that increasing participation?

    It’s also great that TLM servers are expected to look nice and act nice. None of our servers have shaggy heads or wear tattered jeans and sneakers under cassocks and surplices, like at N.O. Those servers just wear a paper-thin alb over whatever they apparently woke up in that morning. I remember one “Youth” Mass where the teenage server was stuck holding the prayer book for the priest for a really long time with his back to us. He was wearing a bright yellow Mellow Yello T-shirt that read through the alb like it wasn’t even there. I was thinking, Nice, now our Mass has sponsorship.

    I hear people say all the time as a sad excuse for thier dress – and by extension their behavior – at church, “God doesn’t care what you wear!” I believe a correct response would be, “So, there’s an area of your life that God doesn’t care about? I think he does, especially when it tells other people about your attitude towards him, yourself, and others.”

    At least the boys in this article will miss most of the silliness happening in the average parish today. May God bless them and their parents.

  11. “Nine servers.” Where did that number come from? Okay, let’s do the math.

    You need a master of ceremonies. It doesn’t hurt to have two, especially for a missa solemnis (less so for the missa cantata). Number one tends to the priest, number two to the deacon, subdeacon, and “inferior ministers” (as the other servers are called in the big picture). Then a thurifer, a boat bearer, a crucifer, two acolytes (who double as candle-bearers), and six torch bearers. That’s thirteen in total, which is the usual complement when playing the big time, like St Mary’s in Washington DC.

    But wait, I’m not even done.

    At the missa cantata where I’m MC1 (and we have an MC2, just in case), we have two separate candle-bearers who double on torches, plus a book bearer, who follows behind the priest in procession with the missal. We also have a banner-bearer (no, not the cheap stuff, but something out of our tradition), plus a “supernumerary” (that’s what we call the guys left over) to accompany the banner-bearer to make sure he doesn’t run into anything. That’s a whopping total (if you account for the candle-bearers coming out of the torch-bearers) of… sixteen!

    Of course, where the missa cantata is concerned, you could do a respectable job with just an MC, a thurifer, a crucifer, and two acolytes. In lieu of an MC, a thurifer could be the de facto MC. You can start a boy out as a crucifer, if he’s big enough to carry the cross, or you could do without one. That brings it to three. And on a regular Sunday, a missa cantata can be properly served by only a first and second acolyte.

    So that’s the long and the short of it (as opposed to the Lewis and Short of it). Any questions?

  12. Deusdonat says:

    Praise be to God! I truly envy the Boston archdiocese. I am in the San Francisco
    archdiocese and, how can I put this as charitably as possible, our archbishop
    continues to thwart the Motu Proprio and will not allow the Tridentine Mass
    save in a remote location an hour’s drive from the city.

    May God bless and keep our Pope Benedict!!!

  13. Latinmass198 says:

    David Alexander,

    YES! There is no need for a second MC either at a sung Mass or a Solemn Mass.

    Usually, the presence of a second MC is a privilege (I guess we can call it that) of a Bishop when he says the Mass or when he presides. This is because there are many more people in the Sanctuary and one head (MC) won’t be enough to signal to so many people to move or do something at a certain time.

    One M.C. is more than enough, especially if he knows what he is doing. And also if there is a Thurifer who is very familiar with the ceremonies. In that case, *he* can “help” the M.C. to direct the other servers if there is a need to do so.

  14. Deo Gratias, at St. Therese were I serve, there’ 9 total, so that number isn’t bad (4 candle bearers, 4 main servers, and the priest).

  15. Latinmass198:

    I used to think you could get by with one MC at a High Mass, or even a Solemn Mass. But it’s more difficult. My experience over the last six months — and those who taught me have said I know what I’m doing — has convinced me of the need for a second MC. If the lineup is small, especially for a High Mass, you can get by with one MC. And a thurifer who’s on the ball.

  16. Irenaeus says:

    Since we’re on the subject, can any of you tell me how I can find TLM in the Chicago suburbs (diocese of Joliet or Chicago; depending on the boundaries, I’m not sure which may be closer, but I think Joliet, actually). The diocesan websites aren’t helpful, and googling hasn’t produced too much. Is there a website that keeps track of where the TLM is being offered?

  17. Latinmass198:

    Fortescue (the “blue book”) remains the definite English-language text for overall use. For the Mass itself, many prefer J B O’Connell (the “green book”). Personally, I have and use both. But you’ll always find people who take exception to one thing or another in the minutiae. I think Reid did an excellent job. Someone had to do what he did, if only to reconcile certain details with present universal law (like that subdeacon thing, for instance).

