Friday, May 18, 2018

In Defense of Altar Boys

From Eric Sammons:
Another problem with altar girls is that service at the altar is supposed to dispose boys to the priesthood. It’s not that every altar boy will be a priest, but priests often come from altar boys. Allowing girls to serve at the altar while not allowing them to be priests is cruel, to be frank. It’s like letting a kid practice with a team, but then not allowing him to play in the game. Of course, some think the answer is to allow women priests, but Our Lord already precluded that possibility.

When girls serve at the altar, we make that service no longer about training for the priesthood; it’s simply another profane activity, like sweeping the church after Mass. Such an activity is an important service, but it’s not sacred, as the priesthood and service at the altar are supposed to be. Some might complain that the Church therefore thinks men are more sacred than women. Yet sacred duties are not about the person performing it, but about God who is being served. A proscription against girls serving at the altar was never a statement about the worthiness of girls, just as the fact that men can’t join a Carmelite convent doesn’t mean they aren’t worthy enough to follow St. Theresa of Avila. Likewise, the Blessed Mother isn’t “less sacred” than the Apostles just because she wasn’t chosen as one of the Twelve by the Lord (quite the contrary, in fact).

Further, having girls at the altar restricts the ability of the priest to really open up about life as a priest. If he has a mixed-sex gathering of altar servers, how can he talk about the priesthood without being insensitive to those who can never become priests? However, if there are only boys, he can reveal to them more openly what it means to be a priest. (Read more.)


Susan, OFS said...

I disagree. Girls serving at the altar are *not* "profane activity." At my parish, there are not always boys present to serve, nor are adult men forthcoming. Sometimes it falls on female college students (we are a Newman parish). These young ladies have no delusions about ever being a priest. They simply desire to serve God and the priest, when no one else will. God bless them.

elena maria vidal said...

We can only hope that ministering at the altar will help those young ladies towards a vocation as sisters or nuns, since the two thousand year old tradition of allowing boys and young men to serve on the altar during the sacred mysteries was intended to inspire vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Allowing girls to serve is but one aspect of the feminization of the Roman rite which has happened de facto rather than de jure. In case we ever wonder why fewer young men feel called to join the priesthood one reason may be that the sanctuary of the House of God has become yet another female domain.

Susan, OFS said...

Respectfully, Ms. Vidal, I think it is far more than permitting females to serve that is resulting in fewer young men realizing a vocation to the priesthood. Please know that I am by no means a progressive Catholic. In fact, the only label I care to put on myself is "faithful Catholic" and Secular Franciscan.

Boys and young men have far more worldly distractions than they used to - Internet, television, and other constant and often unwholesome intrusions of popular culture. Also, the priesthood is not represented popularly as a noble and worthy vocation, even in Catholic schools or in Catholic homes. Neither are options for Catholic vocations for young women. These, and the constant inroads made by the devil, I believe are to blame for the lack of religious vocations here in America.

I myself came to my vocation as a Secular Franciscan at the late middle age of 54. I found myself continually explaining to my fellow parishioners and other Catholic friends that the vocation of secular laity in religious Orders such as the Franciscans, Carmelites, Dominicans, and Benedictines exists. The average American Catholic has no idea what a lay religious vocation in an Order is. And these are faithful, practicing Catholics.

Although we do not agree on this subject, I must tell you that I very much enjoy your blog. It is one I read daily. And I appreciate being able to discuss an opposing view with another in a respectful, reasonable manner, who does not automatically think of me as an enemy. Sadly, that is a very rare thing today in America. God bless and protect you, my Catholic sister, and pax et bonum. Susan, OFS

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, Susan, I appreciate your kind words and please feel free to share your thoughts.