When the server is doing nothing with his hands he keeps them joined before his breast, unless he hold a book.

            Whenever he hands anything to the celebrant, he first kisses the thing.  In taking anything, he kisses the thing a second time.  These are called the ďsolita osculaĒ.[2]  They are omitted in Masses for the dead and when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed.  While serving at one Mass the server must take no notice of anything that may be done at another Mass, for instance, the elevation at a neighboring altar.  If he serves Mass in St Ritaís while Mass is being celebrated at the Main Altar, he does not ring the bell at all.

The normal place for the server is kneeling, on the lowest altar step at the side opposite to that where the missal is.[3]  Whenever in the course of the Mass the celebrant while speaking aloud bows, genuflects, or makes the sign of the cross, the server, as far as possible, does the same.

            When arriving at and departing from the altar and when passing before the middle of the altar, the server genuflects, whether the Sanctissimum be reserved there or not.[4]  If It be exposed, he genuflects on both knees and bows only when entering the sanctuary and departing from it, otherwise he simply genuflects.



Before Mass the server vests in cassock and surplice,[5] and (if this is needed) he goes to prepare everything at the altar.[6]  He takes the two cruets, one containing wine, the other water, with the dish and towel for the washing of hands, to the credence. He sees that the altar cards are in their place and that the missal is on the missal stand at the epistle side.[7] He lights the two smaller candles used at low Mass, beginning with the one on the epistle side.

            In the sacristy he then assists the celebrant to vest. He bows with the celebrant (standing behind him) to the cross in the sacristy, and leads him to the altar at which Mass will be said. In many churches it is usual that the server rings a bell near the sacristy door when he passes, to warn the people that Mass is about to begin. He may take holy water at the door and offer it to the priest. At the altar in which Mass will be said the server genuflects and kneels in front of the altar at the Gospel side, on the ground, not on the step.



Kneeling here a little behind the priest he answers the preparatory prayers. He does not bow while the celebrant says the Confiteor.  He bows slightly towards the celebrant while he himself says the prayer Misereatur tui omnipotens deus.

 He bows moderately towards the altar while he says the Confiteor, and remains so while the celebrant says the Misereatur vestri. At the words tibi, pater and te, pater in the Confiteor he partly turns towards the priest. He strikes his breast three times at Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. 

As soon as the celebrant goes up to the altar, the server rises too. Then he kneels again, without genuflecting, this time on the bottom step of the altar. Through the rest of the Mass, he always kneels on this bottom step.

            At the Introit he makes the sign of the cross with the priest. He answers Kyrie eleison, and says Amen after the first and last collect, which have the conclusion. At the end of the epistle he says Deo gratias,[8] and then goes at once to the epistle corner of the altar. He goes round in plano, genuflecting in the middle, and stands at the foot of the steps, facing the priest. On certain days, for example, on Ember days, there may be several collects and lessons.[9] The celebrant will not say Dominus vobiscum until these extra prayers and lessons are finished. The server remains kneeling at his place for these, answering Amen at the end of each collect, and Deo gratias at the end of each lesson, except the fifth. After the celebrant has said Dominus vobiscum, the Mass continues as on ordinary days.


GOSPEL. The server waits at the epistle corner during the Gradual or Tract. When the celebrant goes to the middle, the server takes the missal across to the gospel side (carrying it down, genuflecting, and up by the middle of the steps) and places it on the corner of the altar. He stands by the book. The priest comes to read the Gospel. The server answers the versicles at the beginning, and makes the sign of the cross with the thumb on forehead, lips and breast with the priest. If the Holy Name occurs in the opening words of the gospel the server bows his head. Then he goes to the epistle side in plano, genuflecting when crossing the center, and stands at that corner turned toward the priest, while the gospel is read. If the priest genuflects during the gospel, the server does so too. At the end he answers Laus tibi, Christe. If the creed is said, the server kneels during it.[10]


OFFERTORY. When the priest has said Dominus vobiscum and Oremus at the offertory, the server genuflects in the middle and goes to the credence. He takes the wine cruet in his right hand, the water cruet in the left, stands at the end of the altar on the floor.  When the priest disjoins his hands and raises his eyes to the cross at the beginning of the Veni, Sanctificator, he bows and ascends to the steps below the predella.  He kisses both cruets[11] then  hands the wine cruet to the priest and takes the water cruet in his right hand. He takes back the wine cruet with his left hand.  When finished, the server kisses both cruets, bows to the priest and returns to the credence. There he sets down the wine cruet on the credence, lays the towel on his left arm, takes the lavabo dish in his left hand and the water cruet in the right.  The priest comes to wash his hands. The server, standing on the step below the predella[12],  holds the dish under the celebrantís hands and pours a little water over his fingers from the cruet. He must be careful to hold the dish under the priestís hands, so that the water poured over the fingers may go into it. Before and after washing the priestís fingers he bows to him.

            He puts all back on the credence, goes to the middle, genuflects, goes to his place at the lowest step on the epistle side and kneels there.

            When the priest says Orate, fratres the server should wait till he has again turned to the altar, then he says the answer, Suscipiat dominus etc.  He answers the versicles before the preface. As the celebrant says the Sanctus, the server rings the bell gently three times.



