Priests rely on sacristans for many things and are always grateful for their service.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal explains, “The following also exercise(s) a liturgical function: The sacristan, who carefully arranges the liturgical books, the vestments, and other things necessary in the celebration of the Mass” (No. 105).
In the medieval Church this task was often completed by the doorkeeper, who lived close to the parish church. For many centuries the sacristan, especially in monastic communities, was a younger priest or seminarian in minor orders. However, as the Church expanded to far-off regions of the world with solitary missionary priests, the laity or religious women would be given the important task.
In the past few hundred years there also arose “Altar Societies,” where members of the parish join together in assisting the priest with whatever is needed for the liturgy.
It is an essential service in the parish as it helps priests focus on the ministerial aspect of their priesthood. The sacristan keeps the liturgical items for Mass in order while the priest is free to visit parishioners, anoint the sick and prepare homilies.
Sacristans are always needed, especially in rural parishes, and it is a way to serve the Church in a less public way.
Since you are here…
…we’d like to have one more word with you. We are excited to report that Aleteia’s readership is growing at a rapid rate, world-wide! Our team proves its mission every day by providing high-quality content that informs and inspires a Christian life. But quality journalism has a cost and it’s more than ads can cover. We want our articles to be accessible to everyone, free of charge, but we need your help. To continue our efforts to nourish and inspire our Catholic family, your support is invaluable. Become an Aleteia Patron today for as little as $3 a month. May we count on you?