On Girl Altar Servers

The Washington Post has picked up here on the growing trend of boy only altar servers in Catholic Churches. Here is a post I wrote on the subject some months ago. Here’s what Caitlin O’Rourke thinks of the idea, and here’s what The Crescat (a kind of grown up Caitlin O’Rourke thinks. What do you think?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11230803204895454672 George @ Convert Journal

    One of the girls in my CCD class is an altar server, loves it and does it flawlessly. I would hate to see her disillusioned or hurt.However, I truly believe this should be a function for boys only. Its eventual contribution to vocations seems clear from all reports. When girls also serve, it not only reduces opportunities for boys but also reduces their desire to participate according to many reports.This is no more a matter of discrimination against females than a male only priesthood is (it isn't).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09508033779758406137 Sue

    Our parish has at least twice as many girls as boys serving. Personally I would love to see boys only – and really wonder if more boys would step up if there were fewer girls crowding up there (we generally have 8-10 servers each Sunday with maybe 3 of them boys). My eldest son loves serving, and even takes the bus early to Mass to ensure that he has plenty of time to get ready. Maybe it's just poor training, or soft trainers, but the girls tend to clump together and sometimes even laugh or whisper during Mass – in general they seem to take it less seriously. I am so glad that my son is able to serve, and he is definitely thinking about becoming a priest due in part to his love of serving at Mass. I hate to think that there are other boys who would be equally influenced in that direction, but they are discouraged from serving due to the sheer number of girls taking the spots more boys would gladly fill if they felt needed.That's my two yen worth. :o)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11573726118608935361 Amy Giglio

    I agree with George and Sue. I think that boys are discouraged from being servers simply because of the sheer numbers of girls doing it. Not many boys want to do "girl stuff." At our parish, we have both male and female servers, and many of the girls do a great job, but I think that the place where we should be looking for priests is our altar server pool. And since the Lord hasn't called women to be priests, I don't think girls should serve at the Mass. Not that anyone asked me, but if a priest were going to change over a server program from mixed gender to all-boys, I would advise him to grandfather the girls currently serving and have a "girl" alternative already set to go. Maybe like a junior Rosary Altar Society? Lord knows, we need younger women to help with the care of the altar, too.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12134773583909850747 Courtney

    Being an altar server as a young girl cemented my faith and the spiritual experiences I had because of my service became an anchor for me as I transitioned from my childhood faith to my adult faith.I learned about the primacy of the Eucharist in our faith, the importance of Mass, the role of the priest, and the importance of living a life of service to the Church whatever my eventual vocation. It was never put into my head that I ought to be or could be a priest, only that whatever I did as an adult that I ought to serve the Church.I have carried this anchor for over 20 years studying both theology and law and eventually canon law. I am a lawyer for the state, president of our diocesan lawyers' guild, and I cook and do seamstress work for the priests of my parish. The vocations crisis is not just one of men to the priesthood, but is a larger societal crisis that also involves the call of women to religious life and both lay men and women to lives of service to God, not to money or power or whatever else the world offers. If allowing both girl and boy altar servers encourages them to think similarly then I'm all for it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08353696433987975754 Karen

    I really don't know where I stand on this topic. My daughter has been an altar server for the past year. She loves it, volunteers to serve at Mass every single week, and is able to do the job reverently. We're part of a large parish and there are over 100 altar servers, but most of the time the kids who are scheduled to serve don't bother so show up, so she's almost never turned away when she goes back to ask if they can use her. I didn't want her to sign up to altar serve last year because it's a boy's job. Despite my feelings that she doesn't belong up there, I am still proud of her for serving as well and frequently as she does.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13799205755327115647 Sister Lori

    actually I think the girls/women have stepped up because so many boys/ men are not fulfilling all the masculine roles…in protestant faiths as well.many men are no longer head of house, authority, or disciplinarian any more. I believe the feminists did this (I used to be one before I grew up). That spiralled into every area of our society to create weaker families and parishes.Moses and Aaron were the leaders, not Miriam. The Apostles were the leaders, not the women. Being a woman of faith is not less because our roles are different. We need to teach our daughters its ok not to do everything boys do and stop accepting ideas that they are being "kept from" something…that is the oldest trick of satan. He is always convincing people that God and the Church is keeping something back….he is a liar…lest we forget.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15280690759158743544 JennE

