Pope Francis greets altar servers during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

FATIMA, Portugal (CNS) — Being an altar server should be a "profession of faith" to the entire parish community, Pope Francis told young men and women participating in Portugal's annual altar server pilgrimage to Fatima.

"Don't follow negative people but radiate the light and hope that come from God," he wrote in a message read May 1 as about 1,000 altar servers sat socially distanced outdoors at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima.

"Be holy. Be original" was the theme for the altar servers' 25th national pilgrimage and was the focus of Pope Francis' message to the young people, which was reported on the website of the Portuguese bishops' conference.

The pope asked them to be particularly careful when serving at Mass to always behave in a way that "is fitting in the service of holy things," especially when they are near the altar, but also when they make the sign of the cross, kneel or are joining in the prayers and hymns.

Being an altar server should be a “profession of faith” to the entire parish community, Pope Francis told young men and women participating in Portugal's annual altar server pilgrimage to Fatima.

"You have been taught—and it is true—that at holy Mass, that small piece of bread becomes the body of Christ and the wine in the chalice becomes the blood of Christ," he said. When serving at the altar, "your eyes do not see Jesus, but your heart and your lips adore him."

"It is true," the pope wrote, "Jesus is there as real and perfectly as he is in heaven; and, seeing you, he must recognize an angel."

"Put all the enthusiasm of your age into your encounter with Jesus," the pope told them. "Offer Jesus your hands, your thoughts and your time, and he will not fail to reward you, granting you true joy and making you feel where the most complete happiness is found."

The call to imitate the saints is not a call to become "a photocopy" of any of them, he said, rather it is a call to be like them in finding "the unique and specific path" that God has for each person.

"Do not let yourselves fall into mediocrity, which debases us and makes us gray," the pope wrote. "Life is not gray. Life should point us toward grand ideals."

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, president of the European association of altar servers, celebrated Mass for the young people in Fatima and told them that he had been an altar server from the age of 7 and throughout high school.

Holiness, he told them, "does not mean becoming an extraterrestrial," but begins with "small gestures of service in your families and groups of friends."

We don’t have comments turned on everywhere anymore. We have recently relaunched the commenting experience at America and are aiming for a more focused commenting experience with better moderation by opening comments on a select number of articles each day.

But we still want your feedback. You can join the conversation about this article with us in social media on Twitter or Facebook, or in one of our Facebook discussion groups for various topics.

Or send us feedback on this article with one of the options below:

We welcome and read all letters to the editor but, due to the volume received, cannot guarantee a response.

In order to be considered for publication, letters should be brief (around 200 words or less) and include the author’s name and geographic location. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

We open comments only on select articles so that we can provide a focused and well-moderated discussion on interesting topics. If you think this article provides the opportunity for such a discussion, please let us know what you'd like to talk about, or what interesting question you think readers might want to respond to.

If we decide to open comments on this article, we will email you to let you know.

If you have a message for the author, we will do our best to pass it along. Note that if the article is from a wire service such as Catholic News Service, Religion News Service, or the Associated Press, we will not have direct contact information for the author. We cannot guarantee a response from any author.

We welcome any information that will help us improve the factual accuracy of this piece. Thank you.

Please consult our Contact Us page for other options to reach us.

City and state/province, or if outside Canada or the U.S., city and country. 
When you click submit, this article page will reload. You should see a message at the top of the reloaded page confirming that your feedback has been received.

The latest from america

The consolidated financial statement of the Roman Curia for 2020 revealed better-than-expected results even though the overall situation is still quite difficult.
Gerard O’ConnellJuly 24, 2021
Evyatar Marienberg, a historian of religion at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, has written a book about Sting’s Catholic imagination and how it fueled his creativity.
Some experts say the level of detail included in the story suggests that whoever provided the information has access to large datasets and methods of analysis that could have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars—or more.
The cast of ‘Father Ted,’ from left clockwise: Pauline McLynn, Dermot Morgan, Ardal O'Hanlon and Frank Kelly (photo: Alamy/Moviestore Collection Ltd)
“Father Ted” can be seen as both a relic of an Irish moment and a humorous, but serious, argument against the confessional state.
Addison Del MastroJuly 23, 2021