- Religion and Philosophy
Why is Altar-Serving Good for Your Child?
Altar-serving might not be as popular as other cultural activity or sport, but the benefits and opportunities it gives to a child will envy other club memberships. Why is altar-serving beneficial for your child?
- It teaches the skill of paying attention. There might not have words to be yelled out or actions to be forcefully or theatrically performed, but the business of altar-serving is largely about paying attention. One has to be skilled in following the sequence of the mass in order to be successful in it. Altar servers know when to sit and when to stand. They know when to move the candles or take the water and wine to the priest, or ring the bell. They assist the priest in the liturgy of the word and in the liturgy of the Eucharist. The essence of altar-serving is assisting the priest in celebrating the liturgy of the mass. Mass is full of symbolisms and is held with defined words and actions, and to keep up with the actual duty of altar-serving, one has to pay attention. The skill of paying attention is beneficial to children as they actualize plenty of that to learning at school. It also improves their concentration and sense of focus in life in general.
- It increases literacy and good language. They might appear to just be standing or sitting the whole time, but the reality is altar servers are immersed into the world of literacy and language, and to a certain extent, literature. Listening to the prayers being read as well as reading the prayers being projected, constant engagement with the language happen in altar serving. Terminologies and expressions such as 'compassion', 'love', 'peace', 'love is patient and kind', 'honour your father and your mother', etc are only a few of the examples that surround your children once they serve in the altar. These are good, mature and sophisticated language and vocabulary. They hear how language are used effectively in a context, within real situations. This is learning English skills in action.
- It teaches good values. This might be done indirectly, but altar servers are surrounded with teachings on good values. They may not be lectured on by their parents at the venue, but they are even getting more substantial insights from the fortress of ethics in our society - the church and the scriptures. Would it be preferable to engage kids with inclusiveness, compassion and love than other secular activities that promote overt exclusivity, competition, and prejudice. While altar -serving, they are filling their consciousness with the narratives of humility and perseverance, respect for creation, the concepts of sacrifice and redemption as well as the notions of peace and forgiveness. Engaging young minds with opportunities for growth, rather than destruction brought by drugs, rejection and fear is life-changing.
- It shows children the dynamics of a community. Altar serving introduces children in the community like no other. They see people in position, working sector, rich people, poor people and they notice them congregating together in a ritual that celebrates diversity, faith, and camaraderie. They see policemen of their town attending mass; they see the mayor, they see the man from around the corner, they see the young family who has just had a new baby, etc. Altar servers are a witness to this dynamics of our community. This form of cognizance gives children a more enriched view and understanding of the peoples around them and the institutions that influence them. It gives children a real view of the world, the status and hierarchy that exists, the diversity of culture and language, the presence of a god-fearing community.This is education outside of the four corners of the classroom.
- It teaches faith, prayer, and piety. Undoubtedly, altar serving promotes faith, like germinating seeds in the fields of the kingdom. The inculcation of faith to young minds is equivalent to arming them with shields that will protect them from future challenges and temptations, from the alluring forces of materialism and hedonism. The idea of life and happiness is not limited to this material world, but the strong relationship with the transcendental and loving God gives inner peace and gratifying happiness than any other thing in this world. Faith is power.
- It's free. I have not heard of a church that charges students or children who want to become altar servers in their parish. In fact, if anything, the Parish may cherish volunteer children and appreciate their efforts within the community. It might even be easier for a former altar server to obtain job reference letter from a pastor or priest when it is needed.
- It allows children to socialize. Interaction with other children is part and parcel of this activity. In altar serving, kids communicate. As we have established, they may not communicate loudly, but they understand each other through body language, signs and soft whispers. From praying at the sacristy before mass, to the looking at each other during mass to get the sense of what was going on and keeping abreast with the next moves, altar serving is socialising with other good children. Moreover, parish sometimes organize for seminars, tutorials and outing for alter server volunteers. There also known sausage sizzle barbecues outside the church that happen after mass.
- It immerses children to the role of music in ritual. As altar servers, children are exposed to wonderful music played in the church. They see and hear the musicians, they observe the instruments played and they enjoyed the solemn and meaningful music being used in the liturgy. For example, the Psalms being sung is a wonderful thing to hear at any given time - a reflection of man's unending longing to connect with God. This part of altar-serving may be indirect and subtle, but sometimes it is the silent and soft influences that have big impact in their young minds.
- It strengthens family togetherness. Unlike any sport or form of school activity, altar serving involves the whole family. Altar servers are not only serving the priest at Mass, they are serving their family as participants of the sacrament. Parents are not merely spectators, they are part of the activity of their children. This is family time and togetherness at work!
- It celebrates aesthetics and art. Mass has a plethora of aesthetics and art which altar servers witness: the order of procession at the beginning and ending of the Mass, the floral arrangement at the altar, the designs of stole and vestments, the use of colours, the alignment of candles and other items in the altar, works of Renaissance and modern artists and painters through the icons, the composition and rendition of liturgical songs, the singing of Psalms, the overall church decorations...These are real display and use of art to serve the cultural, especially the religious aspect of the community. Seeing this, altar servers develop an appreciation of art as they grow.