  18. Emilio III says:

    Irenaeus,

    Check http://web2.airmail.net/carlsch/MaterDei/churches.htm#illinois (This is from the Dallas Latin Mass website.)

  19. BobP says:

    Irenaeus,

    TLM’s in Chicago:

    St. John Cantius, 7:30am, 12:30pm
    St. John Vianney, (Northlake) 10:00am, crypt chapel
    St. Gelasius, 8am, 10am (run by ICRSS)
    St. Thomas More, 12:00
    St. Mary of Perpetual Help, 8:30am
    St. Peter and Paul (Joliet) Naperville, 5:30pm
    St. Odilo (Berwyn), 1pm

  20. Romulus says:

    One M.C. is more than enough,

    It all depends. At the parish where I’ve been MCing for a few years, we’ve learned that it helps to have a second MC to supervise the entrance of torchbearers at the Sanctus. In a perfect world, all those fellows would be perfectly drilled and know just what to do. Though if we inhabited that sort of world there’d be virtually no need for MCs in the first place! Another reason the extra help comes in handy is that we’ve taken to ringing the tower bells at the consecration — a task that the first MC can’t perform unless he slips into the sacristy at a point where it’s especially important that no excess movement distract from the action of the celebrant. Obviously it’s possible to get by with fewer servers — and we practically always do. But how nice to have some extra help to take the pressure off.

  21. Romulus says:

    One additional reason for keeping a second MC on hand is that from time to time the first MC is unavailable — vacation, business, family duties, and illness all can call him away, leaving the celebrant high and dry. I have more than once seen a subdeacon’s unexpected absence cause a scheduled Solemn Mass to be scaled back to a Missa cantata. These emergencies are sometimes unavoidable, but failure to build redundancy into the ranks is poor leadership. Every parish with a serious commitment to more ambitious liturgy is remiss unless it plans for such contingencies.

    A personal comment: The more I see and hear, the more certain I am that maybe the worst damage to the Church since Vatican II has come from a deformed understanding of “active participation.” People are so fearfully jealous of their little jobs. It’s another way the Church has become protestantised: this hunger to be busy and important and in the inner circle, to make the parish reflective of themselves.

    I love and cherish my altar service. It is a blessing. It’s also a calling, however, and the thing about a calling is that the same servant who’s called to serve can be sent away when the service is no longer wanted. The minute I start feeling jealous and posessive about my function would be the same minute when it would cease to be a calling and start to be an imposition by me upon my Master. Perhaps this is hard for democratic Americans to understand because there’s no clear grasp in our culture of what it means to be in a master/servant relationship. This is something I had in mind when I undertook training of my replacements. My pastor now has the option of making someone else the first MC. I don’t expect to be replaced, but am certainly not going to make him miserable if he should ever decide to do so. I have already told him that I’ll step aside any time he asks . Not because that would make me happy but because he’s the decider and it isn’t about me. He thanked me for that. Parish priests must be sick to death of brawls with their parishioners over everything large and small; I am not going to be a part of it

  22. The TLM is a refreshing atmosphere all along. At a recent NO an EMHC came up to the altar with a low cut strapless dress to help give the Precious Blood. She proceeded later to put a sweater on AFTER Mass before going home…

  23. Haurietis Aquas says:

    The TLM is a refreshing atmosphere all along. At a recent NO an EMHC came up to the altar with a low cut strapless dress to help give the Precious Blood. She proceeded later to put a sweater on AFTER Mass before going home…

  24. Romulus:

    Amen to that! In my current assignment, we endeavor to keep the ranks “politics free.” This is easier when working with kids than with grown-ups, gofigure. I was sacked at one parish years ago, by the guy who did the scheduling. The pastor himself said the guy had no right to do that, but stuck with the decision anyway. I eventually caught on elsewhere, but not before having to do some damage control to my good name, which got a raw deal in the process. (Honestly, put a bunch of grown men in lace every week, and they’re worse than a bunch of old women, but that’s another story…) Thanks be to God that I am where I am now. I tell all the guys that the pastor has the final say in who serves and who does not. We don’t even train a new second MC without going to him. We’re in the business of inspiring vocations, so we keep an eye out for young men initiating discernment.

    And so, there I am, a humble servant in the vineyard of the Lord. Just don’t get me started…

  25. 2 mc’s is certainly okay, but 1 is certainly “doable”. There is something to be said for not proliferating ministers. I have usually mc’d alone, both for Missa Cantata and Missa Solemnis, and never felt harried.

