Learning to Serve: A Book for New Altar Boys by St. Augustine Academy Press

Teaching liturgical arts to children has never been more important.  I have been asked to review this fine book, Learning to Serve by Fr. Charles Carmody.  Such a delightful little gem - written specifically for new altar boys who serve the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.  This paperback treasure, a total of 146 pages, is in fact suitable for all Catholic kids in home or a classroom setting.  It is especially suited for homeschool families who attend the Classical Rite.  It was originally published in 1961 and thankfully was republished in 2015 by our good friends at St. Augustine Academy Press.  I have to say I am a huge fan of St. Augustine Academy Press; their selection of Catholic books for youth is one of the mosts impressive I have seen to date. 

The book has great content, is structured well and has excellent illustrations that inspire young boys.  I find the images are especially helpful because after years of experience training servers I have seen that while everything has to be explained, some kids learn better and remember quicker with pictures.  As it has been said, a true sign of intelligence is is not knowledge, but imagination.  Such a book is an incredible resource because it makes a true contribution to both the science of teaching sacred liturgy and arts to children (and adults), helping to influence and form an educated laity.  The outcome is the creation of the best possible altar server, something the boy can carry with him for the duration of his life.  The book is easily readable and can be understood by both youth and parents helping to instruct them.  It covers an understanding of the parts of the Mass and the roles that servers must fulfil.  It aims to instill in the boy a true sense of the privilege which they have been entrusted to serve as Christ's page at the altar.  It includes various small details that are often overlooked when boys are trained by volunteers who only have so much time to explain the general picture.  The book fills a gap covering basics and more, including the development of the spiritual life and the fact that boys must serve well and advance in their knowledge, reverence and piety in order to be worthy of the honor.  

The chapters encompass a great many themes and aspects that help develop a child's mind in the area of liturgical arts.  A sample form the table of contents, which consists os 25 illustrated lessons, includes these diverse sections: 

"A Catholic Boy's Greatest Honor."  

"The Altar Boy Knows His Rubrics."

"The Altar Boy Recites His Latin Correctly, Clearly, and With Certainty."

"The Altar Boy Is a Christian Gentleman."

"The Altar Boy is Responsible for His Altar Appointments."

"The Altar Boy is Neat."

"The Altar Boy Should Be a Minuteman of His Parish."  

"The Altar Boy is Truthful at All Times."

"The Altar Boy Respects the Holy Name."  

"The Altar Boy Loves Our Blessed Mother."  

One important truth conveyed in the book is the objective reality of the aesthetic judgement that is seen in the EF.  While the NO Missae presents a set of standards in a constant state of shifting, the EF consists of a core set of aesthetic constants (to which human and spiritual nature are naturally attuned).  With the EF, rules are clear and they matter.  So does proper comportment.  There is a proper way of doing things that is mandatory.  Expectations are clear and for a reason.  Everything has a place.  The liturgy, like anything else that matters or functions properly, rests on a philosophical foundation of rules and regulations to help perfect it.  In this way the rights of both clergy and laity alike are protected.  Everyone has a canonical right to the liturgy as the Church has given it to us through the centuries.  Similarly, aesthetic judgements are related to moral judgements.  They are objective.  Humans are rational beings.  When consulting the facts of liturgical arts and traditions in relation to truth, beauty and goodness (and while setting aside anything that may compromise impartiality), the EF shrines with its central core of all that produces great liturgy and saints, as evidenced in this book.   

Needless to say, I highly recommend this book and encourage Catholic parents and grandparents to purchase copies for their families.  Also, pastors would do well to gift their new servers with a copy.  It is gratifying to know this book is available for purchase and that a new generation of altar server is being formed according to the highest traditions of competency and excellence.  The future is bright.  Copies may be ordered HERE at the website for St. Augustine Academy Press.  Bulk pricing is available up to 40%.  Keep up the fine work, dear friends in Catholic publishing, and thank you for these great resources that form our kids and future generations!  

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