Altar Servers' Guide
PRAYERS TO KNOW
To Parents and Altar Servers
ALTAR SERVER DUTIES
Usually two servers are needed for a funeral Mass. They are needed to do the things that are part of every Mass, and there are special tasks at the beginning and end of the funeral Mass. Each parish has a customary way of serving the funeral Mass; so listen carefully to any special instructions that the priest gives you before Mass. Do everything you can to make the funeral mass a beautiful one.
In addition to the usual preparations for Mass, the Easter candle may he placed in its stand where the casket will rest in front of the church. (Ask the priest exactly where the stand should be placed.) Light the Easter candle when the altar candles are lit.
The holy water container and sprinkler should he ready for use. Check to be sure that there is enough holy water in the container; carry it carefully so that it won’t splash out on you. One server will carry the container with the sprinkler in it during the entrance procession.
The censer (the container that holds the lighted charcoal) should also he prepared before Mass. A piece of charcoal should he placed in the opened censer and lit after the prayer of the faithful, so that it will be burning well by the time it is needed. The incense boat (the bowl contained the incense) should be full of incense and should have a small spoon in it. Do not put incense on the charcoal unless the priest tells you to do so.
The special funeral pall (a large cloth used to cover the casket) should be ready for use. One server may carry the pall to the back of the church in the entrance procession, or the pall may be placed in the back of the church before Mass begins.
BEGINNING OF MASS
The servers lead the priest down the main aisle to where the people are waiting with the casket.
The priest sprinkles the casket with holy water. Then one of the funeral attendants and some family members spread the pall over the casket. When the priest finished the prayers, he turns toward the altar; the servers turn also and slowly process to the altar.
The servers bow to the altar or genuflect when the priest does, and then go to their places in the sanctuary. When the casket has arrived at the front of the church and the people are in their places, the priest says the opening prayer. A server should hold the book for the priest as usual, however, at a funeral the book may not be the Missal but the Order of Christian Funerals. Check with the priest who might be holding this book already. After this prayer, Mass continues in the usual way.
END OF MASS
When the priest finishes the prayer after Communion, the servers go with him to the front of the sanctuary and stand, one on each side of the priest, facing the people. If one server is the cross bearer you go down into the center aisle and face the altar standing 4 steps behind the casket.
The priest usually incenses the casket at this time; if so, be ready to present the censer and incense boat. One server will have light the charcoal while the bread and wine were being brought to the altar (after the prayer of the faithful).
When the priest has finished the prayers, the two servers lead the priest around the casket, down the main aisle to the church doors. (Walk slowly and check by looking behind you).
Line up alongside the priest at the church door and wait quietly for the casket to be taken out. A funeral attendant will remove the pall and may give it to one of the servers. When the casket has been taken outside the church, quietly return to the sacristy by using a side aisle.