  26. Latinmass198 says:

    @ David,

    I don’t mean to be a pain, but I do disagree. I have seen many sung Masses done with only one M.C. I, personally, have served Masses as the only M.C. It is not “too much” at all, unless the servers are very little children who are learning how to serve the Mass.

    The real difficulty comes in when the other servers do not really know what they are doing (new servers/no rehearsal or experience), but in that case having two M.C.’s will not help either, as they should only limit themselves, for the most part, to signals.

    For Solemn Masses, if you look at pictures all over the internet (and from my own personal experience), regular Solemn Masses can be done with only one M.C., too. When you have two M.C.’s, the second one is just “hanging around” the sanctuary not doing much because the first M.C. is doing most things that need to be done by an M.C. It is very distracting and not so needed at all.

    Fortescue’s 14th edition is essentially the previous editions. It has to be so, otherwise it wouldn’t be a revision/update, but a totally new book. However, if you do have time, go through many parts of the latest edition (14th) and compare it to the previous editions (1959-present). You will see that there are great differences in certain things that did not change in 1962.

    Also, the editing of the book was so badly done. It seems as if they did it in a hurry the night before it was published (Ex. “The M.C. genuflects with the him…” – meant to say: The M.C. genuflects with the Celebrant or the M.C. genuflects with him [Celebrant]. There are quite a few such examples throughout the book).

    In one section it tells the Thurifer not to bow before/after incensing the Blessed Sacrament at the Elevation, but later on it tells the Thurifer to bow before/after incensing the Blessed Sacrament… Which one is it?

    Also, the whole section that deals with the correct choir dress of Bishops and dignitaries is a mix between the pre- and the post-1969 rules. It should be one or the other, not both mingled together.

    @Romulus,

    If servers cannot be reliable, then they should not be serving. Part of being a good Altar server is dedication and responsibility. The M.C. should not be doing everything that others need to do just because they are not careful enough.

    Why ring the tower bell during the Consecration? I thought that only happened at Papal Masses where there was no use of little bells at all.

    It is good that more than one person learn how to be M.C. I agree with that, BUT it’s not good that there be two during the actual ceremonies. It would be better if different M.C.’s alternate weekly, so they get to practice what they know and not forget it.

    But if you can have two M.C.’s during the actual ceremonies, then there should be no problem if you eventually are asked to allow 3 or more. That should be fun!

  27. Latinmass198:

    I’ll have to reserve judgment for now with regard to any thorough comparison of past vs present editions of Fortescue, but I can render a few guesses.

    I mentioned that some alterations were the result of changes in universal law, which would not be tied to one form of the Roman Missal or the other. You mention differences in the conduct of the thurifer — to bow or not to bow — but without the context I cannot address that one. It is also possible (although I would have to verify this) that Reid made some revisions based upon multiple sources. He would likely mention this in his own preface to the current edition.

    I don’t know any of this for certain, but I do know that if you put two or more rubricists in the same room, they’ll find something upon which to disagree. Even our dear Fortescue would agree.

    If the ceremonials traditionally make provision for both first and second masters of ceremonies, we can safely assume that they are at least appropriate. Our pastor determined their prudent use at the offset, and his experience (and mine, as I have mentioned) bears out the wisdom of this decision. I cannot speak to what happens elsewhere with the same authority.

  28. Joshua says:

    I do not see why all of this bickering. Certain things are clear enough. You do not need 9 servers, but you certainly can use 9 servers.

    Looking at it from a rubrical perspective: low Mass should only have one server, though often, against old SRC decrees, it had two

    A Missa cantata could be done with one or two servers and served as a low Mass. If one wanted they could throw in a pair of torchbearers, that makes 4.

    Or it could be served more like a solemn Mass. Technically there is no MC at a Missa Cantata, but there may be an assistant to the priest (who takes more or less the roles of the deacon and subdeacon, depending on his rank: laypersons can turn pages, clerics can chant the epistle and move the chalice from the credence, if he is at least a subdeacon he can assist at the ablutions, etc). That makes 5. In 1958 incense was allowed at Missa Cantatas in general, so that would make 6. The acolytes (who do not double as candle bearers, that is part of the acolytes’ job in the first place) can double as torchbearers, so you can go back down to 4. You can add another 4 torch bearers for a max of 6, that is 8 and you could just have 6 dedicated torchbearers so that is ten.

