The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench


“I want to talk about female altar servers, and my experience…”

posted by deacon greg kandra

A couple days ago, I posted an amusing photograph from my parish’s Thanksgiving Day mass. To my amazement, it unleashed a tiny firestorm of comment and debate on the subject of girls serving on the altar.

One veteran of my parish altar server society, who is now in college, was particularly upset by the reaction, and wrote to tell me about it. I asked her if she’d like to write a response.

Here, with just light editing, is what she sent me:

First, I want to talk about female altar servers in general and, more specifically, my time and experiences as an altar server. I was first interested in altar serving back in fourth grade after reading about them in my religion textbook. Then, a year later, our class was told that we could sign up to be altar servers, and both boys and girls were eligible. So I signed up to be an altar server without asking permission from my parents, which was probably the first time I ever did that. The trainees in my year consisted of an even number of boys and girls, and we took time out of our Saturday mornings for about two months to train. When I signed up, female altar servers had only been around for about four years, when our current assistant moderator was first installed as an altar server.

Our training was a lot like an extra class and involved more than just learning about the procedures done during the Mass. We had to reflect on our thoughts on the Mass and our faith in general and understand the importance of serving for God. I took that idea with me when I finished my training and continued to apply it throughout my seven or eight years as an altar server.

I found that as an altar server, my faith in God has deepened in a way that I would not have acquired through my religion classes at school. The fact that I chose to be an altar server makes my understanding of the Catholic faith through my time at the altar even more meaningful. As an altar server, I also have a way to be more involved in my parish, and I still carry with me the importance of service to my parish and the community in general. As of today, I am a member of our choir and an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion.

I did not first realize until a few years how privileged I was to even be an altar server. In some other parishes, female altar servers are unheard of. I remember a classmate of mine in high school, after I told her that I served for my parish, reply that her pastor will not let women serve at the altar, which we both thought was unfair. But it has not really occurred to me until a few days ago that there might be some objection to altar girls. So naturally, I was a little emotional. But after looking up “female altar servers” through Google, I learned that the view is not so uncommon. I don’t like it, but every person is entitled to an opinion.

The group of altar servers at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, both male and female, are some of the most dedicated servers at our parish and help to give an air of reverence to the service. We have servers who come and volunteer their time when they do not have to, and there are times where we have too many servers and have to find jobs for each of them to do. I knew a server about my age from another parish where it was difficult to get servers on a weekly basis because so few volunteered.

Does this mean that female servers are entertaining the thought of becoming women priests? Not necessarily. I understand that the priesthood is a male-only vocation, and I have no desire to be a priest. But just because young men become altar servers doesn’t necessarily mean that they will become priests; it also depends on how they are brought up and how deep their faith is. One thing I learned is that priesthood is a calling, and not all men are called to be priests.

Are we driving away boys from becoming altar servers just because girls are serving too? From my experience, I don’t believe so. There are still plenty of young men in our parish who become altar servers. In fact, my brothers would not have been altar servers if I were not an altar server.

I find that there are other factors as to why both young men and young women hesitate to become altar servers, including their upbringing from home and peer pressure from friends and classmates. When I was installed as an altar server, there were over twenty people in the class, but less than half of them were in my year and went to my school. In our class, and I went to the parish school, it was not that popular to be an altar server. By the time I graduated, only five people stayed as an altar server: four girls and one boy (To put things in perspective, there were about 22 girls and 9 boys in our class). The majority of those people stopped after graduation, and by the beginning of high school, there were only two of us left.

As for the picture in Deacon Greg’s post from November 28 “Where I was yesterday,” I would like to point out that those are only the torch bearers and two servers with thurifers. There are more servers that cannot be seen on both sides of the altar. Also, these young people signed up for the Thanksgiving Mass because they were available and wanted to serve. There were probably more people that signed up for the Mass, but it is up to the assistant moderator to choose who would best serve the mass. It just so happens that the majority of the people chosen were women.

I would also like to bring up concerns about the women wearing cassocks and surpluses. When I was an altar server, both men and women were required to wear white albs and cinctures instead of cassocks and surpluses for Sunday masses. However, for the big masses (i.e., the Midnight Mass at Christmas and Easter), everyone was, and still is, required to wear the red cassocks and the surpluses. The assistant moderator of the altar servers at our parish understands that, technically, women shouldn’t wear cassocks and surpluses at all. However, our church chooses what altar servers wear during mass to give a sense of uniformity. Different parishes have different requirements for what their servers wear at the altar, and our parish is no exception.

There you have it.

I think our parish is blessed to have young people like that — and I think most parishes would move heaven and earth to have kids so eager to serve our Lord.

