We don’t often think of the acolyte or server as a team member, but this minster’s role can be important in the smooth flow of the rites. Perhaps because most parishes have someone who schedules and trains servers, we don’t think it is our place as catechumenate leaders to step in.
Every parish has its own ways of deciding such things, of course. But in my experience, I’ve either been the person that scheduled the servers or I had a good relationship with the person that did. I always scheduled or asked for the best of the best when we were celebrating RCIA rituals.
These are the five characteristics I look for in top acolytes:
- Grace under pressure. For some reason, the Holy Spirit has her most creative moments during RCIA rites. Something happens or doesn’t happen that is “off script.” The last thing the ritual needs at that moment is a server who is easily rattled or distracted. I spend the non-RCIA Sundays observing those servers who always makes it look easy, no matter what happens.
- Flexible attentiveness. Even when things are running smoothly, there will be little hiccups in the flow of the rite that can be easily smoothed out by someone who can anticipate what needs to happen. A little more volume on the mic, for example or a discrete cup of water for a presider who was stifling a throat tickle during the last prayer. I don’t expect the server to know what to do in every contingency, but I do expect the best servers to stay focused both on the rite and on me (or whoever the MC is). A good server will catch my glance, read my lips, and solve a problem before anyone else in the assembly knows there is one.
- Dependability. I notice who fulfills their schedules for ordinary Sundays, who shows up early, and who can be counted on to know their roles in a “normal” liturgy. If they can’t meet the smaller requirements, they aren’t going to do well during the more important events.
- Cheerfulness. Servers who are sullen or unhappy to be “forced” to come to Mass on Sunday are not who I want serving an RCIA ritual. On the other hand, we can’t judge too quickly especially with “tweens.” I remember one young man I encountered who seemed to hate serving. One day, I asked him if he enjoyed it. Nope. He thought it was for little kids, but his mom was making him do it. I asked him if he’d like to be a cross bearer instead, which, due to the size of the cross, was strictly an adult role. He was still a little small, but he carried that cross like it was the original. And he graduated to carrying it for several of the Acceptance rites we celebrated.
- Leadership. Another thing I watch for in servers is how they mentor newer acolytes. A lot of times it’s very subtle. Stepping back or stepping forward at just the right moment. Putting something in a newer server’s hands and giving her a gentle nudge in the right direction. Usually servers have to be older to show much leadership quality, but I met an 11-year-old girl in one parish that I’d put up against many of the adult servers I’ve worked with.
I think there must be more things to list, but these seem to me to be the most important. What do you think? Is anything missing?
See also these related articles: