VU: The Knights of the Altar

June 11, 2024

It is worth noting that there is a shortage of priests in the Archdiocese and nation. The reality is that if there are no priests to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, then there is no Eucharist to sustain and strengthen the souls of the faithful.  

Pope Benedict XVI once said, “Without the Eucharist, the Church quite simply would not exist” (Angelus, June 26, 2011). During this Eucharistic Revival, it is necessary to rekindle Eucharistic piety and cultivate holy vocations to the priesthood in our parishes. 

In 2023, a survey was prepared and released by Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The survey showed that amongst the responses of the newly ordained (334 of 458), 72% of religious priests and 71% of diocesan priests once served as altar boys. This supports the 1994 letter from the Congregation of Divine Worship regarding the tradition of having boys serve at the altar and the obligation of parishes to foster priestly vocations. 

To assist our youth, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, where I have assisted, overhauled the parish's altar serving program within the last decade. This formally established the Guild of Altar Servers (boys and girls) and the Knights of the Altar (only boys). The result has led to an increase of more than 100 servers. About 90% of servers are boys, and half of them belong to the Knights of the Altar. 

The Knights have a hierarchical system that is distinguished by their liturgical garment. The new apprentice begins his service wearing the white alb and cincture. After some time, they are promoted to knight by receiving the cassock and surplice. Finally, they can advance and wear medals proper to the Knight Commander, Senior Knight Commander, and Master Knight. This is all based on age, experience, but most importantly, piety.  

With the organization, boys and young men are given a place to strive for holiness and excellence. In imitation of the virtues of a Christian Knight, they are taught to love, protect and serve Our Eucharistic Lord at the altar. They are formed by the graces that flow from the Holy Mass, fostering a culture of reverence and responsibility. Finally, they learn what it means to unite as brother knights in prayer, leadership, and fraternity.  

The parents of our knights have consistently mentioned how much their sons love to serve and the sense of responsibility it has taught them. Several of our older knights continue to serve and lead even after graduating from high school. For many of our knights, the Knights of the Altar has been the way for them to grow in holiness. It has allowed them to continue to know, love and serve Our Lord Jesus Christ. For the parents, it is their prayer and hope that one day, the Lord will call their sons to serve as His priests in our Archdiocese.  

Thomas Vu is a seminarian at St. Mary’s Seminary.