May 19, 2009

To Serve

From the Baltimore Catechism:

6. Q. Why did God make you?
A. God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven.

Recently, Angela and Mr. Sonnen waded into the deep end of the ocean without life vests and dared to raise the question of (let's call it what it is) "What is the proper role of women in the Sanctuary during Mass?"

I'm not sure I'd use words like: "wrong" and "allowed" regarding women serving in the Sanctuary during Holy Mass. Regardless of what I may personally think, it is permissable in the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis, where I live, for women to be Lectors, Cantors and Altar Servers. At the end of the day, no one is asking for my permission for this to be so and in humility and with submission (words that make feminists teeth grind together) to the authority vested in the Ordinary of this province and what he has decreed based upon the permission given to him by the Holy Father, I cannot say it's not allowed or it's wrong based upon any interpretation of the law of my Archdiocese.

However, if someone were to ask my personal opinion on women serving in the Sanctuary during Holy Mass I would say, and I do say, I don't care for it. I don't fault women who want to serve in the Sanctuary during Mass, I'm just saying that if it were up to me I'd put a stop to it. There, I said it. But, it's not up to me so I'm just giving my personal opinion here.

Why? I, do, wholeheartedly, believe that the presence of women in the Sanctuary discourages men from vocations to the priesthood or diaconate. How many teenagers or young boys do you know who want to be up there with a bunch of girls (even if one of them is his sister)? If you are a parish that has hand-holding during the Pater Noster how many of the male altar servers want to hold hands with a girl and have their buddies snickering at them in the congregation? So, they don't hold hands but my guess is they still get "grief" for being up there next to her. At dances girls are secure enough in their person to dance with other girls but boys will not dance with other boys. Even boys want to be men. I wonder if we are weakening boys at a time when they need the strength to be men? I don't know for sure but it's a thought I'm kicking around.

Having an all male contingent in the Sanctuary is the beginnings of teaching men about the brotherhood and fraternity that is Holy Priesthood. If, by the grace of God, a man is ordained he's going to be living in the fraternity even if he's all alone in his Rectory. Why not start teaching boys this as soon as possible? If they are in the priesthood they are not going to be in a fraternity with women. Ever.

I think there should be instances in life where the sexes are segregated. I have no problem with all-male or all-female clubs. I went to a women only college. Curiously, this same college yelled and demanded admission when there were any male only clubs around but protested when there were any calls to open degrees on their campus to men.

I firmly believe that the women's only environment in college was good for me. It built up my confidence-which after 12 years of coeducational public school had taken a hit. Is same gender education for everybody? No. But, if it's needed than it should be allowed.

I think single gender (male) in the Sanctuary during Mass is a good thing for fostering vocations, and a confidence builder, and it should be allowed. But, again, no one is asking my opinion on this and I'm not giving it in the hope that tomorrow the Archbishop is going to mandate males only in the Sanctuary during Mass solely on the weakness of this blog post.

I know there are folks out there who retort that the only thing "left" for women to do for the Lord is clean the altar after the men are done with it. Is what is "left" so appalling? What's wrong with that? What is service? Is serving at the altar, whether in Holy Priesthood, or reading Scripture, or bringing the torches out during the Sanctus, the pinnacle of belief that all must aspire to and the standard of Christian excellence to which all are judged? Merciful God, I pray not.

My days of serving the Lord by "doing something exteriorly active" during Mass ended several years ago. I don't fault anyone who is called to do that, but it's not for me anymore.I have enough of a challenge serving Him, with attention, during Holy Mass with my interior prayer. To me the interior life is the hardest part of being a Christian. I can recite the Rosary in three languages. Great. But, the words are weak without the interior conversion to justify the recitation. I can repeat the responses during Mass in several languages. Great. But, not fantastic if I'm not living it and have no idea of the meaning of what I just said. The real meaning, not just the literal translation.

I was chatting with a gal in my Bible Study last night and she told me that her and her husband volunteer every year in her hometown rural parish to "pluck the chickens" for the annual chicken dinner. Why on earth would they lower themselves to do that arduous and messy task every year? Her response: Someone's got to do it.

That's right, someone needs to do it, even the menial tasks or they just don't get done. That is service to the Lord. Humility and stepping up to do what needs to be done-even if it offends your pride. The Little Flower joyfully cleaned in the nunnery and offered her labors to the Lord. Cleaning the altar is service to the Lord. Scrubbing the toilets in the church basement is serving the Lord. Decorating the church for important feasts is service to the Lord.

Why LIMIT service to the Lord solely to service in the Sanctuary? Like I said, the really tough service to the Lord is not the exterior actions it's the interior life. Interiorly we are all the same, for better or for worse, regardless of gender. If you insist on only serving in the Sanctuary I question what it is you really want. I know a lot of folks who deny they really want women in the priesthood; yet, they get really angry if they think they are excluded from serving in the sanctuary during Mass. If "exclusion" is your feeling, then you must know that you are excluded from priesthood just as a man is excluded from carrying children or from sisterhood. I don't see them taking to the streets in protest. It's women's work. Yes. There it is.

There is such a thing as man's work.

This post is shocking. No matter what kind of vitriol I'm about to get hit with, it's shocking that I would write this post. This is not a post I would have written 5, 10, 15, 20, 30 years ago. I've changed. I can only pray that I've grown.


Blogger swissmiss said...