Scripture tells us to judge a work by its fruits. The fruits of our altar servers, as I indicated in my previous post, are many: great devotion to the faith among those who serve, along with beautiful liturgies that enhance the prayerful spirit of our parish. Every Sunday the pews are filled, and the number of parishioners is growing. Not many parishes can say that these days.



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The Ironic Catholic

posted November 30, 2008 at 9:20 pm


Thank you for posting this.



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Mr. Basso

posted November 30, 2008 at 10:04 pm


Let me preface all of this by saying that I do not oppose young women serving at the altar:If we really want to judge the fruits we should probably look at the entire grove rather than just one tree. Deacon, it seems as though you are blessed to serve at thriving parish, which I imagine is owed more to the great pastoral leadership than to the presence of girls at the altar. Please allow me to give another example of one such tree and its fruits: young women (not all, but many) at my former parish, when serving at the altar wore flip flops or slip-on athletic sandals on their feet, florescent fingernail polish on their nails, chewed gum during mass, chatted incessantly, were inattentive during mass, remarkably casual – even irreverent in handling the sacred vessels and the remaining precious blood or fragments of hosts. And this does not begin to address the issue of young women seeking ordination on riverboats and in synagogues. Do female servers encourage this phenomenon? The young woman's response, "not necissarily", is far from reassuring.Again, I return to my preface – I think that for all of the reasons mentioned in the post that girls serving at the altar is a fine thing. I think that it would be appropriate to sacrifice visual uniformity for the sake of the unique character of the priesthood. (this alone does not mean that young men will be more inclined to serve reverently and live faithfully if vested in cassock & surplice, but it will reinforce the connection in their mind and the mind of the young men in the pews between their own nature and that of the priest).I think that St. Paul provides sound advice when he tells the Corinthians that "all things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial". With sound pastoral leadership, strong catechesis, and a faithful family foundation young women serving at the altar may be quite beneficial to a parish and to the universal church. However, take away but one of those prerequisites and we are left with a mockery of the liturgy. I apologize for the length. Thank you, Deacon, for your wonderful blog.Mr. B.



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Patm

posted November 30, 2008 at 10:37 pm


God bless this young woman, for her faithfulness and her excellent response.I’m sure there will be nitpicking. There is always nitpicking.Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Does anyone really think God gives a darn whether female altar servers wear a cassock on special occasions?



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Patm

posted November 30, 2008 at 10:40 pm


Also, I think equating female altar servers with the feminist boomers “ordaining” themselves on the river boats is a bit much. Those women are clearly not about serving the church, but about serving themselves. It’s an entirely different mindset. One says “gimmee” and the other says “please take.”



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olqmaltserv

posted November 30, 2008 at 11:07 pm


I began serving at OLQM when I was 10 years old and have found it to be without doubt the most enjoying and fulfilling experience of my life. In the past thirteen years I have been blessed to make life-long friends in our Altar Server Society (both male and female and including Greg’s subject). I consider many of these servers my surrogate family and there is literaly nothing I would not do for many of these extraordinay young men and women (since I began as Assistant Moderator I have served with over 200 servers and currently have servers ranging from 4th grade thru college)that I have had the distint honor of knowing.That being said of the 97 servers we currently have 52 are female and 45 are male. That is nearly double the number of male servers than when I began as an Altar Server and at the time it was still an all boy fraternity.As to the issue of vestment, I have spoken with several biships when our parish was graced with a visit and they have all complented our Altar Servers on their apperance and deportment (I can assure you no gum chewing, talking on the Altar, flip flops or carelessness here).I agree that not all things are benifical but I believe firmly that the future of the church is the youth and at our parish our youth is visible and active. From my perspective that is both benifical and inspiring. My father taught me that to be an Altar Server was to follow the dicate of St. Francis of Assisi to preach the Gospel always and to use words only if necessary. What we do is not perfect, but eight years ago when I began to run our program, I could only get three servers to serve our Thanksgiving Mass; this year we had twenty-two.



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Maria

posted December 1, 2008 at 2:20 am


Great letter and I commend the young woman for writing it and allowing you to share it. We have both female and male altar servers at our parish. We have beautiful Masses, the altar servers are respectful, reverent and very good. Both boys and girls serve together. I also suspect that the young woman is right that it’s not girls serving that’s driving boys away, but peer pressure and other life distractions that seem to be so much more important than faith and serving at church. Thanks for sharing.