    Amen sister Lori! That is the point!I like Crescat's take on it, priest picks and stick behind him. Too much infighting already.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18377780476611298361 Qoheleth

    Well, you good people are going to think me a regular Hans Küng when you hear my comments on this, but oh well. For my own part, I have never found a convincing refutation to the following argument: 1. The gender roles in the Church's liturgy (using "gender" here in C. S. Lewis's sense of "the deeper reality of which sex is the biological reflection") depend, ultimately, on the mystical marriage of Christ and the Church. When an office reflects Christ, the way a priest or an extraordinary minister does, it should (and, in some cases, must) be occupied only by males; when it reflects the Church, it should be occupied only by females; on those rare occasions when it does neither to any particular degree, there is no intrinsic reason to restrict it to either sex (though there may well be practical reasons, such as the encouragement of vocations, for doing so). 2. Altar servers are not directly involved in the consecration of the elements or the proclamation of the gospel, which are the two aspects of the liturgy that most directly reflect Christ's action in the world. There is therefore no immediately obvious typological reason why this particular ministry ought to be restricted to males – though, as I said before, this by itself is not conclusive one way or the other. 3. However, it is also a fact (which Fr. Longenecker himself has vouched for on this very blog) that altar servers, and I quote, "symbolize the ranks of heavenly hosts who circle around the throne and worship the Lamb." That is to say, they represent the Church Triumphant – and, to the extent that we of the Church Militant (and, I suppose, Penitent) aspire to share in our brethren's glory, they represent us as well. (This, I suppose, is why the altar servers have the duty of giving the responses on behalf of the congregation in the Extraordinary Form.) 4. Therefore, since altar servers cannot be readily demonstrated to have an alter-Christus function, and *can* readily be demonstrated to have what we might call an alter-Ecclesia function, a proper respect for the Divine typology would seem to require that altar servers *always* be female (except in cases, such as may sometimes occur in monasteries or suchlike environments, where this simply isn't feasible). 5. It follows, therefore, that to lament the adverse effect of female altar servers on priestly vocations amounts to barking up the wrong tree. Altar service, on the typological theory, *oughtn't* to be a preparation for the priesthood; it ought to be a preparation for the convent (the ultimate alter-Ecclesia vocation). What we should be lamenting is that more altar girls aren't following their callings home and becoming nuns – and even this probably isn't as serious as it sounds, since, once we start actually explaining to these girls just what it means to represent the Bride of Christ, I suspect that more than a few of them will make the connection. Such, at any rate, is where logic seems to be leading me in this matter. If anyone sees an error in my reasoning, I would be gratified if he or she would point it out. (And, if you don't see any problems with the theory, perhaps you would be so good as to mention it to your local bishop? The most beautiful chain of reasoning on Earth isn't much use if it isn't applied.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01903117581927591052 Jon

    I attend an FSSP apostolate, and have for over six years. My sons, now 14 and 17, both serve Low and High Mass flawlessly. It has inspired both of them to a profound, and, I trust and pray, unmovable faith.We have daily Mass, and two Masses on Sunday, and more altar boys than we can fit on the schedule.As an aside, do you folks know the history behind the permission for girls to serve? The permission was granted by the CDF in March, 1994. Why? Because the German and French bishops had a fit because they knew that John Paul was to promulgate Ordinatio Sacerdotalis that May, in which he infallibly declared that only men can be priests.So, this permission, so esteemed by the egalitarian West and so contrary to 2,000 years of liturgical tradition and so damaging to the vocational mission of the Church, was only a sop to whining liberals.