About the Knights of the Altar
In the past centuries, only priests or those ordained to the office of Acolyte were allowed beyond the Communions rail to assist in the Worship of God. The Order of Acolyte is a step toward the priesthood. It is the highest of the four minor orders, before a man seriously commits himself to the priesthood with the three major orders.
As seminaries grew, the Order of Acolyte became for the seminarian a step to the goal of Priesthood, and thus not as many remained Acolyte to assist priests in the Sacred Services. Therefore the Church allowed lay men to perform the duties of that office.
As it became more necessary for men to work steady hours to fulfill their duties as fathers and breadwinners, and young men were called to serve in war time, boys were taught to take on the responsibilities of assisting the priests in their service of God.
The first organization of altar servers was formed in Italy in 1857. A close companion of St. Dominic Savio, Joseph Bongiavanni, formed and served as the first president of an auxiliary of the Blessed Sacrament Sodality shortly after St. Dominic’s death in 1857. This society was known as the Knights of the Altar and was officially commissioned on February 2, 1858.
The Knights of the Altar Society is an organization of boys and men who serve Our Blessed Lord at His altar. It was first organized in the United States in September, 1938, in response to many requests from priests, brothers and nuns who felt the need of an organization that would aid them in solving the many problems they encounter from time to time in directing an altar boy society. These directors desired a central organization with rules and regulations to which they could conform and which would also serve as a clearing house for their many problems.
After the Second Vatican Council, the Traditional Latin Mass began to die out, and with it the Knights of the Altar Society. Eventually, only remnants of the Knights of the Altar Society remained in the United States. The Latin Mass, however, reemerged when Pope John Paul II issue an indult permitting the Extraordinary Form of the Mass to be said when approved by the local Bishop. The Extraordinary Rite, or Latin Tridentine Mass, was officially made a permanent and a co-equal Roman Rite when Pope Benedict VXI’s issued the Moto Proprio: Summorum Pontificum.
The comeback of the Traditional Mass there has been the need for a revival of the Knights of the Altar Society as well. On February 2, 2008, the St. John the Baptist Latin Mass Community Chapter of the Knights of the Altar Society was established. Among the other goals of the Knights of the Altar Society, the goal of this Chapter is to help in the re-establishment of the Knights of the Altar Society as a strong society in the United States and around the world.
As set forth in the Knights of the Altar handbook, the purpose of this society is: (1) To form a worthy guard of honor to our Divine Eucharistic King, in whose service we willingly assume the dignity and honor of becoming Knights of the Altar; (2) To render faithful, reverent and edifying service to God by assisting his visible representatives, the Bishops and Priests, in offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and in all other liturgical and devotional functions; (3) To enkindle in the hearts of the faithful, whom we represent at the altar, greater piety and devotion by reverently performing the duties of our holy office and by giving good example in our daily lives; (4) Finally, to insure the continued and efficient function of the Knights of the Altar as a society by attending meetings and giving of our service to the Church.
I addition to this overall purpose, the purpose of any Knights of the Altar chapter is to cultivate the physical and spiritual well-being of its members.