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Mr. Basso

posted December 1, 2008 at 4:50 am


It seems as though readers are determined to ignore my first and last paragraphs above, taking the rest of my comment out of context.The “does God really give a darn x or y or z?” argument can be used ad nauseam. There may be a lot of things that may seem trivial to us compared to the vast transcendence of God. It does not mean these little things are of no consequence. My most recent encounter with a young woman (age 24 – hardly a boomer) who was seeking ordination was one who told me that serving at the altar during college masses was the one thing that inspired her most to know her “vocation” to the priesthood. She is now in a seminary at Berkeley.I’m not saying that these things are the norm, but are prevalent enough to warrent concern.



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Klaire

posted December 1, 2008 at 9:32 am


” There may be a lot of things that may seem trivial to us compared to the vast transcendence of God. It does not mean these little things are of no consequence.”While I chose to mostly “sit this one out” I do agree Mr. Basso about those “little things of great consequense.” Based on more than “my gut feelings”, I’m rather convinced that we will all be surpised how much the “little things” we thought were “no big deal” actually, through God’s eyes, will be the BIG THINGS (especially small acts of kindness).As for female altar servers, I will only say, if the church approves them, and there is no liturgical abuse, I accept them in obedience to church teaching.I just pray that all women on the altar are there for the right reasons. Personally, I think the best way women can serve the church is to be (and help share), the authentic Feminine Genius, with no better teacher than Mother Mary. To really know and love the church (as females) is to know that the highest way to serve comes (and is taught) via Mother Mary; a BIG opportunity I hope no women misses!



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Meredith Gould

posted December 1, 2008 at 9:38 am


Bless you for posting this and may God continue to bless this young woman in whatever ways she is called to serve Him…and the church.



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Tina aka Snupnjake

posted December 1, 2008 at 10:20 am


Mr. Basso, When I served at the alter years ago, it was the boys who were coming to Mass to serve in ratty tennis shoes, if they bothered to show up at all. Many times I had to fill in for a boy who didn’t bother to show.If you don’t teach your servers what is proper, then how will they know? If you don’t have rules for them to follow, how will they know they are not supposed to wear flip-flops? If you never tell them it is unacceptable, how will they know?Since I went to a parochial school were nail polish was outright banned, I was kind of shocked by the nail polish thing.Boys can be just as irreverant as girls.If it really bothers you, why don’t you volunteer to help train the servers?Tina



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Deacon Alex Breviario

posted December 1, 2008 at 1:45 pm


The Serenity Prayer…God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can;and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful worldas it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things rightif I surrender to His Will;That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with HimForever in the next.Amen. Need we say anything more…Peace!



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Deacon Alex Breviario

posted December 1, 2008 at 1:46 pm


Trust in the LORD with all your heartand lean not on your own understanding;in all your ways acknowledge him,and he will direct your paths. Proverbs 3, 5-6 Peace!



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god googler

posted December 1, 2008 at 4:07 pm


I have only two things to add besides a heartfelt thank you to all the girls and women who serve at the Most Holy Altar.1) I was an Altar Boy for years. I was allowed to be trained when I was 9 and then to serve alone or with 2-4 others. I enjoyed it immensely and even served as an acolyte in college without fear of social suicide (It’s not exactly cool to be a college aged altar boy!). Our service was marked by a faithful deacon who made sure we knew how to serve properly and that we were dressed appropriately. Black or brown shoes were acceptable but no sneakers. Older boys wore the cassock and surplice and younger ones the plain white alb with a cross around the neck and cincture at the waist. We had prayers to say before and after mass and we had to know when to bow, genuflect, all the responses, etc.I rarely see altar servers (Deacon Greg’s parish is a rare exception and I’ve seen them with my own eyes) who know what they are doing–and can do it well. Too often altar servers look confused, dazed or simply indifferent.2) This is far from the fault of the youth–but rather is the fault of the trainers–of whom there are few and little committment to go beyond the mere motions. What I have seen however, is that the girls are far more reverent and far better interested in the mass than most of the boys. Who knows why–but I’m convinced at least in NYC that it is so. So here’s to all the good trainers of altar servers. Here’s to the boys and the girls who serve at God’s altar and always call us to attention. Know that we do watch you, that you do bring Jesus to us, and that your work matters. Thanks for all you do.



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Gen X Revert

posted December 1, 2008 at 6:31 pm


I was an altar boy and have to say that the real issue today is having altar servers at every Mass that are well trained. I agree with the commenter who noticed ‘often altar servers look confused, dazed or simply indifferent.’ This is the real problem – that many think of Liturgy as so casual, so unimportant that no effort goes into training. The issue is with the adults who have little sense of the importance and dignity of Liturgy. I love to see altar servers in cassock and surplices (even if only during the ‘big Masses) but too often I see wrinkled, ill fitted white robes and sneakers. I wish the Church would demand more from people involved in Liturgy, beginning with priests and going from there. I do not have a problem with female altar servers (they are often more mature and reverent) although I reject the notion that to have only male altar servers is ‘unfair’. The important thing to me is that altar servers are trained well by people who take Liturgy seriously.



