Parish of Doneraile

Doneraile, Hazelwood & Shanballymore

Altar Serving in the Parish of Doneraile

Every Altar Server is like an explorer who is on a journey to discover the precious treasure which is at the center of the Mass: Jesus himself! Explorers need the right equipment, a map and a guide. This page will help servers to know and understand the Mass better, to prepare well for every liturgy and to get familiar with all the tools of the trade.

We're gong on a fascinating journey, not to the centre of the earth, but to the centre of the Mass! And to go that deep we don't just need the right equipment, we also need a lot of enthusiasm and curiosity to examine every discovery we will make together. We can't just stay on the surface, going through the motions without really understanding what it all means: that will never get us to the heart of the Mass! So then, are you ready?  Let's go!
In our journey to the centre of the Mass we need to get one thing straight: every altar server is a real explorer, and together we will try to understand how you can become one too. So what kind of person is a server explorer?

A server is always:


Every server first and foremost most have a sense of reverence and respect. When we are visitors in someone's house we ought to show respect and visiting the house of God's is no different. We must remind ourselves that the real presence of Jesus dwells withing the church, in the tabernacle. The rubrics of the church state that the ministers, which would include servers, genuflect to the Tabernacle, IF it is in the sanctuary, at the beginning and end of Mass, and bow to the altar during the course of the Mass. This is due to the fact that the Mass is an unfolding mystery of Christ, first His Word in the Scripture, then His Sacrifice on the Altar, His Communion with us, and finally His abiding Presence.

Outside of Mass, however, the normal tradition applies, we genuflect whenever we cross before the Lord. The very fact that genuflection at the beginning and end of Mass is obliged shows that the special rubrics, meant to sacramentally unfold the mystery of the Eucharist, apply only during the Mass.

So, as they set up the altar before Mass, the servers and others should continue to genuflect. The exception would be when impeded, such as carry chalices and the like, when there is danger of dropping them. They may bow in such a circumstance. Otherwise, at the Offertory and during the Mass generally, when approaching and departing the altar they bow.

If the tabernacle with the Most Blessed Sacrament is present in the sanctuary, the priest, the deacon, and the other ministers genuflect when they approach the altar and when they depart from it, but not during the celebration of Mass itself. Otherwise all who pass before the Most Blessed Sacrament genuflect, unless they are moving in procession. Ministers carrying the processional cross or candles bow their heads instead of genuflecting.


Every server has to be curious when seeing a friend up there by the altar, or at a priest's invitation to join the parish group. Curiosity in getting to know the gestures of the priest as he celebrates, the objects, every moment of the liturgical celebration leads directly to the treasure that is the goal of our journey: Jesus!


Server-explorers know that they are "on a mission" and nothing can stop them, not even the temptation to sleep a little longer on a Sunday! Generosity is the beautiful quality that brings you to church before Mass begins so that you can help the sacristan prepare the altar. the books, the vestments, the candles. There is a lot of work to do to help your community celebrate the Mass well!


Just like with the great explorers, during Mass too the unexpected can happen, and we must not panic! It can happen, for example that the candles haven't been lit or the microphones have not been switched on. The careful and prepared altar server  always knows what to do and how to help the priest without distracting the whole congregation.


There is just no other way to be! This is a MUST for all server-explorers. Kindness and Joy always bring a smile to the sacristy and the church, expressing the happiness of serving Jesus in such an important moment as the Mass. The kindness of the altar server must be contagious so the whole group can come together like a football team or an orchestra where everyone knows they are doing their duty and "playing their part", working joyfully together with the others!


In our journey to the centre of the Mass, there is no showing up late. Showing up early is a sign of respect for the priest and your community, but above all for you as an altar server, because being on time means being able to prepare to encounter Jesus who is celebrated in the Eucharist. 


What does this mean? It means that as a server-explorer you embody generosity, punctuality, care and kindness not so that you can show off in front of everyone at the altar, but so you can be like Jesus taught us to be at the Last Supper. Jesus gave us a priceless example of service: you must live the mission of an altar server with the joy of doing the simplest things well, knowing how to thank those who teach you and, when your turn comes, training new servers with openness and friendship.

Liturgical Vestments


This is a vestment made of white cloth which may or may not be embroidered. It is used by the priest, deacon and other ministers during Mass. It is the foundation over which all other vestments are placed. It recalls the white garment received at Baptism, which, as the rite says, is the sign of our dignity as children of God, a gift to be preserved as a precious treasure.


An ankle-length garment. It is usually black, however, depending on the rank of the person wearing it it can also come in Purple, Red and White. It can also be black with red or purple buttons, also depending on the rank of the person wearing it. Usually, a priest wears plain black, a bishop wears purple or black with red buttons and stitching and a purple cincture, a cardinal wears red or black with red buttons and stitching and a red cincture. White is reserved for the Pope or for those serving in tropical climates.


