ALTAR SERVER TRAINING
Altar servers perform most of the functions of the former "minor order" of ordained clerics known as acolytes from the Greek word akolouthos or 'attendant'. Church writings from the second and third centuries discuss the role of acolytes, giving the office great importance and honor in the history of the Church. Altar servers today are not ordained, but are 'commissioned' by their parish priest.
It is a great honor and grace to be able to serve at the altar during what it is undoubtedly the greatest action that takes place upon the Earth at any given moment in time.
Sadly, today, altar-serving has lost its rightful place of honor and esteem. What should raise the mind and heart to God, often causes distraction and disgrace.
We see the importance of anything by the preparation that is accorded to its performance or execution. Let us strive to restore the dignity of the Mass in today's undignified world. One way to underline the grandeur, majesty and sublimity of the Mass, is to train altar servers to reflect what they have the grace to participate in. The link below will hopefully be of service to those wishing to approach the altar of God, as well as those responsible for training those servers.
Good choirs are not so much about good voices, but good will, good work, good training and good techniques and good old perseverance! Besides, I don't think looks so much at the voice as the heart! As Jesus said: "This people honoureth me with their lips: but their heart is far from me" (Matthew 15:8). He refers to the following passage from Isaias: "The Lord said: 'Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips glorify me, but their heart is far from me'." (Isaias 29:13).
So let us sing out with the psalmist: "O Lord, thou wilt open my lips: and my mouth shall declare thy praise" (Psalm 50:17)---even if it be off-key a little.
"How to secure suitable material for an efficient choir is a problem perpetually present with clergy and choir-masters, and there is no more popular fallacy than the one which assumes that a good choir is "good" because it is fortunate enough to secure good voices, and that a bad choir is "bad" because it has been unfortunate enough only to secure poor voices. The real truth of the matter is, that the success or failure of a choir depends entirely upon how it is trained, and no matter how good the individual voices, or how willing the workers, the result will always be unsatisfactory for want of that cohesion and general discipline and restraint, which can only come from the hands of a competent choirmaster.
"We often hear a comment such as: "What could we not do if we only had voices like those at St.______!" and here comes in again the popular fallacy, that to secure good singing one must wait until good voices arrive upon the scene. The very opposite is the case. Good voices seldom arrive. The average boy's voice is just as ordinary as the average boy himself, and the beautiful voices which one sometimes hears in well-trained choirs are, it is safe to say, not the result of natural gifts, but of careful, assiduous, and scientific training. Given a fair voice and a good ear, any boy can be trained to sing well."
(Catholic Church Music, Richard Terry)
THE LEGION OF MARY
"The Legion of Mary is an Association of Catholics who, with the sanction of the Church and under the powerful leadership of Mary Immaculate, Mediatrix of all Graces, who have formed themselves into a Legion for service in the warfare which is perpetually waged by the Church against the world and its evil powers . . . The Legion of Mary is therefore organised on the model of an army, principally on that of the army of ancient Rome, the nomenclature of which is adopted also. But the army and the arms of Legionaries of Mary are not of this world." (Legion of Mary Handbook, chapter 1)
"The Legion of Mary is at the disposal of the Bishop of the Diocese and the Parish Priest for any and every form of Social Service and Catholic Action which these authorities may deem suitable for the welfare of the Church. Legionaries will never engage in any of these services whatsoever in a Parish without the sanction of the Parish Priest or of the Ordinary. (Legion of Mary Handbook, chapter 2)
The spirit of the Legion of Mary is that of Mary herself. Especially does the Legion aspire after her profound humility, her perfect obedience, her angelical sweetness, her continual prayer, her universal mortification, her altogether spotless purity, her heroic patience, her heavenly wisdom, her self-sacrificing courageous love of God, and above all her faith, that virtue which has in her alone been found in its utmost extent and never equaled. Inspired by this love and faith of Mary, her Legion essays any and every work and "complains not of impossibility, because it conceives that it may and can do all things." --Imitation of Christ, book 3, chapter 5. (Legion of Mary Handbook, chapter 3).
There will ever be places, as recent events have instanced, where Catholic zeal must be prepared to face the instruments of death or torture. Many Legionaries have thus triumphantly passed through the gates of glory. Generally, however, Legionary devotedness will have a humbler stage, but still one giving ample opportunity for the practice of a quiet but true heroism. The Legion apostolate will involve the approaching of many who would prefer to remain remote from good influences, and who will manifest their distaste for receiving a visit from those whose mission is good, not evil. These may all be won over, but not without the exercise of a patient and brave spirit. (Legion of Mary Handbook, chapter 4).
Sour looks, the sting of insult and rebuff, ridicule and adverse criticism, weariness of body and spirit, pangs from failure and from base ingratitude, the bitter cold and the blinding rain, dirt and vermin and evil smells, dark passages and sordid surroundings, the laying aside of pleasures, the taking on of the anxieties which come in plenty with the work, the anguish which the contemplation of irreligion and depravity brings to the sensitive soul, sorrow from sorrows wholeheartedly shared - there is little glamour about these things, but if sweetly borne, counted even a joy, and persevered in unto the end, they will come, in the weighing-up, very near to that love, greater than which no man hath, that he lay down his life for his friend. (Legion of Mary Handbook, chapter 4).
