Altar Server Training Materials

Training Videos:
We have put together a YouTube playlist of altar server training videos produced by other parishes and sources. Even though they sometimes do things a little differently from our church design and practices, these videos can help you deepend your understanding of how to serve with reverence and spiritual benefit in the life of the altar server.  Here is the playlist link for St Clare of Assisi YouTube channel. Some of the videos have a bit of advertising at the beginning which you can skip and others start immediately.

Glossary of Words that Altar Servers should know

Main Parts of the Holy Mass

Entrance Procession - opening song and formal walk into the church
Penitential Act - Confiteor and or Lord, have mercy
Opening Collect - Prayer from the Roman Missal
Liturgy of the Word - First major part of Mass with Bible readings and Homily
Offertory - collection and preparation of the altar
Liturgy of the Eucharist - second major part of Mass
Preface Dialogue - priest leads and people reply
Holy - also called the Sanctus
Distribution of Holy Communion - under one form or two forms
Collect Prayer after communion - from the Roman Missal
Announcements - normally by the deacon
Final Blessing - by the main celebrant (priest or bishop)
Dismissal - by the deacon or priest
Recessional - final song


Bread and Wine - the elements used for Mass. These will be changed by God and become the Sacred Hosts and Precious Blood we receive during Mass.

Corporal - square cloth used as a place setting

Purificator - elongated rectanglular cloth used to wipe the edges of chalices

Chalice - a shared cup made of special materials for the Holy Mass

Ciborium - bowl for carrying the bread or Sacred Hosts (plural: ciboria)

Hosts - the name of the special bread wafers to be consecrated at Mass. They are made of wheat only with no special ingredients or additives. Some are made as low-gluten for people with food sensitivities

Sacred Hosts - after consecration we add the word "sacred" to describe them. They must be placed in the tabernacle if they are given out in Holy Communion during the Mass. 

The Most Blessed Sacrament - The Body and Blood of Christ in the form of consecrated bread and wine

Tabernacle - Large locked metal "cabinet" where we reserve the consecrated hosts

Pyx (plural = pyxes) - small container with hinged lid, to bring Holy Communion to the sick

Epiclesis - This is when the priest prays over the bread and wine and ask for the Holy Spirit to come down upon the gifts. The epiclesis occurs when the priest lays both hands over the paten and chalice. Often this will be followed by the priest making a sign of the cross over the bread and wine, except in Eucharist Prayer #1 which separates these two actions of the priests.  The bells are rung once when the priest has both hands over the bread and wine, (not when he makes the sign of the cross over the bread and wine)

Consecration - This happens when the priest says the words of the Last Supper, "This is my body...." and "This is my blood....) During each of these times, the server will ring the altar bells three times

Elevation - This happens in two parts. First the priest consecrates the bread and elevates it as shows it to the people. Then he consecrates the wine in the chalice and elevates it as he shows the people. The bell is rung three times for each elevation. (Think of this as "holy, holy, holy").

Bread and Wine - the unconsecrated hosts and wine

Body of Christ and Blood of Christ - the consecrated hosts and wine

Processional Cross - leads processions with the image of Christ facing forward

Censer/Thurible - holds hot charcoal and has a chain for swinging the incense smoke

Incense Boat - has a spoon and incense; It rests on the censer holder.

Sacred Vessels - the ciboria, patens and chalices used on the altar

Flagon - a pitcher for wine to transport larger quantities of unconsecrated wine

Main Ciborium - the vessel carried forward in the Offertory Procession

Priest's Chalice - the special chalice for the priest. Each priest often has his own personal chalice

Holy Water bucket & Sprinkler - for the sprinkling rite for funerals, Easter, etc.


Roman Missal - the large book with all the parts of the Mass
Book of Blessings - for Mother's Day, Father's Day, blessing of statues, etc.
Binder - for special prayers such as the Universal Prayer and the Announcements


Deacon - the man ordained to the Sacrament of Holy Orders to serve the church. He may preach, lead the petitions, handles the sacred vessels, etc. in parts of the Mass. Lector - proclaims the Sacred Scripture, Prayer of the Faithful and Announcements Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion - serves Holy Communion to the people
Priests - There are three Holy Orders: deacon, presbyter, bishop. Normally, we call the presbyter by the simpler word, "priest"
Bishop - the "Ordinary" of the diocese (chief shepherd), or the auxiliary bishop
Sacristan - The woman or man who gets everything ready in the sacristy before Mass and who gives special insructions for the day or occasion to all the liturgical ministers
Liturgical Ministers - anyone who has any part to play in the sacred liturgy
Ordinary Ministers of Holy Communion - priests and deacons
Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion - lay people who have been trained and chosen for this special ministry to help distribute Holy Communion
Ordinary Ministers of Holy Communion - the bishop, priests and deacons are "ordinary" and always take priority before "extraordinary" lay persons are asked to assist.
Lector - sometimes called, "reader"
Altar Server -
Thurifer - the server who handles the thurible with incense
Cross Bearer - or crucifer, carries the processional crucifix and assists with the Roman Missal
Acolyte/Candle bearer - handle the candles and serving from the credence table


Ambry - Special cabinet where we reserve the Holy Oils (Oil for Catechumens, Oil of Chrism, Oil for the Sick)
Baptismal font - Pool for the waters of baptisms
Sacristy - the room with vestments where we prepare for Mass
Sanctuary - the platform for the altar, ambo, priest's chair
Credence Table - the special table where the water, wine, chalices and other items are kept at the side of the sanctuary near the baptistery during Mass
Vestry - The place for the vestments of the priests and deacons


Transubstantiation - The substance (bread and wine) are changed. We use this unique word to describe this reality.
Real Presence - Christ is truly present in the Holy Mass in several ways, but most especially in the Holy Eucharist we receive in Holy Communion.


Reverence -
Humility -
Peacefulness -
Attentiveness -
Readiness - alert and ready for the next duty. Example: hold book ready before it is needed

Glossary of Catholic Terms
   Available on the USCCB website here

Back to Serving at Holy Mass




Patron Saint of Altar Servers

Saint John Berchmans
1599 - 1621
Feast Day: November 26



To an Altar Server

To assist Christ at the altar;
To serve Him freely there,
Where even the angels falter,
Bowed low in reverent prayer.

To touch the throne most holy,
To hand the gifts for the feast,
To see Him meek and lowly,
Descend at the word of the priest.

To hear man's poor petition,
To sound the joyful bell,
When He in sweet submission,
Comes down witih us to dwell.

No grander mission surely
should inflame such prayerful ferver,
No heart should love more purely,
Than yours O altar server.

May God bless you forever,
And keep you in His care,
And guard you, that you never
Belie the robes you wear.

Throughout life, then, endeavor
God's graces to employ,
For your most deserving reward,
Will be eternal joy.

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