Young Joseph Ratzinger began serving at the altar of the Lord in 1935, "beginning a long journey on this road," he said.
Commenting on the Apostles, Pope Benedict said that, "In a nutshell, we could say that they were the 'friends' of Jesus . . . They were, and they were able to be, apostles and witnesses of Christ because they were his friends, because they knew him on the basis of friendship, because they were close to him."
With the heart of a pastor, the Holy Father said to the altar servers, "Today, seeing all of you here before me in St. Peter's Square, I think of the Apostles and I feel the voice of Jesus telling you: 'I no longer call you servants, but friends: remain in my love, and you will bear much fruit.' I invite you: listen to this voice! Christ didn't just say this 2,000 years ago; he is alive and he says this to you here and now. Listen to this voice with great openness; it has something to say to everyone. Maybe to some of you it says: 'I want to serve in a special way as a priest becoming his witness, him being my friend, and introducing others to this friendship.' Listen together with trust to the voice of Jesus."
Although each person's vocation is different, Jesus calls all of us to be his friends, he said.
At the close of his remarks the Holy Father spoke powerfully on the role of altar servers. I place it below in its entirety:
Dear servers, in reality you are already apostles of Jesus! When you participate in the Liturgy offering your service at the altar, you offer to all a testimony. Your thoughtful attitude, your devotion to the parts of the heart and those expressed in liturgical motions, in singing, in the responses: if you do these in a proper way and not distractedly in whatever way, then yours is a testimony which touches others. The chain of friendship with Jesus has as its source and its summit in the Eucharist. You are very close to Jesus in the Eucharist, in the celebration of the Holy Mass and this is the greatest sign of his friendship for each of us. Do not forget this! And for this I ask: do not get used to this gift, sot hat if does not become a sort of habit, knowing how everything functions and doing it automatically, but discover it anew each day that something so great is happening, that the living God is in our midst, and that you may be ever more close and bring your contributions so that the mystery may be celebrated and reach the people.Thanks to Rocco Palmo for the translation! He also a couple of good pictures of Pope Benedict.
If you do not give in to the habit of it and develop your service from your interior selves, then you are truly his apostles and carry fruits of goodness and of service in each area of your life: in your family, at school, in your free time. This love that you receive in the Liturgy, carry it to all people, especially when you notice those who lack love, who do not receive goodness, those who suffer and are alone. With the strength of the Holy Spirit, seek to bring Jesus himself to those who are cast out, who are not loved very much, people who have problems. To these, with the strength of the Holy Spirit, you must bring Jesus. So that Bread, which you see broken on the altar, will be shared and multiplied farther. And so that you, like the twelve Apostles, may help Jesus to distribute the Bread of Life among the people of our time, in the diverse situations of life. They need this bread! So, dear servers, let my final words to you be these: always be friends and apostles of Jesus Christ!