    A cross bearer, with the exception of Holy Week (where it should, if possible, be a subdeacon) is really a feature of Pontifical Masses. But it is custom in many places, so 11. Where I serve Mass the Cross bearer, since I do little else, directs many of the servers, as if he were a 2nd MC, while the assistant (misnomer MC) assists the priest.

    At a solemn Mass of a regular priest the ceremonial of bishops presupposes just one MC, who is a priest. Obviously that does not normally happen. It allows for a 2nd MC at greater functions (just as it presuppose 2 or 4 torches at a regular Mass, but 6 at greater ones). That does not preclude have a 2nd MC normally; the point is that the more complicated the ceremonies or the more people involved, the more you may need another MC.

    Here we do well having the cross bearer and thurifer take some leading role, directing the other servers. So if you only have say 2 really knowledgeable servers, one can be MC and the other can be thurifer or cross bearer, but still direct the other servers. There is no reason why the cross bearer has to be functionless for the whole Mass.

  29. Joshua says:

    I should add, with Fortescue, that there is no need to needlessly multiply servers. A boat bearer is almost never much of a help, and is certainly not a function in the rubrics. A book bearer?! The rubrics actually specify who carries the Missal in (if it is carried). No need for another position.

    The crucifer really is not necessary either. One wonders if it would not be best if the custom contra legem were ignored here. The law has a subdeacon carry the cross in Pontifical Masses, Palm Sunday and Easter Vigil. It allows a server to do it on Palm Sunday or Easter Vigil in lieu of a subdeacon, but it is not part of an ordinary Mass except by contrary custom. I say this even though I am always the crucifer at our Sung Mass. If you do have one, he can function as a 2nd MC during the Mass I think, since he has nothing to do.

    I can see this: having extra servers who sit in choro who are young and learning. But not as a regular thing, they need to learn by doing for the most part.

  30. Folks: Isn’t the point here about the revival of boys serving at the altar and the wonderful connection there is between service at the altar and young men?

  31. Thomas says:

    I live the next town over from Mary Immaculate of Lourdes and have gone to the TLM a couple times (and I intend to go more often while sticking with my own parish). I can see a burst of vocations coming from the ranks of altar boys there, and it will send a strong message throughout the Archdiocese.

    I can’t stress how important it is that altar servers be boys. It’s a simple fact that when you let girls fill that role it repels the boys of the parish. In the parish I grew up in and was very active in until we closed it was all boys, and there were many of us. In my new parish there was a mix, and now ALL the boys are gone. There isn’t a single altar boy in the parish.

    I know special permission was granted by John Paul the Great, but I hope Pope Benedict rescinds it. The current situation is a drain on vocations.

  32. Jason says:

    Since the 1990s, the Boston archdiocese has offered Latin Mass at Holy Trinity Church in the South End. The Mass relocated to Mary Immaculate last year.
    Holy Trinity has resumed the Extraordinary Form on Sundays @ 9AM.

  33. Marilyn says:

    I was sitting in the pew on Holy Thursday evening shortly before Mass was to begin–this was the first time our priest had said the Holy Thursday Mass in the old rite, and needless to say, it was the first time for the servers as well. I sat in the pew and watched as Father spoke softly to three of the servers. He was obviously giving them last minute instructions. Their faces told it all–they were hanging on his every word, listening intently, taking in all he had to say. They were boys turning into young men right before my very eyes. There is no doubt in my mind that this mass will be a huge boon to vocations.

  34. Kradcliffe says:

    Marco, you sound like a really nice young man – very mature and intelligent. I hope that you do have a call to the priesthood. Thanks for showing us your photos… that altar in the first link is gorgeous! You are so lucky to have the opportunity to serve Mass at such a beautiful altar. God bless you.

  35. Romulus says:

    If servers cannot be reliable, then they should not be serving.

    Indeed. But I inhabit the sort of universe where accidents, oversights, and disappointments sometimes occur. My servers are fallen flesh and blood, not angels. Moreover, I am rather picky about small details. I can’t supervise torchbearers as they line up because I’m at the missal with the celebrant. Need I be at the missal? It’s better that way, because the celebrant can’t proceed with the Orate Fratres till the incensings are complete, and I serve as his eyes since he can’t turn his head. Here I follow Fortescue, whose recommendations I’m confident are rooted in good sense and common practice.

    Why ring the tower bell during the Consecration?

    I have seen it done in Europe (not at papal masses) and thought it highly effective. I proposed it to my pastor (a man of exceptional liturgical experience who cares deeply about doing things right), who assented at once. Also, if memory serves, I believe Fortescue recognises this practice.