I agree, JCat. It's not an issue of fair or equal, we all have a role. Equality in the work place is one thing, but the whole idea here is to serve, not to corner the fun jobs or the jobs where folks will see you. I was raised when girls were allowed to be altar servers and I so wanted to be one, but the priest didn't allow it in his parish (No, it wasn't St. Agnes!) I did come to realize it was my own desire and am glad the priest didn't indulge my persistent pleas. There always has been a role for me somewhere, I just have to be quiet and listen and let the Lord lead me.

But, I hope to live vicariously through my son...he now wants to be an altar boy :) He also said a few weeks ago he wanted to be a priest, but then again he also wants to be a chef, an enginner, a magician, and a news reporter, so a lot to discern there!

May 19, 2009 12:27 PM  
Blogger Smiley said...

Rock on sister you are 100% correct. I find that in the church that has the traditional Novus Ordo mass in latin boys only serve communion is kneeling down on the tounge, the whole mass is said with and participated with a lot more rverence than in the Nervous Disordo mass with the holding hands during the our father which by the way is also a liturgical abuse.

May 19, 2009 2:02 PM  
Blogger TheSeeker said...

I agree with you.

I visited a parish this past weekend. They had two altar servers: a demure girl and a boy who wore flip flops and shorts under his cassock and sat with his legs gaping open during the ceremony. He was a poor mess, and she had taken over the good duties. There were no deacons, but there were lectors, some female. All females I saw looked like those sketchy hippy-nuns: 60+, cropped hair, old lady sandals...all milling around the altar like they owned the place. It freaked me one even properly genuflected--just a simple nod to the J-man. I was so uncomfortable!! If I wanted to be casual with God, I'd have stayed Baptist and finished my ministry degree to be ordained. I'd rather be a lady with an awe-inspiring God.

May 19, 2009 2:14 PM  
Blogger Bobby said...

The irony about single-sex education is that the courts under the Clinton administration ruled South Carolina couldn't have male-only schools but let the two female-only colleges and one such secondary school scot-free.


I no longer refer to The Citadel as such because of it; instead, I call it the Federal Feminazi Academy because of how it happened; I lived in Charleston for the start of the controversy and started making fun of the Feminazis, as Rush calls them.

May 19, 2009 4:40 PM  
Blogger karen said...

AMEN to everything you said!

May 19, 2009 4:43 PM  
Blogger Terry Nelson said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

May 19, 2009 5:44 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Uh ok, Ter!

May 19, 2009 9:42 PM  
Blogger Terry Nelson said...

You can always depend upon me for good comments on your posts. No need for thanks.

May 19, 2009 9:47 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...


May 19, 2009 9:49 PM  
Anonymous L. said...

Great post!

May 20, 2009 8:57 AM  
Anonymous Luci said...

Several years ago we removed our daughter from the local parish school after I had a conversation with the 5th grade teacher. She informed me that for more than a decade she had been actively discouraging the boys in her class from becoming altar servers and that when the 5th grade was responsible for the all-school Mass she only chose girls as servers and lectors and made sure that there were only female Extraordinary Ministers. When I asked why she replied, "If we can discourage enough of the boys, eventually they'll run out of priests and they'll have to let women into the seminaries." The priest declined to do anything because I must have misunderstood her.

May 20, 2009 9:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that the direct result of "girl altar-boys" (as they were called when this first started), is the excommunications of women who simulate ordaining/being ordained, and who simulate offering Mass, which is all the tip of the iceberg. There are many who are miffed that their emotions were misled. That's not very pastorally sensitive of those pushing for girl altar-boys, is it? Great post, Cathy.

Father George bloggingLOURDES

May 20, 2009 10:45 AM  
Blogger Laura The Crazy Mama said...

Good post. You explained exactly how I feel about this issue.

May 20, 2009 8:35 PM  
Blogger Adrienne said...

Yep - I no longer do any of the things I used to do (ie:EMHC). It really started to creep me out.

The result of girl alter servers is that after about the age of 9 or so, the boys refuse to serve. At our "regular" parish church (that we no longer attend), there are only two young men alter servers left and they refuse to serve with girls.


I am like you and am tired, tired, tired of seeing the hoards of women descend on the alter. And I will never, ever hold anyone's hand during the Our Father again. Ick!

All these goings on are nothing more than a perversion of the correct order of things.

May 20, 2009 11:55 PM  
Blogger Angela M. said...

I knew there was a reason why I loved you and this post is it! You tell it like it is!!

May 21, 2009 5:25 PM  
Blogger LarryD said...

Great post, Cathy. As a former altar boy, I probably would have quit had the parish I grew up in had altar girls. Girls have cooties, after all! :-)

p.s. - ewwwww, the Captcha was "suckel". I kid you not!!

May 21, 2009 7:50 PM  
Anonymous Potamiaena said...

Your comments are heartfelt and probably true.
It is so sad that men feel that way about women, as women do not feel that way about men.
As a young woman, I was very upset that women could not be altar serves/EHMC/lectors. Men got to do everything and got all the attention for doing it.
I wish God had not made us so antagonistic toward each other.

May 22, 2009 12:27 PM  
Blogger Smiley said...

God did not make us so antagonistic to each other. that is a consequence of original sin.

May 22, 2009 12:32 PM  
Blogger 好文 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

February 06, 2010 7:24 AM  

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