Altar Servers — Beyond “Helpers of the Parish Priest” Pope John Paul II.
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Altar Servers — More Than “Helpers of the Parish Priest” Pope John Paul II.Output: Altar Servers — Beyond
Speaking at the General Audience on August 1, 2001, marking the 1,000th anniversary of his
1. Nowadays, St. Peter’s Square is known as the vibrant hub of youth. Around a year back, during the magnificent Great Jubilee 2000, youngsters from every corner of the globe were warmly embraced here to commemorate World Youth Day. Presently, this Square, where I have been blessed to serve as a successor to the Apostle Peter, marks its 1,000th general audience and welcomes countless boys and girls who have embarked on a pilgrimage from various parts of Europe to pay homage to the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles.
Dear esteemed altar servers! On the previous day, you embarked on a magnificent journey, parading through the vast expanse of St. Peter’s Square, ultimately arriving at the sacred altar of Confession within the grand basilica. In this act, you extended the path that the global youth set foot upon during the Holy Year, effectively elongating the passage. The motto that guided your pilgrimage to the timeless Eternal City, “Toward a New World,” serves as a profound indication of your unwavering commitment to wholeheartedly embrace your Christian calling.
2. Warm greetings to all of you, beloved youth, as I rejoice in the occurrence of this gathering. I extend my heartfelt gratitude to Auxiliary Bishop Martin Gachter, esteemed leader of Coetus Internationalis Ministrantium, for his kind words spoken on your behalf.
I extend my heartfelt greetings to the altar servers of German-speaking nations, who make up the most abundant assembly. It is truly splendid to witness the multitude of young Christians hailing from Germany!
Embrace the sacred bond with the altar, for it is not merely an obligation but a grand privilege, a profound act of devotion. As we embark on this divine endeavor, allow me to share a few contemplations with you.
The attire of the altar server holds a unique charm, reminiscent of the sacred vestment that envelops individuals upon their embrace of Jesus Christ within the community. I speak of the baptismal robe, whose significance is illuminated by Saint Paul’s profound words: “For all those who have been baptized into Christ have adorned themselves with the very essence of Christ” (Galatians 3:27).
Dear altar servers, despite the fact that your baptismal gown no longer fits, you have graciously adorned yourselves with the sacred attire of altar servers. Let it be known that baptism signifies the beginning of your sacred journey in serving the liturgy, positioning you alongside bishops, priests, and deacons (as stated in Sacrosanctum Concilium, No. 29).
3. The altar server holds a special position in the liturgical celebration, occupying a privileged role. When serving at Mass, they present themselves to the community and witness the presence and involvement of Jesus Christ in every aspect of the liturgical act. Jesus is among us when the community unites in prayer and offers praise to God. Jesus is manifested through the sacred Scripture. Most importantly, Jesus is present in the Eucharist, appearing as bread and wine. He works through the priest who, representing Christ, conducts the holy Mass and administers the sacraments.
Therefore, in the liturgy, you are much more than mere “assistants to the parish priest.” Most importantly, you are dedicated followers of Jesus Christ, the everlasting High Priest. Hence, you, as altar servers, are specifically entrusted with the role of being youthful companions of Jesus. Embrace the resolve to delve deeper and nurture this bond with him. You will unearth the revelation that in Jesus, you have encountered an authentic lifelong friend.
4. Holding a candlestick, the altar server evokes the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: “You are the world’s illumination” (Matthew 5:14). Your service should transcend the confines of the church and radiate in all aspects of daily life, be it at school, within the family, or across various societal domains. Indeed, anyone aspiring to serve Jesus Christ within the church must act as a faithful testimony to Him wherever they go.
Dear youth! Your peers eagerly anticipate the genuine “illuminator of the globe” (refer to John 1:9). Refrain from confining your candle holder solely within the confines of a place of worship, but instead, disseminate the radiance of the Good News to those engulfed in obscurity and enduring hardships in their existence.
5. I have spoken about my friendship with Jesus, but I can’t help but imagine how wonderful it would be if something extraordinary sprouted from this bond! It would be truly beautiful if some of you were to uncover a calling to the priesthood. Jesus Christ is in desperate need of young individuals who will wholeheartedly devote themselves to Him, with no hesitations or reservations. Additionally, could it be possible that the Lord might also summon a few of you young women to embrace a consecrated life, serving the Church and our brothers and sisters? Even for those who aspire to be united in marriage, serving at the altar teaches us that a genuine partnership always involves a willingness to serve one another selflessly and unconditionally.
[Translation by Z