    BUT it’s not good that there be two during the actual ceremonies.

    I can only point out that circumstances differ from one place to the next. I’ll have to ask you to trust me when I say I respect the Roman principle of austerity and do not seek to people the sanctuary with decorative supernumeraries.

    It would be better if different M.C.’s alternate weekly, so they get to practice what they know and not forget it.

    My understudy stands in for me once or twice a month. More often recently, since I was out sick for a while.

    But if you can have two M.C.’s during the actual ceremonies, then there should be no problem if you eventually are asked to allow 3 or more. That should be fun!

    Next month our archbishop will preside from the throne at our parish, in a celebration in the EF. If we feel the need to call on a third man to help out, I hope it will be all right with you.

  36. Irenaeus says:

    Emilio & Bob, thanks for the advice — turns out there’s one about 5 miles south of me I can get to. Thanks!

  37. “Folks: Isn’t the point here about the revival of boys serving at the altar…?”

    Indeed it is, Father. Fortunately, Joshua @ 2:59pm told me a few things I didn’t know previously. We use separate candle-bearers in addition to acolytes, to engage as many of the boys as possible, and retain their interest in serving. My understanding of Fortescue is that they can be separate. I cannot explain our use of a book-bearer. Our pastor is an occasional reader of this site, so I’d have to defer to him — which I usually do anyway.

    If it would facilitate staying on topic, I would be curious as to the use of older boys with younger ones. We take boys from about fifth grade all the way into college. What say the rest of you?

  38. JPG says:

    This is wonderful. If they become enthralled at the service of the altar they may well become priests!! It would be no small irony if the restoration of the EF begins a new wave of vocations. I can recall as a young server in the transitional rite 9/1969 that when it changed to the OF in 12/1969, I had nothing to do. A development like this in one sense would not be surprising but would be most welcome.
    JPG

  39. Gil Ferguson says:

    Alexander I think:

    The Second M.C. would move the book to the Gospel side each time before the altar was censed; also, he would re-coal and re-incense the thurifer being held by the first M.C., before the final Gospel, and advise, if needed, the going’s on of the itty-bitty servers.
    Seems the second M.C. was a larger and well seasoned thurifter mostly.

  40. Thanks for the sense of humor, Romulus!

    However, some of you continue to mention Fortescue and the Ceremonial of Bishops… but do you actually do what’s in it? From what we can gather, some things are done just because…

    1) you see it done somewhere else, which does not mean that it should be something to be imitated.
    2) your Pastor allows it. As far as we know, Pastors do not have the authority to add or “improve” the official Rubrics… even if they have a blog!
    3) because… because…

    I’m not doubting anyone’s respect for the Rubrics, but a sign that they are not being followed is the presence of too many people in the Sanctuary during the ceremonies.

    Romulus, it would not be all right with me to have three M.C.’s at a Pontifical Mass, but since most people are “claiming” to be following Fortescue (whichever edition you have), go ask him. See what he tells you!

  41. latinmass1983:

    We have been asked by the moderator to confine the scope of our remarks. Nothing you have said just now has not already been addressed to the best of our ability. Quite frankly, most of us serve at the pleasure of our parish priests. Whatever our personal interpretation of the minutiae of ceremonial books, we are compelled to defer to them.

    We also presume that our parish priests know how to read.

  42. Jennifer says:

    Irenaeus,

    You won’t find the horrid “Gather” hymnal being used there (comments from your previous posts). Enjoy your TLM experience, enjoy the reverence for Christ! And pertaining to the point of this post, enjoy seeing young men engaged in something that is truly beyond themselves and gives them a sense of pride to be serving the Lord – this can only be a good thing for everyone. Men need to take back their roles as spiritual leaders in the Church and in their households. This resurgence of the TLM and raising the bar with altar boys will only promote that. Of course…women need to step back and let them reclaim that role too.

    Jennifer

  43. Lynne says:

    “Holy Trinity has resumed the Extraordinary Form on Sundays @ 9AM.”

    Thanks be to God!!!!!

    That’s the TLM I’ve been attending since February 10th. Father Taurasi is the priest…. He’s wonderful!

  44. Mr Ferguson: You are welcome to contact me privately. manwithblackhat at yahoo dot com.

  45. Diane says:

    Excellent article and precisely what we are witnessing in many quarters where the usus antiquior is celebrated.