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Mark

posted December 1, 2008 at 6:36 pm


I am uncomfortable with female alter servers because I believe it goes against the tradition of the Church. I think we spend too much time worrying about how it makes people feel, and not enough time thinking about why changing the tradition is what God would want. I am not saying women are less capable, in fact the female servers in our parish do a great job for the most part. I am just saying that Jesus created a formula, it has worked for 2000 years, you should have a good reason to change it.There are a lot of ways where people can be involved in the Church without serving at the alter.



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Adeodato

posted December 1, 2008 at 8:00 pm


Now that we all got our “opinions” out of the way, here are some facts:Altar girls are not a part of the Tradition of the Church, as noted even by Pope Paul VI after Vatican II in his “Third Instruction on the Correct Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.” In #7 of that document, Pope Paul VI says, “The traditional liturgical norms of the Church prohibit women (young girls, married women, religious) from serving the priest at the altar, even in women’s chapels, houses, convents, schools and institutes.” In the letter “Inaestimabile Donum,” from 1980 said, “18: There are, of course, various roles that women can perform in the liturgical assembly: these include reading the Word of God and proclaiming the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful. Women are not, however, permitted to act as altar servers”.The recent allowance of altar girls is based on an interpretation of the 1983 Code of Canon Law. The first and principal part of the canon in question (c.230.1) specifies that only lay men (viri laici) can be “installed” permanently in the Church ministries of lector and acolyte; but then the next sub-canon (c.230.2) says that lay persons (laici) can fulfill these functions “by temporary deputation”. Thus, it was decided, females are not explicitly excluded from these functions by canon law, even if they may not be installed as such.”In the Byzantine Churches, including their Catholic derivatives, “No woman, whatever her age and social position, may enter the sanctuary at any time” (Kucharek: The Byzantine-Slav Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom”,1071 p. 209. Indeed, dead blood is never permitted during the sacrifice.In a response to a dubitum about whether a bishop can force his priests to have altar girls (Prot. N.2451/00/L), the response contained this: “it will always be very appropriate to follow the noble tradition of having boys serve at the altar” (Circular Letter to the Presidents of Episcopal Conference, March 15, 1994, no. 2). The main point is that service at the altar is an extension of male ordained priesthood and those orders and ministries that lead to it. Peace.



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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted December 1, 2008 at 9:01 pm


Adeodato…Thanks for the background. More can be found here, along with this information and context (emphases mine): With the promulgation of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, some argued that this reservation to males no longer held,[6] based of the inclusion of both males and females in canon 230 §2: “Lay persons can fulfill the function of lector in liturgical actions by temporary designation. All lay persons can also perform the functions of commentator or cantor, or other functions, according to the norm of law.” In some dioceses, girls were allowed to act as altar servers under the new canon law, without any explicit decision on the matter from the Holy See.The decision came in the form of a circular letter [1] from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to presidents of episcopal conferences on 15 March 1994, which announced a 30 June 1992 authentic interpretation (confirmed on 11 July 1992 by Pope John Paul II) from the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts. This authentic interpretation said that canon 230 §2 states that service at the altar is one of the liturgical functions that can be performed by both lay men and women. The circular letter, written by the cardinal-prefect of the Congregation, also clarified that canon 230 §2 has a permissive and not a preceptive character, that is, it allows, but does not require, the use of female altar servers. Thus it was for each diocesan bishop to decide whether to allow them in his diocese.A later document [2] made clear that, even if a bishop decided to permit girl altar servers, the priest in charge of a church in that diocese was not obliged to accept them, since there was no question of anyone, male or female, having a right to become an altar server.The 1994 declaration that there was no canonical prohibition against girl altar servers was published shortly before Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis of 22 May 1994, which affirmed that the male-only priesthood is a matter of Divine Law and cannot be changed. Ordinatio Sacerdotalis however said nothing about girl altar servers being forbidden, as was expected as the subject of this apostolic letter was priestly ordination.The main point is that canon law permits lay women to serve at the altar.



