Altar Girls

I’m not going to lie. At first I had real trouble with this. It is my great desire to remain faithful to the Church in every way I can, and I knew the subject of altar girls was a hot topic, but to be honest I wasn’t sure why.

At first, I had the same response that I think many traditional Catholics have, and saw the possibility of allowing altar girls serve at Mass as being a possible detriment to vocations. For every altar girl that serves, that is an altar boy that is not, right? For every altar boy that doesn’t serve, that is an opportunity to explore the priesthood missed, correct?

Not only that, but I see a decline in the number of Catholics actually in the pews, and I admit, I attribute much of that decline to a lack of holy otherworldness lacking in the Mass since Vatican II. I’m not saying that Vatican II was a bad thing, or the beginning of a great evil or anything like that. I merely am stating the obvious. Since we changed the way we celebrate Mass, more have left the Church than have joined, and the result is empty churches.

So I am leery of new things. I can’t help it. I’m not trying to advocate going back to the Tridentine Mass, I’m just seeing that change is not always such a good thing.

There is the added issue of abuse. Here in America, we seem to have a “forgiveness is easier to obtain than permission” mentality. For example, somewhere along the line, we decided to start receiving Christ in the hand, instead of the normal way, on the tongue, on our knees. We then have to ask permission for that which we are already doing. I just feel this is way off base, and that permission should come first.

I was simply not informed on altar girls. Was this an abuse gone awry?

Then my daughters asked if they could serve.

Le sigh. Of course they want to, most of the servers in our parish are girls, and they want to serve the Lord in any way they can.

So I had to do my homework. I wasn’t fond of homework in school by the way, but I admit, it’s grown on me. I love finding out what is really going on with these issues, getting to the heart of the mind of the Church is just plain exciting to me. Yea, I know, I’m easily amused. My wife tells me that all the time.

What it comes down to is this. If both the bishop and the priest allow girls to serve at the altar, then they may, but there is a caveat. I’m going to do my best to explain this, wish me luck.

No particular boy or particular girl has the right to serve at the altar. It is always a privilege, never a right. This is not a question of equality of rights. That being said, the Church has an obligation to promote male altar servers, and it does not have the same obligation to promote female altar servers. Being allowed, and being encouraged simply are not the same thing.

This is tough, as it seems to have an undercurrent of disapproval, or at the least, a mild acceptance of girl altar servers, not an outright “go for it”.

So for me, this is really a bit of a no. I just wasn’t inclined. But can I in good conscience tell them that the girls serving at the altar are okay, but they aren’t? Could I really tell them no for something that was officially allowed?

So here is what I did, for better or worse.

I let them serve at daily Mass. Heck they are the only kids that are there anyway. I also allow them to be on the weekend schedule, but with a word of warning.

If there is a boy that would serve, you can’t. Then I explained all that I just explained to you, and they are pretty smart girls, so they were totally cool with that. Truth is, they get to serve now more then most due to daily Mass. I also let them know that if the priest or bishop was uncomfortable with girl servers, that they should offer to step down out of humility. (Of course our pastor would be livid if any priest actually did that, but I felt they needed to understand the principle.)

My girls are awesome. Not only were they cool with that, now they seek out boys on their own, and see if they would like to be altar servers.

Didn’t see that one coming, not sure if I like my daughters seeking out boys.

Due to several emails on this topic, 
I wanted to post my primary source.
Please look to paragraph 47 for information on altar servers.
Also feel free to read the letter that officially allowed female servers.
Vatican Communication on Female Altar Servers
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2 thoughts on “Altar Girls”

  1. Just read this article and the two supplemental links. It seems to me that you are taking a very narrow interpretation of what both the Cathechism and the Congregation for Divine Worship are saying. None the less, I applaud you for having the courage to work through your own sense of conflict and giving your daughters the consent to serve as you do and will. A truly pastoral response if I have ever seen one! Enjoyed reading many of the articles as well. God Bless MCB

  2. So who is to say that the experience your daughters have serving at mass might not lead them to consider becoming nuns or sisters? The average age of women serving the church in that capacity is approximately 70 years of age. There is a need for more women in the church and this might be a first step. Have you ever considered that?

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