    I finally got a series of photographs of the altar boy rehearsal on Holy Thursday for later that evening, with Fr. Perrone leading that session. They worked hard! The youngest was probably about 8 and it went up into adulthood (about 30 in all).

    Bottom line is that the youngest of boys is not stupid and incapable of learning these things. It is not too hhaaaarrrrddddd!

    Holy Thursday Altar Boy Rehearsal at Assumption Grotto

  46. Diane:

    Ah, yes. I had a similar experience at St John the Beloved. They all look so well-behaved in the pictures. Are they like that in real life?

    DLA

  47. Boston_Trad says:

    “Marco, . . . Thanks for showing us your photos… that altar in the first link is gorgeous! You are so lucky to have the opportunity to serve Mass at such a beautiful altar [Holy Trinity Boston - where the extraordinary form has resumed on Sunday at 0900, and where traditional Holy Thursday and Good Friday services were held in the Archdiocese for the first time since Vatican II]”

    Everyone who appreciates Holy Trinity, please remember to pray for us. The Presbyteral Council of the Archdiocese met on Friday 14 March and voted to accept Cardinal O’Malley’s recommendation to close the parish (which was made in 2004); Please pray for the miracle that will change the Cardinal’s heart so that Holy Trinity will always be a place of Catholic worship. The Archdiocese claims that “the mission of this beautiful church has ended,” but Boston needs this “sign of contradiction,” with its statues and proclamation of all things Catholic, contradicting the mindset of the Boston area, which thinks that history began at Plimouth Plantation (a Puritan Commonwealth) and ended in Old Sturbridge Village (living history of New England in the 1830′s and 1840′s, before the Irish and other Catholic immigrants contaminated it).

  48. Boston_Trad says:

    To return to the altar boy topic, Father Higgins is not shy about recruiting. A few weeks ago, he asked my five-year-old son, “When are we going to see a cassock in your size?” – this even though the laymen running the training require boys to be a minimum age of ten.

    (By the way, the attitude in the nearby Diocese of Providence is different; Father Santos will let them start as soon as they’ve made their First Communion. Here in Boston, one Midnight Mass several years ago, we had a six-year-old torch bearer, who got through the Mass OK.)

  49. Central Valley Catholic says:

    Fr. Z,
    Another wonderful posting and as usual, I greatly enjoy your comments. Here in Bakersfield, Ca, as you may remember, we have never had a shortage of male altar servers for the extraordinary rite. I recall in the glory days of the San Clemente Mission, if there was a Holy day during the week and there were no boys available, one of the elderly parishioners, remembering the Mass from his youth would ascend the altar and assist the priest in serving Mass.
    Where there is a solid following for the Extraordinary Rite, there are always children as those attached to the ancient rite are far less likely to use contraception. Of course the priests involved in these communities will also lead the young boys into service. Easter and Christmas in the good ole days of San Clemente was rough, sometimes so many boys would want to serve Mass, and some would have to be turned away. Bakersfield has been blessed with wonderful priests such as Monsignor Belluomini and Father Sotelo and briefly the great Fr. Z, who parishioners to this day speak highly of.

  50. Mark M says:

    Thanks for this article; it really does sum up good things about serving.

    Interesting comment about a war room: for a moment, I remembered our Priest telling us last week, “look, you have to be my eyes; I can’t see if I look dreadful. You must; if things look bad, it can sometimes be the servers’ fault”.

  51. Serafino says:

    Marco, I hope and pray that God will guide your steps to the Holy Priesthood, so that, one day soon, you will join us at His Holy Altar and pray those “AWESOME” words, “Introibo ad altare Dei.”

    Your zeal and love for the Traditional Latin Mass and the beauty of God’s house, gives this old traditional Italian priest hope, that long after he is gone, good and holy priests like yourself, (If it be God’s Holy Will) will continue to offer the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the traditional Roman Rite. Memento mei,”pater.”

    Oremus pro invicem

    Serafino

  52. Diane says:

    David L. Alexander comments: Diane:

    Ah, yes. I had a similar experience at St John the Beloved. They all look so well-behaved in the pictures. Are they like that in real life?

    Well, if you mean during Mass? The answer is…… if they don’t they get promptly benched by Fr. Perrone (and one of the mother’s told me it happened to one of hers when he was caught gigglging during Mass and she couldn’t do a think from where she was at, but watch. I think the fellow earned a one month suspension or something. That’s tantamount to being benched on a sports team at Grotto).