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cs

posted December 2, 2008 at 12:46 am


I would hope that as followers of Christ, we can all see and accept the fact that men and women, though equal in dignity, have very separate and distinct roles in the world. If we move beyond the feminist lies that have been force-fed to us these last 40 years, we can see the damage that the women’s movement has caused at the expense of marriage, family, men, and children. This movement, believe it or not, has worked its way onto our altars. The op-ed piece on alter girls failed to convince me of the value of having girls serve during Mass. Although it is evident that this young woman had an emotional bond to her years as an alter server, her defense of alter girls, was lacking in any objective Truth, and sadly shows a lack of solid formation in Catholicism. As a woman and mother, and through the writings of (beloved) Pope John Paul II, I have come to see the beauty within the family (the domestic Church) in God’s assignment of man as the head, and woman as the heart . This distinction should then, naturally, carry itself into the larger Church as well. We women don’t have to be so eager to always be doing what the men are doing. Let the men be men and the women be women. One must wonder how we, as the Church, have reached this point of contributing to a unisex society. Where is the beauty in that? If we women, were truly to model ourselves after our Blessed Mother, the most perfect woman that ever lived, the virtue of humility would contain our pride-driven desire to take on the masculine, and allow us, rather, to embrace the gift of femininity.I am not convinced that the large numbers at your Church services are “fruits”. After all, a large number of Catholics have left the Church for the ever-growing Protestant churches. I would argue that these are not fruits, but rather the human tendency to embrace what makes us feel good. We must always remember that God’s ways are not our ways. Just as God defied our thinking 2000 years ago when he sent the King of Kings to be born into poverty, so too may be the case within the Church. We may think that large numbers are a sign of God’s blessing, but we should be careful not to pat each other on the back so quickly. Throughout biblical history, the Lord has always relied on a remnant faithful. As St. Paul tells us, this continues today, “And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, ‘Though the number of the Israelites were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant will be saved; for decisively and quickly will the Lord execute sentence upon the earth.’” (Rom 9:27-28) And again in Romans 11:5, “So also at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.”I hope and pray that we have not come to a point in our Church where the lay make decisions based on the authority of self and what makes us feel good, otherwise, we join with the secular world in its attack on The One True Church, and we thus weaken the Body of Christ. You and your parish will be in my prayers.



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oldestof9

posted December 2, 2008 at 7:47 am


WOW cs!What a great testimony to the beauty of the church and the function of all of us in that Body of Christ.Peace.



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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted December 2, 2008 at 8:17 am


I am not convinced that the large numbers at your Church services are “fruits”. After all, a large number of Catholics have left the Church for the ever-growing Protestant churches. I would argue that these are not fruits, but rather the human tendency to embrace what makes us feel good.I’m not sure what your point is here, cs. No one would ever confuse liturgies at our parish with those at a Protestant church. I think the swelling mass attendance is due to the human tendency to embrace what makes us feel as if we are in the presence of God. We have liturgies that are pious, transcendent, prayerful and powerful. Stop by and visit some time. :-) Blessings,Dcn. G.



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Mark

posted December 2, 2008 at 10:23 am


Deacon Greg,I love your way of thinking. I know I don’t love the idea of female alter servers but it is clear it is OK to do, and if my Bishop is ok with it I am too. Besides there are way more important fish to fry.



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worm

posted December 2, 2008 at 3:00 pm


I must admit that while it is far from a priority for me, it does pain me to see altar servers who aren’t paying attention or who don’t feel the need to wear decent shoes. It makes me wonder what motivates these young men and women to become servers in the first place. I really wish I knew how to help make things better.I wonder if part of it might be the size of the server corps and a lack of practice/repitition. I remember as a child being scheduled at least 3 Sundays a month and one week of weekday Masses a month. But then, only boys in the parish school were allowed to become servers. In my current parish, there is a huge number of children not in the school serving. I certainly don’t want to restrict to only school children, but I suspect being scheduled twice a month isn’t helping.



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cs

posted December 2, 2008 at 3:47 pm


Deacon Greg, Thanks for your reply. My point was only to say that we can’t necessarily use quantity to determine the fruits of our faith. Protestant churches in my area are flourishing, largely, in part, because they appeal to the emotional need that many people have for “warm fuzzies”. Their growing number, however, doesn’t mean that they are bearing more fruit than The One True Church. In that same sense, a “swelling” parish is not always a sure method of judging fruit. Your statement regarding the large Mass attendance at your parish because people “embrace what makes us feel as if we are in the presence of God”, subjects God’s presence to human emotion. It validates the relativism that pervades our culture, and seemingly lends a sympathetic ear to those who go elsewhere to cultivate their spiritual life simply because they feel God more in one method of worship rather than another. This relativism, of course, opens the door to many dangers in our thinking. Wouldn’t that justify those who dissent from our belief of the True Presence? Mother Teresa was in a “dark night” for 50 years. Had she quit her ministry because she didn’t feel the presence of God, she would have failed in fulfilling her God-given duty, and our world would have missed out on her great contribution to humankind. I apologize for my statement in the previous post, in which I stated that the numbers at your Masses are not fruits. I certainly can’t judge that. I have no doubt that your parish is filled with many good people who love the Lord, and I don’t doubt that your liturgies “are pious, transcendent, prayerful and powerful.” Many Catholic Masses are. But…are they orthodox?Christ’s Peace, cs



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Fr. Vic

posted December 2, 2008 at 11:51 pm


Deacon,Can I make a request that those who are trying to protect us from women serving during the liturgy please learn that those women are serving at the altAr, not the altEr. It does tend to hamper their argument tremendously, how did they get their SLL’s without knowing how to spell altar.