When the celebrant spreads his hands over the host and chalice at Hanc igitur, the server rings once the warning bell. He then goes to kneel, without genuflecting, on the top step or on the footpace, at the epistle side, but near the middle. He takes the bell with him. At each elevation he holds up slightly for a moment the end of the chasuble in his left hand,[13] and rings the bell with his right, once when the celebrant genuflects, once when he elevates, once again when he genuflects. Since there are two elevations the bell will be rung altogether six times. After the elevation of the chalice and the priestís genuflection following, the server descends the steps, genuflects, goes to the place he was before, at the end of the lowest step on the epistle side, and kneels there. He strikes his breast when the priest does so at the Agnus Dei. He rings the bell three times as the priest says Domine non sum dignus, as a sign to the people that the time of Communion is at hand.


Communion. If anyone now comes to the Communion rail or if the server himself intends to receive Holy Communion, he rises as the priest uncovers the chalice, genuflects in the middle, and goes to the credence to get the paten.  He kneels on the lowest step at the epistle side, sideways, facing the gospel side across the sanctuary.  When the priest has consumed the Precious Blood, the server says the Confiteor.

            When the priest goes to give Holy Communion to the people, the server will hold the paten at the priestís right side.  After Communion, the priest will take the paten back to the altar and there purify it.  The server will replace it on the credence after he ministers the cruets.

            If for whatever reason the tabernacle be opened, the server always kneels till it is closed. After communion, he will take the cruets to the altar for the ablutions.


            Ablutions. If no one but the celebrant receives Communion, the server will fetch the cruets when the priest has made his Communion in the form of wine.  He takes the cruets from their tray on the credence, bows and stands on the step below the predella at the epistle corner. When the celebrant holds the chalice towards him the server draws near him and pours some of the wine into the chalice, until the priest makes a sign. Then he goes back to where he was before. The priest, when he has drunk the wine, comes to the server.[14] The server pours into the chalice a little wine, then (with his right hand) water, both over the priestís fingers.

The priest will make a sign when enough has been poured. The server then bows again to the priest and puts the cruets back on the credence.  At the ablutions the server does not kiss the cruets.

            The server then goes to the gospel side, genuflecting, as always, in the middle as he passes, and takes the missal to the epistle side of the altar [carrying it down, genuflecting, and up by the middle of the steps].  He places the missal straight on the altar, facing the people, as it was at the Introit. Then he goes around in plano, genuflects in the middle, and goes to kneel at the lowest step on the gospel side. He answers the Postcommunions, Dominus vobiscum, Ite, missa est, or other versicles in its stead. [During the Easter octave the priest adds Alleluia twice to the Ite, missa est; the server does so, too, after the response, Deo gratias.] He makes the sign of the cross at the blessing, then stands after answering Amen.


            Last Gospel.   He remains standing at the gospel side, where he was before, while he makes the responses at the beginning of the last Gospel.  Then he goes over to the epistle side, genuflecting in the middle, and stands there, turned towards the priest. He genuflects with him at the verse Et Verbum caro factum est, and answers Deo gratias at the end.

            He waits for the celebrant at the epistle side. If necessary, he hands him the card from which the prayers after Mass are said. During these he kneels at the epistle side, one step below the priest, and answers the prayers aloud.

            After the prayers, the server genuflects when the celebrant genuflects or bows, and then goes in front of him to the sacristy.

            In the sacristy he bows with the priest to the cross, kneels for a blessing, then assists the celebrant to unvest.           

Then, if he is to do so, he goes back to the altar, extinguishes the candles (beginning with the one on the gospel side), and brings the cruets to the sacristy.


[1] Adapted from Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described  by Adrian Fortesque, 1962.

[2] By custom, these oscula are frequently omitted altogether by laymen.

[3] At the Last Gospel, the altar-card replaces the missal.

[4] S.R.C. 4193

[5] Rubrics of the missal (r., II, 1) and the S.R.C. (4194) both require that the server who wears a cassock, whether a tonsured cleric or not, should wear a surplice at Mass. Yet in many countries, including England, it is a common custom that he serve in lay dress and this usage is now  recognized (cf. S.R.C. 4271). In case of necessity a woman may kneel outside the sanctuary and answer (C.J.C. 813, 2). In this case, the priest himself moves the book, and does the other actions of a server.

[6] All or part of this preparation may be made by the sacristan.

[7] At low Mass the server may never open the missal, nor turn over its pages. This is done by the celebrant himself (S.R.C. 3448).

[8] The priest usually gives a sign at the end of the Epistle, by turning towards the server or lifting his left hand.

[9] Regarding the omission of some of them, see N.R. n. 468.

[10] When the congregation is taking an active part in Mass the server should [when possible] lead them in the correct attitudes for a dialogue Mass (p. 80), and so he will stand during the creed.

[11] Preferably not on the handles.

[12] Unless the Blessed Sacrament be exposed.  Then, the priest descends to the floor for the lavabo.

[13] Only as the priest elevates, not as he genuflects.

[14] The priest will rest the chalice on the table of the altar unless the server is too small to reach it.