Altar Servers — More Than “Helpers of the Parish Priest” Pope John Paul II

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Altar Servers -- More Than

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Adoremus, Society for the Revitalization of the Holy Ceremony.

Altar Servers — Beyond “Assistants of the Parish Priest” Pope John Paul II.

Speaking to the General Audience on August 1, 2001, marking the 1,000th anniversary of his pontificate.

Beloved Siblings!

Dear Youth!

1. Presently, St. Peter’s Square stands as a symbol of youthful energy. Roughly a year ago, during the peak of the Great Jubilee 2000, young individuals from various corners of the globe were warmly received here to commemorate World Youth Day. Today, this Square, where I have presided over 1,000 general audiences as the chosen Successor to the Apostle Peter, welcomes countless boys and girls who have embarked on a pilgrimage from every corner of Europe to pay their respects at the resting place of the Prince of the Apostles.

Dear companions of the altar! Yesterday, you embarked on a majestic journey, traversing the expanse of St. Peter’s Square in a grand procession, leading you closer to the sacred altar of Confession within the magnificent basilica. In this act, you extended the very path that the youth of the entire globe embarked upon during the Holy Year. The motto that guided your pilgrimage to the Eternal City, “Toward a New World,” serves as a poignant symbol of your unwavering commitment to wholeheartedly embrace your Christian calling.

2. Dear youth, I extend my warm greetings to you and express my joy in the occurrence of this gathering. I am especially grateful to Auxiliary Bishop Martin Gachter, the president of Coetus Internationalis Ministrantium, for his kind words spoken on your behalf.

I warmly greet the altar servers of German-speaking nations, the largest group among us. It fills me with delight to witness the presence of numerous young German Christians here today!

Your dedication to the sacred shrine is not just an obligation, but a magnificent privilege, a true divine endeavor. In relation to this noble endeavor, I would like to present a few contemplations to your esteemed self.

The attire of the altar server holds a distinct charm, reminiscent of the sacred garment donned by individuals upon their embrace of Jesus Christ within the community. I speak of the baptismal gown, whose significance Saint Paul elucidates: “For those of you who have been baptized into Christ have enveloped yourselves with the essence of Christ” (Galatians 3:27).

Dear altar servers, although your baptismal gown may no longer embrace you snugly, you have donned the sacred vestments of altar servers. Embrace the transformative power of baptism, as it marks the beginning of your genuine liturgical service, positioning you alongside bishops, priests, and deacons (refer to Sacrosanctum Concilium, No. 29).

The position of the altar server holds a special significance in the liturgical ceremony. By serving at Mass, they become a visible member of the community. They have the unique opportunity to witness the presence and involvement of Jesus Christ in every aspect of the liturgy. Jesus is there when the community gathers to pray and offer worship to God. Jesus is present in the sacred Scriptures. Most importantly, Jesus is present in the Eucharist, in the form of bread and wine. Through the priest, who acts as the representative of Christ, the holy Mass is celebrated and the sacraments are administered.

Therefore, in the liturgy, you are far beyond mere “assistants to the parish priest.” Primarily, you are devoted servants of Jesus Christ, the everlasting High Priest. As such, you, as altar servers, have a distinct calling to become youthful companions of Jesus. Embrace the resolve to delve deeper and nurture this profound friendship with him. Consequently, you will unearth the realization that in Jesus, you have encountered an unwavering confidant for all eternity.

The altar server frequently holds a candlestick, evoking the profound words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: “You are the illuminator of the universe” (Matthew 5:14). Your dedication should not confine itself within the church walls but radiate throughout daily existence: within educational institutions, within the family unit, and across diverse societal domains. For those who aspire to serve Jesus Christ within the sacred space, it is imperative to become a beacon of his teachings wherever one goes.

Dear youth! Your peers eagerly anticipate the genuine “beacon of hope” (refer to John 1:9). Let not your candle be confined within the church walls, but venture forth with the radiant Gospel, illuminating the lives of those dwelling in obscurity and enduring challenging circumstances.

5. I have previously discussed the concept of friendship with Jesus, but imagine the joy that would come from this friendship blossoming into something even greater! How truly magnificent it would be if some of you were to uncover a calling to the priesthood! Jesus Christ is in dire need of young individuals who are willing to serve Him wholeheartedly and without reservation. Furthermore, could it be possible that the Lord might also beckon one or two of you young women to embrace the consecrated life and dedicate yourselves to serving the Church and your fellow brothers and sisters? Even for those who desire the path of marriage, the role of altar servers teaches us that a true partnership must always involve a readiness for mutual and selfless service.

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