    As far as outside of Mass….I can tell you that these kids, most kids at Grotto are among the most well behaved, well mannered kids I have ever seen. But that is first a reflection of the domestic church in which they are raised followed by the priests who help form their conscience.

    Also, the vast majority are homeschooled. The first thing I noticed among homeschoolers is the lack of attitude (bad additude). Older siblings help with their younger siblings, they work around the church as needed. Don’t get me wrong they aren’t saints, but all in all this is truly a great group of well mannered, well disciplined, young men.

  53. Diane says:

    Oh, and so there are no misunderstandings…

    Even the boys who are not homeschooled are extremely well mannered and disciplined. Thus, I believe it is mostly the result of how they are being raised and how involved the priests are in their spiritual development.

    All in all though, where something might be unpopular among ordinary American high school boys these kids have an internal support structure amongst themselves.

    The same kind of influences and peer pressures just aren’t there from what I sense.

  54. Maynardus says:

    Mr. Alexander commented:

    “We use separate candle-bearers in addition to acolytes, to engage as many of the boys as possible, and retain their interest in serving. My understanding of Fortescue is that they can be separate…

    “If it would facilitate staying on topic, I would be curious as to the use of older boys with younger ones. We take boys from about fifth grade all the way into college. What say the rest of you?”

    As my friend from Boston mentioned, in Providence we start ‘em out after they make their First Holy Communion. After some training in the basics, each boy is sized for a cassock and surplice, thereafter it is *their* responsibility to don the *correct* size. For several weeks the neophytes simply process in, sit in choir, kneel on the altar steps for Communion, and process out. This gives them ample opportunity to get used to walking in procession, moving around in the Sanctuary, and to observe the more senior servers up close. Meanwhile they are practicing their Latin responses during the week, usually with a parent or older brother.

    Within a couple of months most of them graduate to service as boatbearer, torchbearers, etc. where they can continue to gain confidence under close supervision.

    Although we do not have daily Mass, we have a Low Mass every Saturday morning and a variable number of additional feast day Masses each month, these provide excellent “low pressure” opportunities for our novices to serve as acolytes, either in pairs or teamed with one of their more-experienced seniors.

    I liked the way Romulus put it, and we too are cognizant of “the Roman principle of austerity”, nor do we “seek to people the sanctuary with decorative supernumeraries”. At the slight risk of offending the occasional bloodless rubricist who might wander in some Sunday, I believe that the inclusion of these young men (even if they are temporarily “decorative supernumeraries”) is a positive good which we are placing at the service of the liturgy.

  55. Diane, thou hast writ:

    “Also, the vast majority are homeschooled. The first thing I noticed among homeschoolers is the lack of attitude (bad additude). Older siblings help with their younger siblings, they work around the church as needed. Don’t get me wrong they aren’t saints, but all in all this is truly a great group of well mannered, well disciplined, young men.”

    Yes, I notice that difference too. In fact, it was older homeschooled boys upon whom I called to assist me with the planning and rehearsal for Holy Week. But boys are still boys, and I did have to occasionally call things to order. But I’m not a priest, just the senior MC. I don’t have to authority to “fire” boys directly, just to report on them. In the long run, I prefer it that way. I don’t run the whole altar server program for the parish, so the parents rarely get to know me. And I think it needs to be clear that they serve at the pleasure of the pastor. As do I.

    There is a case for and against “supernumeraries.” They had them at St Mary’s in DC, and I didn’t care for it much. Sometimes for a Low Mass I am “in choro” to keep an eye on trainees, as I find this helpful not only in overseeing their development, but in pacing their Latin responses for the priest.

    All in all, the experience is a very positive and rewarding one. Nearly all the servers showed up for Tenebrae, and there’s nothing like the site of an endless parade of cassocks and surplices marching two-by-two. It almost made me feel sentimental. But then I’d miss a cue from Father, and I’d get past it.

  56. Diane says:

    David – I’ll give the boys of our parish this much…they KNOW BETTER than to mess around. One of the mothers told me that some are convinced Father has eyes on the back of his head. However, he is often in the loft at other Masses so he sees things.

    When I witnessed just two hours of that probably 2.5-3 hour practice on Holy Thursday (without a break), and saw how those kids behaved – in particular the youngest of them, it just blew me away. Then again, there were 3 priests at that session and a seminarian in cassock.

    I’ve seen them have a good bit of fun too, so there is a time for play and a time for work. They are quite a cohesive bunch that’s for sure.

  57. Harrold says:

    There is confusion here. The Latin mass has always been available These people are referring to the Tridentine use which is a different thing. Several Anglican parishes here use the Tridentine rite in English. Some RCs do. The Tridentine rite is somethimes cfelebrated facing the people; the new rite can be celebrated facing East. In any case, for English people the traditional rite is the Sarum rite. The Tridentine was imposed on England in 1850. Fr Z is at least more liberal than these people, if indeed he exists!

  58. Harrold says:

    There is deliberate obfuscation here. The traditional Latin Mass is has always been available. These people mean the Tridentine mass which is a different thing. anglicans have oftern used the Tridentine rite in English- laguage is not the issue. The Tridentine rite needs purging of accretions. the new rite can be celbratede facing East, the olk rite can be done facing west. The trad. rite for england is the Sarum rite, the tridentine having been imposed in 1850. Fr Z, if he exists, is more liberal than these people.

  59. Richard T says:

    I loved this line in the article, saying that the TLM had suffered:

    “a four-decade hiatus”

    For me, that puts it perfectly – the last 40 years have been a brief aberration, and things are now slowly returning to normal.

  60. Simon Platt says:

    I’d like to respond to Harrold’s comments on “confusion” (or even “deliberate obfuscation”). It seems he’s writing from England, as I am. Those of you from overseas – please grant him no credence. I normally would not respond as strongly as I do below – but I think this case calls for strong medicine.

    “The traditional Latin mass has always been available”

    Of course, we know that it was never abrogated, although availability is something else …

    “the Tridentine mass … is a different thing”

    This beats me. I don’t myself use “tridentine” in this context, as I think it is sometimes misused to imply that the rite is only 400-odd years old, or even that it could be superseded by a rite purported to derive from a later council, but we all know what “Tridentine mass” means – all except Harrold, perhaps.

    “Anglicans use the Tridentine rite in English”

    What!? “Mass” might have been attempted somewhere – stranger things have happened – although I’ve never heard of it!

    “Some RCs do”

    That probably counts as a “stranger thing”. You should also be aware that there is a small group of people in England who use language like Harrold’s, tendentiously using the term “Roman” catholic in contradistinction to “Anglican catholics”, whom they consider to be the true inheritors of the mediaeval English Church, the “Romans” merely being foreign interlopers. As an English catholic I am tempted to reply to that in strong Anglo-Saxon terms.

    “The Tridentine rite needs purging of accretions”

    I’m sure you will treat that with the respect it deserves.

    “the new rite can be celebrated facing East”

    we know.

    “the olk rite can be done facing west.”

    I suppose it can.

    “The trad. rite for england is the Sarum rite, the tridentine having been imposed in 1850.”

    The revised Roman rite was introduced to England in penal times, and displaced the Sarum rite (an indidgenous English use of the Latin rite which I think would probably strike most of us as familiar), which fell into abeyance I believe because of the persecution of catholics by the protestant authorities. Two and a half centuries later, 1850 saw the restoration of the English hierarchy. I don’t suppose anyone noticed any change in liturgy then.

    Now I’ve got to the bit that says “Fr Z, if he exists”, and suspect I’ve been wasting my time. Should I hit “submit”? Yes, why not!

    Father – if you exist – please delete this at the same time you delete Harrold’s comments.

  61. Serafino says:

    If I am not mistaken, when the Catholic Hierarchy in England was restored in 1850, they were given an “option” to return to the Sarum Rite or adopt the Roman Rite. I assume they opted for the Roman Rite as a sign of their solidarity with the Holy See. As mention, the Sarum Rite is basically the Roman Rite with local adaptions.

  62. Harrold says:

    Serafino is right. Manning & Wiseman were ultramontanes and would have opted for the Tridentine use. Certainly Pugin designed buildings with the Sarum Use in mind. The Oxford Oratory has revived both the sarum and Tridentine usues on occasions.
    I still stand by my assertion that the new rite in Latin, as has always been available at Westminster Cathedral, The London Oratory, Spanish Place, Farm St and St Ethelreda’s, just to mention London,IS just as traditional as the Tridentine. What I meant by obfuscation was the assertion that the issue nis Latin in the liturgy. It never has been an issue. The Latin liturgy proponents in England split some years ago: The LMS supports only one rite in Latin, the Assn for Latin Liturgy supports the use of Latin in various old rites and the new use.
    What IS important is dignified celebrations of the liturgy whatever the rite. I went to a tridentine celebration in Bedford celebrated by FSSP & it waqs a frightful muddle. The old rite was often appallingly celebrated in the 1950s.