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Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Altar Boys and Girls

USCatholic has an editorial by an all grown-up altargirl, accompanied by a survey.

It made me think about the subject a little more deeply than I usually do, (my thoughts on servers usually run to,  Maybe bubblegum pink mules were not the best footwear choice for an acolyte, or Couldn't that kid wait and pick his nose later? or Would it kill the servers to learn the basic responses? and to at least stand for the EP if they're not going to kneel?)

I ticked off a lot of "others" because the survey, like most surveys, is leading, and makes certain presumptions of the If you think X then you probably don't think Y variety.

So, agree? disagree? other?
I present some of my answers, (yeah,  I tapped that keyboard like they was payin' me by the word,) as a woman who went through here childhood and adolescence pretty sure I was going to be a Catholic priest when I grew up.

I suspect "allowing girl altar servers has hurt the number of vocations to the priesthood", but I don't know.
I do think women are innately more inclined to serve, (and I mean that generally, not just at the altar,) and males are all too willing to let females take up the slack in many areas.
Look at the make-up of other ministries in your parish.

I think males have a much harder time than do females of understanding the concept of the Servant/Leader which is so central to Jesus' mission, and I suspect service at the altar is one of the few ways boys learn the concept.

It is possible that [the author of the piece] doesn't understand the concept either, from the way she mocks the idea of girls serving in other capacities, "helping with the flowers, the linens, and the sacristy," and maybe "the washing and ironing too ," which she apparently feels are demeaning.

It is fortunate that Peter's mother-in-law, Martha, and the various Marys of the New Testament had a better grasp of what service means than the writers at USCatholic.

The reader is asked whether this is a statement with which they can agree:
"Parishes should just be happy that any kids want to become altar servers, regardless of their sex."

Of course they should be happy.

They should be happy if a four year old wants to celebrate Mass, too, but that doesn't mean that they should let him.

Or if they agree with this one: Having girls as altar servers discourages boys from getting involved in the ministry. -

I don't know, I only suspect that it does.
Nobody is going to compile statistics, lest they contradict ones already held opinion.

(Kind of the way they fail to keep track of abortions and their aftermath in this country.)

And statistics that rely on self-reported reasons are not very useful in these matters.
Look at simple Mass attendance - who is going to answer, "because I'm too lazy to get up on Sunday," when asked why they don't attend?
A PC answer, such as a distaste for hypocrisy, or disagreement with "what the Church says," (without much effort made to find out what the Church actually teaches,) is face-saving,  it seems more thoughtful and responsible than "I like to get loaded Saturday nights".

Look at how many young Catholic men in this country say that mandatory celibacy is the main factor in keeping them from the priesthood, survey after survey - if this were true, the marriage rate would be rising, or at least holding steady, wouldn't it?

Because celibacy is the last thing we ask of married Catholics, so if the thought of never having sex were the actual reason for any downturn in ordinations, you'd be jumping at the chance to marry, right?

But who's going to say,  I just don't want to make a commitment, I want to keep my options open rather than taking on any encumbrance.

Why, that would make you sound shallow!

I think "opportunit[ies] to be involved in parish ministry" is one of the worst reasons for having servers of either sex.
There is a far too common attitude toward Liturgy among the laity, adult and children, that unless one is an EM, or a lay reader, or a choir member, or an usher, one has "nothing to do," at Mass, ignoring the fact that those in the pews who listen to the Word and receive Christ and worship the Triune God have "chosen the better part," and that those who serve are, when it gets down to it, sacrificing their freedom to do just, and choose the better part that by service.

The biggest danger of eliminating female altar servers is:

Huffy people deliberately absenting themselves from the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass because of elimination of female servers is not their personal preference, not "how they would have done it."

I know too many people who claim to be Catholic but don't go to Mass because of music/boredom/bad preaching/being ticked off with the priest.

Well listen up -
If there's something that you dislike more than you love receiving Communion so that you allow whatever that distaste is to keep you from partaking of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, then YOU DON'T REALLY BELIEVE IN THE REAL PRESENCE OF JESUS CHRIST IN THE EUCHARIST.

And if you don't believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, then YOU ARE NOT REALLY CATHOLIC.

If boys in your parish shied away from altar serving because they didn’t want to serve with girls, the parish’s response should be:
If, IF, anyone actually said that, I'd try to find what they meant.
I suspect any boys who did say that would have a variety of meanings - "I don't like girls" or "I have contempt for 'women's work'" seems to be [the USCatholic author's] assumption, since she also wrote, "Are those really the type of priests we want leading a parish? The best pastor is not likely the one who has had females cleared out of his path and been taught that if he doesn’t want to deal with women in his vocation and work, he doesn’t have to."

There is also shyness, and as boys get older, nervousness around members of the opposite sex.
It's a delicate age, and there is no question in my mind that possessors of XY chromosomes are the "weaker sex."

And finally, it seems to me that a "calling" of any sort is more easily discerned, and more keenly felt if one grasps the necessity of ones stepping up to the plate, rather than being given the impression that "oh, anyone can do it, there's no reason for me to put myself out, they don't need me."
I think that over the last 30 years, (and perhaps before that, I don't know,) there was a concerted effort on the part of a lot of people to give that impression to those priests whom we were already fortunate enough to have.

Restricting service at the altar to boys might just be necessary damage control after 40 years in the desert.

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