The Legionary must "walk in love as Christ also hath loved us and hath delivered Himself for us." (Eph. 5:2.)
The secret of all success with others lies in the establishment of personal contact, the contact of love and sympathy. This love must be more than an appearance. It must be able to stand up to the tests that real friendships can bear. This will frequently involve little mortifications. To greet, in fashionable surroundings, one who a little while before was the subject of one's visitation in a jail, to be seen walking with bedraggled persons, to grasp warmly the hand which is coated with grime, to partake of a proffered meal in a very poor or dirty home may to some be difficult; but if avoided, the attitude of friendship is shown to have been a pretence, the contact breaks, and the soul that was being lifted sinks back in disillusion. (Legion of Mary Handbook, chapter 4).
At the bottom of all really fruitful work must be the readiness to give oneself entirely. Without this readiness, one's service has no substance. The Legionary who somewhere sets up the barrier: " thus far and no farther is self-sacrifice to go," will accomplish only the trivial, though great exertions may be made. On the other hand, if that readiness exist, even though it may never, or but in small measure, be called upon, it will be fruitful of immense things. (Legion of Mary Handbook, chapter 4).
Let us look at two Scriptural quotes: "Jesus answered him: Wilt thou lay down thy life for Me?" (John 13:38) and "must finish the course" (2 Tim. 4:7)
Thus the call of the Legion is for a service without limit or reservations. This is not entirely a counsel of perfection, but of necessity as well, for if excellence is not aimed at, a persevering membership will not be achieved. A lifelong perseverance in the work of the apostolate is in itself heroic, and will only be found as the culmination of a continuous series of heroic acts, as indeed it is their reward. (Legion of Mary Handbook, chapter 4).
But not alone to the individual membership must the note of permanence attach. Each and every item of the Legion's round of duty must be stamped with this selfsame seal of persevering effort. Change, of course, there must necessarily be. Different places and persons are visited; works are completed, and new works are taken on. But all this is the steady alteration of life, not the fitful operation of instability and novelty-seeking, which ends by breaking down the finest discipline. Apprehensive of this spirit of change, the Legion appeals unceasingly for a sterner temper, and from each succeeding meeting sends its members to their tasks with the unchanging watchword, as it were, ringing in their ears: "Hold firm." (Legion of Mary Handbook, chapter 4).
Real achievement is dependent upon sustained effort, which in turn is the outcome of an unconquerable will to win. Essential to the perseverance of such a will is that it bend not often nor at all. Therefore, the Legion enjoins on its branches and its members a universal attitude of refusal to accept defeat, or to court it by a tendency to grade items of work in terms of the "promising," the "unpromising," the "hopeless," etc. A readiness to brand as "hopeless" proclaims that, so far as the Legion is concerned, a priceless soul is free to pursue unchecked its reckless course to hell. In addition, it indicates that an unthinking desire for variety and signs of progress tends to replace higher considerations as the motive of the work. Then, unless the harvest springs up at the heels of the sower, there is discouragement, and sooner or later the work is abandoned.Again, it is declared and insisted that the act of labelling any one case as hopeless automatically weakens attitude towards every other case. Consciously or unconsciously, approach to all work will be in a spirit of doubt as to whether it is justifying effort, and even a grain of doubt paralyses action. (Legion of Mary Handbook, chapter 4).
And worst of all, faith would have ceased to play its due part in Legion affairs, being allowed only a modest entrance when deemed approvable to reason. With its faith so fettered and its determination sapped, at once rush in the natural timidities, the pettinesses, and the worldly prudence, which had been kept at bay, and the Legion is found presenting a casual or half-hearted service which forms a shameful offering to Heaven. (Legion of Mary Handbook, chapter 4).
Hence it is that the Legion is concerned only in a secondary way about a programme of works, but much about intensity of purpose. It does not require from its members wealth or influence, but faith unwavering: not famous deeds but only unrelaxed effort: not genius but unquenchable love: not giant strength but steady discipline. A Legionary service must be one of holding on, of absolute and obstinate refusal to lose heart. A rock in the crisis: but constant at all times. Hoping for success: humble in success: but independent of it. Fighting failure: undismayed by it: fighting on, and wearing it down: thriving upon diffculties and monotony, because they give scope for the faith and effort of an enduring siege. Ready and resolute when summoned: on the alert though not called upon: and even when there is no conflict and no enemy in sight, maintaining a tireless precautionary patrol for God. With a heart for the impossible: yet content to play the part of stop-gap: nothing too big: no duty too mean: for each the same minute attention, the same inexhaustible patience, the same inflexible courage: every task marked with the same golden tenacity. Always on duty for souls: ever at hand to carry the weak through their many weak moments: vigilantly watching to surprise the hardened at their rare moments of softness: unremitting in search for those that have strayed. Unmindful of self: all the time standing by the Cross of others, and standing there till the work is consummated. (Legion of Mary Handbook, chapter 4).