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gramps

posted December 3, 2008 at 1:10 am


I agree with CS in that too many focus on the number of butts in the seats as some sign that things are great in the church. A better judge of what is going on is that 54% of Catholics voted for a baby killing president. I suspect that the parishes that are most orthodox to following the teaching of Rome where not in that 54% in any great percentage. What does that mean when translated to the faith of a parish? It could mean that unlike Christ who let those walk away because they said what he preached was too harsh, too many today simply fold up and change the teaching so as not to lose those precious butts in the seats they are so proud of. In the end of time, when the goats are being sorted out, I suspect a priest and bishop will be judged not by the numbers of butts, but by how many of the flock make it to heaven with their leadership.What wears me out is the pains so many take to look for a word they can grasp to get what they want when the meaning is quite clear. They see a word that allows female servers on a temporary need basis and form permanent female servers because that is what they want. They want change to female priests so they push this and many other changes to try to make that happen by one small step of dissent at a time. Why not simply go with the desire of the Catholic Pope who is the only one who is always right in matters of faith and morals rather than look for some gray area put out in a known source of controversy called the USCCB. Last time I looked, everything they do still has to be approved by Rome when it involves matters of faith and morals and we see how often they are forced to change. I also like the source Deacon used in his comment to justify female servers. I have never seen anyone use such a powerful Catholic source like Wikepedia before. Powerful..



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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted December 3, 2008 at 6:41 am


Gramps…Perhaps this link would be more to your liking: EWTN. It quotes Zenit, and a respected priest who is a professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum. God bless,Dcn. G.



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gramps

posted December 3, 2008 at 12:12 pm


Good info in this link Deacon.”The 1994 letter states: “It will always be very appropriate to follow the noble tradition of having boys serve at the altar. As is well known, this has led to a reassuring development of priestly vocations. Thus the obligation to support such groups of altar boys will always continue.” The letter also recommends to bishops to consider “among other things the sensibilities of the faithful, the reasons which would motivate such permission and the different liturgical settings and congregations which gather for the Holy Mass.” Therefore the Holy See’s recommendation is to retain as far as possible the custom of having only boys as servers. But it leaves to the bishop the choice of permitting women and girls for a good reason and to the pastor of each parish the decision as to whether to act on the bishop’s permission.”Seems like if you read the entire article that it leans toward keeping boys serving. I note also the following..”This difference means that both boys and girls usually go through a stage when they tend to avoid common activities. Preteen boys in particular are very attracted to activities that cater especially for them, and they tend to reject sharing activities with girls. They also tend to have a greater need for such structured activities than girls who are usually more mature and responsible at this stage of life. As a result, some parishes have found that the introduction of girl servers has led to a sharp drop-off of boys offering to serve. Once the boys have left and enter the years of puberty, it is difficult to bring them back.”I wonder if we would not have more vocations if the bishops would focus more attention on building a better core base of male servers and encourage them in every way to consider the priesthood. Once again, in reading the following, it seems like the letter from which the authority was given clearly states a preference for male servers to remain the focus and that the parish using girls should insure that this does not confuse the issue that girls can never ever become priests.



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li115at27st

posted December 3, 2008 at 2:46 pm


Gramps,It seems to me that you have an enormous amount of free time :) how wonderful is that! Hopefully you encourage little boys from your family and friends circle to be Altar Boys in Ohio. :) . Since your free time allows you to exercise your personal interpretation and your personal understanding of our Catholic faith in a truly old fashioned standing, I am asking you to allow others to have the same right . I do that because I am a NYC resident and also a Catholic Boarding School Convent resident, with a traveling diplomatic family I was practically raised by Catholic nuns since age 10, so orthodox Catholicism is not foreign to me. I believe that I earned the right to experience and interpret Catholic doctrine, and catholic teachings as well as refer and read the same letter that you so happily embrace a little bit differently. So here I go:You wrote:- that the letter also recommends to bishops to consider “among other things the sensibilities of the faithful, the reasons which would motivate such permission and the different liturgical settings and congregations which gather for the Holy Mass.”- I focus on the fact that the letter states and emphasizes in a clear way THE DIFFERENT LITURGICAL SETTINGS and CONGREGATIONS. That being my prerogative in some way I feel that Wise as the writer was , he may have forecasted that what may be not only fine but commendable and admirable for parishioners in New York City , it may be disapproved , judged etc etc etc by parishioners in Ohio.As a lifelong Catholic – with all the ups and downs, doubts, friendship – quite close- with Protestant Churches members AND pastors I feel that some of the self imposed limitations – most of the time not even related to theological and lithurgical fact , rules and regulations of our Catholic faith- are truly detrimental to the growth and the participation of faithful families. If I paid too much attention to what your interpretation of the Altar Servers abilities are and your reluctance to accept that little and young girls should be altar servers I would run in doubt and tell my daughter to stop serving but of course I take your opinion with a grain of salt and pray that I continue having the wisdom to raise my kids with faith, love and understanding :) and praying that those who feel so strongly about the rules make strides to feel equally strongly about the faith and share it with those around them , living as good Catholics and being an exemplary source of spiritual enlightement for friends and families as their testimony is the most powerful tool.PS: Dear Gramps and the rest who comment : I know that someone here -outraged at the nerve of someone like me is posting- will find time and energy to come back to try to correct my run on and exceptionally loose grammar errors. My advice: Do not bother, my warning should have been at the beginning :) that I am a transplanted naturalized American citizen and that English is my 4th language and since I do not make a living writing :) I stopped aiming toward perfectly constructed sentences. One thins you al should know : the words written above are from my heart sincere and unapologetic.



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li115at27st

posted December 3, 2008 at 2:57 pm


One more thing gramps:You wrote:”I wonder if we would not have more vocations if the bishops would focus more attention on building a better core base of male servers and encourage them in every way to consider the priesthood. Once again, in reading the following, it seems like the letter from which the authority was given clearly states a preference for male servers to remain the focus and that the parish using girls should insure that this does not confuse the issue that girls can never ever become priests.”Just so you know in my almost 20 years as an OLQM parishioner- a fervent and heavily involved one- I never heard that ANY of the girls members of the OLQM Altar Server Society – and I know almost every one of them – have remotely entertained the idea of being a priestess …To assume that somewhere along the way the instructors and the priests that have been in charge of the Altar Server Training have overlooked the doctrine and have failed to explain it to the children and furthermore emphasize the role of the women in our Catholic Faith and their limitations in the lithurgical acts is so utterly absurd that I am now refraining to go any further because I do not want to offend anyone susceptibility…Now I wonder what is your take on women as EEM’s :) – Maybe another pet peeve?????



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Fr. Vic

posted December 3, 2008 at 3:21 pm


li115at27st,Nice comment! Thank you for sharing. As you can see from my comment I am pretty loose with English grammar myself (even though it is my first language), so no offense taken…heck you at least spelled altar correctly and in this dialog that is about the only thing that bothers me because the question of having girls serve at the altar is a fact of life in most parishes in the US and around the world, seems pretty settled, maybe even settled as a sensus fidei as the Holy Spirit continues to work in our Church…in all manner of direction!Enjoy Adventpeace to all



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gramps

posted December 3, 2008 at 11:27 pm


Amazing how quoting directly from a document can create such ire. Any person reading what is written in the document would have to come away with an understanding that the writer of the document wanted to see Altar boys remain the norm and that this also involved vocations. Since so many in the Catholic Church seem to still have some idea that at some point the Church might change to allow women priests, I suspect there are more than a few who promote female servers for that reason. I also suspect that some priests have this same hope noting that one priest is now facing excommunication for attending an ordination for a woman priest. That is settled issue for all time since JPII made a difinitive statement on that issue as a matter of faith and morals which cannot be changed in the future. We are beginning to see reversals from some of the abuses that some priests and bishops have been taking over the last 40 years in regard to the liturgy. As to most of the US using female altar servers today, that is true as is the failing of many dioceses to product priest vocations. It is interesting to note that some of the places that have male servers also have a lot more vocations. Of course they also have other things they are doing to promote vocations. We will see this continue as the JPII priests attracted by this soon to be saint come into full flower within the church for most of them are much more orthodox in their belief and we have seen a lot of abuse in the seminaries eliminated.



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cs

posted December 3, 2008 at 11:42 pm


Please forgive me for my prior spelling error. As you can see from the first paragraph in my last post, I did originally use the correct spelling of “altar”. However in the rush to type out my thoughts, I neglected to use the correct spelling in the rest of my post…just as Fr. Vic meant to end the sentences of his first post with question marks rather than periods, I’m sure…I found an interesting read on Catholic.com regarding altar girls: http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/1993/9305fea2.asp Christ’s Peace.p.s. since our tone can be misinterpreted through this type of communication, we should all be mindful that we are brothers and sisters in Christ. The “edgy” tone that some of us are displaying does not speak well of our Catholic faith.



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li115at27st

posted December 4, 2008 at 8:31 am


cs:Thanks for the link . I read it throughly and I am contacting the Vatican later on today!



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gramps

posted December 4, 2008 at 9:06 am


There is far more information than this. My point to date has been that even when put in writing on many subjects, many Catholics including some bishops and priests cannot accept it as the clear teaching of the church and immediately try to find gray areas that will allow them to do whatever it is they think they know best. That is why pride needs to be tamed with a deep sense of humility. I know that posts like mine seem to be harsh but I hope they always reflect what I see as the clear teaching of the church and not some made up doctrine. I have many failings in following the teachings of the Church so hope no one thinks that I am somehow representing myself as holier than thou. However, if we lie to ourselves about what the Church actually teaches, what we have as Catholics in one leader descended from Peter, the Rock, loses its flavor and we become like the tens of thousands of protestant churchs with each open to their own interpretation. Many notable protestants are coming to the Church and I note one reason they often do is the fact that we have a Pope and that he is directly in line back to Christ founding. Why so many Catholics want to turn our wonderful faith into a protestant religion is a amazing to me. If they do not believe, why not simply go to one of those other thousands and find a new home they can believe in. Fr. Vic above said that “Holy Spirit continues to work in our Church…in all manner of direction” but that is a teaching that has led to many of our problems. The Holy Spirit leads our church, but the main focus of this spirit is with the Pope as the only one that is infallible in teaching faith and morals. Every other bishop and priest is fallible and many prove this every day in their dissent of actual teaching and in doing so, lead the sheep in their flock astray. I fear for these leaders because I suspect Christ will call for a heavy price to be paid for their pride. Something about a millstone…



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badsede

posted June 24, 2009 at 3:49 pm


I know that I am coming to this rather late, but I have thought a lot about this topic.I think that there is a compromise, or perhaps hybrid might be the better word, solution to this problem. I think that we can lay out several premises that people can agree on:- The tradition of the Church has been for only males to serve at the altar. – However, that is tradition and not Holy Tradition, so while important it is not binding.- Serving in the liturgy can be to the great spiritual benefit of any person, male or female.- Serving at the altar can be used to great effect in fostering vocations to the priesthood.- Allowing girls to serve at the altar *can* be used as a way to foment for female ordination and *can* cause confusion for a girl whose natural attraction to holiness and the priesthood – honestly, every faithful Catholic should be at least attracted to the priesthood even though not called – can become confused into a perceived vocation.- No matter who serves, it needs to be done well, piously and devoutly.- There are problems inherent in gender dynamics in any kind of inter-gender service. This is especially the case with the young. This must be dealt with somehow. (Eliminating one gender from the service is only one solution to this problem.)So this is my solution:Have servers from both genders. Use this to foster the faith of all the children of the parish. However, have two troupes of servers. The first troupe would be co-ed. As such, they would all be in albs and cinctures and NOT cassock and surplice (as the GIRM would require). They would fill the roles of cross-bearer, candle-bearer, book-holder, thurifer, etc. They would *not* swerve at the altar. The second troupe would only be male, and only older. They would "graduate" from the ranks of the first troupe. They would actually serve at the altar, handling the vessels, etc. (They could also do any of the other roles of course, and might be more appropriate for them sometimes). This group would be specifically seen as a vocational tool, a way to expose and "involve" older boys and young men in the priesthood. They would either be in alb and cincture, or cassock and surplice. This would also provide that "separate" role that boys of that age often are attracted to. If none of these were available at a mass, no-one would serve at the altar .. it is not really necessary after all.And above all, both troupes would be well-trained. Fewer servers serving over and over or no servers at all is far better than having a large pool of servers who may or may not do a good job.I think that this solution aligns best with Catholic theology. There is no sound theological reason for why females *can't* serve at the altar. But there are sound theological reasons for why it is preferable to limit altar service to males. Simultaneously, there are very good pastoral reasons to provide a way for girls to serve directly in the liturgy. And while we have a strong notion of the sacerdotal priesthood and roles that only priests may fill, Catholic theology also recognizes that not all of the roles in the liturgy belong to the sacerdotal priesthood (or the diaconate for that matter) and can be filled by anyone capable. I think this hybrid solution is the most faithful to our theology and most responsive to the pastoral reality of parishes today.



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