This is a vestment very similar to the chasuble, but with sleeves. Originally from Dalmatia, as its name implies, it was used throughout the Roman Empire by the second century. It was adopted as a liturgical vestment in Rome around the middle of the fourth century. It is now worn by deacons.


Formerly this was a raincoat (its Latin name is pluviale "raincoat") used for long processions. Today it is worn by the celebrant during come celebrations (Eucharistic Benediction and for Processions). It is also commonly worn by Deacons in certain circumstance instead of the Dalmatic.


The Crozier is a Staff with a hook at the top, used by a Bishop. It symbolizes that the Bishop is the Shepherd of the Church.


A cord that is wrapped around the waist to hold the Alb and Stole in place.


This is a white vestment that is worn over the cassock. It reaches down to the knees (like a smaller version of the alb), with wide, short sleeves. It is also worn by altar servers in some churches. This too can be plain white or can be very ornate with lace.


This is the distinctive emblem of the ordained ministers (Bishops, Priests and Deacons). It is worn around the neck. During Mass it is hidden by the chasuble or dalmatic; during other celebrations it is visible. The deacon wears it at an angle from left to right.


This is a garment that the celebrant wears at Mass. It is worn over the alb. It is roughly circular in shape and covers the priest, extending down to below the knees. The word Casula in Latin mean "little house": just as the house welcomes and protects those who live in it, so also the chasuble completely covers the one who wears it. It reminds the priest - and all of us - that we must allow ourselves to be enveloped by Jesus, to clothe ourselves with him and his love.

Humeral Veil

This is a vestment that covers the shoulders, the arms (the humeri are the arm bones between the shoulders and the elbows), and the hands of the priest when he holds the monstrance with the Eucharist for Benediction or in procession. When used, this vestment is usually worn over the cope.

Precious Mitre

In its modern form in Western Catholicism, the Mitre is a tall folding cap, consisting of two similar parts (the front and back) rising to a peak and sewn together at the sides. Two short lappets always hang down from the back.

The Mitre is  the traditional, ceremonial head-dress of an Abbot,  Bishop, cardinal or the Pope.

The proper colour of a mitre is always white, although in liturgical usage white also includes vestments made from gold and silver fabrics. The embroidered bands and other ornaments which adorn a Mitre and the lappets may be of other colours and often are.

It is very ornate. It is the symbol of the Bishop's authority as the teacher of the diocese. Some say that the two parts joined at the sides represent the Old and the New Testaments of the Bible.

Liturgical Colours

Liturgical Objects


These are two small receptacles, usually made of glass, one contains wine and the other water. They are brought to the altar during the offertory.


A metal cup usually made of Gold or Gold-plated, that is used by the priest to consecrate the wine so that it becomes the blood of Christ.

Altar Paten

A small plate, usually made of Gold our gold-plated metal, on which is placed the large host that the priest consecrates during Mass.


Used to expose the Eucharist for the adoration of the faithful. It has a small circular window in the centre in which the consecrated Host is placed.

Processional Candles

Objects, metal or wood, in which candles are placed. They are carried during the entrance procession and for the reading of the Gospel and for the Recession back to the sacristy.

Incense Boat

A Metal Container to accompany the thurible in the shape of a little boat to hold the grains of incense.


A square card covered with a cloth that is placed over the chalice.

Liturgical Bowl

A Glass bowl is brought to the priest immediately after the preparation of the gifts which the priest uses to wash his hands. A Lavabo towel is also brought with the bowl to the priest.


This is a metal container, usually made of Gold or gold-plated or silver. It is used by the priest to hold the consecrated hosts given to the congregation during Holy Communion. It is also used to store the remainder of the Consecrated Eucharistic Hosts afterwards in the tabernacle.

Altar Servers Paten

This is usually a gold-plated or silver plate that is used by the altar server to catch fragments of consecrated Eucharistc Host as the priest passes it to the communicant.

Processional Cross

This is fastened to a pole. It is used during the procession in and out of the church.


This is used for sprinkling Holy Water


Metal Receptacle with chains attached. Charcoal is lit inside it for burning incense. The thurible is held in the right hand. The left hand is place on your chest.


Small square cloth, starched and cleaned. It is placed folded on top of the chalice and at the offertory it is unfolded on the altar. The chalice, paten and ciborium are placed upon it.. It catches any fragments of the consecrated host or drops of wine that might fall.
A small linen cloth used to dry and purify the chalice. It is usually placed on top of the chalice when it is brought to the altar.