Men and women and pastoral work

By Domenico Bettinelli, Jr. (articles ) | Oct 06, 2003

Maybe I'll be thought a bit odd in some circles, but I don't have a problem with altar girls. This article examines the expanded role in liturgy and formal pastoral work for women since Vatican II. Mostly it talks about altar girls.

As it points out, being an altar boy was once a major part of the path to priesthood, but not so much anymore. Yes, experience serving at the altar can bring thoughts about a vocation to the priesthood... but it can inspire vocational thoughts about the convent as well.

What bugs me is the feminist claptrap that some people use to justify women and girls serving at the altar. Don't tell me it's sexist if you can't have a particular liturgical role. Don't tell me it's the first step to ordination of women.

And it also bugs me that fewer and fewer men are serving in liturgical ministry. I don't think it's because they think it's a "women's job"; those days are long gone. Many men are just lazy. They don't want to be bothered. Time to step up to the plate, guys. Get involved. Serving our Lord is not just for the priest and the women around him. Your priest needs other men as his friends, not just other priests, but regular guys like you. And the best way to start is to become involved in the life of your parish. and you can be a role model for the boys of your parish, so that they can see that being a publicly Catholic man is not passe or dorky.

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  • Posted by: - Oct. 11, 2003 1:19 PM ET USA

    Benbernie: You have a fine understanding of LIVED Christianity, as distinguished from the talked or theoretical. Hope you will expand greatly on your thoughts expressed here. So much needed !

  • Posted by: - Oct. 10, 2003 7:24 AM ET USA

    verax- Wish we had Lincoln Bishop. Here we have a weak Cardinal. He's been coopted by the clergy he inherited. Sad. Seem mostly material heretics. I look at the Pastor and limit myself to a prayer of thanks that we have a priest and Mass, however poorly said. A 2nd from the pipeline is OK. A 3rd is from Cent Am - good. A 4th is older, retired but well meaning. God help us all. Heretics don't breed believers so encourage believers to have children - generously. Believe! I pray for men like you.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 09, 2003 1:57 AM ET USA

    Ben: You must live in idyllic Lincoln, NB. Perhaps I should have written "vaudeville priest," rather than "clown." Come here & see one put on his show every time he enters sanctuary. Pius X parish continues to expand rapidly, absorbing those "turned off." As a retired priest (in good standing) of almost 50 years, I see my "job" to strengthen faith & hope of broken-hearted, "fed-up," Catholics. "Vaudeville" will not speak to me, spends week- days "on vacation": called "Fr. Gone" by parishioners.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 08, 2003 12:03 PM ET USA

    The clown priest, thank God, is long gone. Other aberations persist. Banal liturgy is distressing. Complain to the priest, the bishop, Rome; withold your money, give it to those with better sense; befriend your priest and encourage him when you can. But the idiot clergy will be here for a long time. Younger and more sensible priests are slowly but surely coming on stream. In the meantime serve the Church where She would have us serve. Don't make the problem worse by stepping out of your job.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 08, 2003 9:23 AM ET USA

    Unfortunately, "leaving liturgy to the priests" means giving it over to the whims of men ignorant or nearly ignorant of true liturgy. Would-be circus clowns end up as destructive iconoclasts. Reverence and piety disappear in favor of raucous shows. Liturgy is not meant to be entertainment, but worship. It should be centered on the Lord, but, sad to say, today it focuses all too often on the odd-ball celebrant.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 08, 2003 7:12 AM ET USA

    Dear Z, Surely you agree serving the Church is not a power game. Disagree with the priest or bishop? Demand correction! But day to day? Cut your mother's toenails for the love of Jesus; be a model employee; be a friend and build Faith; have another child; give the married mother of a generous family a day off. Leave liturgy to the priest and pray for him, the bishop, the Pope - really pray. The Church has grave problems. Help the Holy Sp. by doing ordinary things well, i.e. serve the Church.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 07, 2003 11:48 PM ET USA

    I guess we need a quota system in some parishes, reserving at least half the altar boy slots for boys. And while we're at it, let's segregate the boys from the girls, so that the boys don't have to work the same Masses as the girls do.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 07, 2003 12:27 PM ET USA

    What clericalization? Most Catholics, the overwhelming majority, do not participate in their Church. They either don’t care, are too ignorant about their faith or are too busy. There has to be a role for laity in their Church and not only through their witness in society, work, home, but in their parish as well. We cannot go back to a caste of priests running the Church while all other Christians are outside. The way our bishops have run the Church here is proof enough.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 07, 2003 2:10 AM ET USA

    WF: Bravo, again ! You see right through bishops' masks. Such perspicacity! If churches are emptying, perhaps it's because what goes on in them is so empty. Is the "itch for change" a mental illness? "Musical chairs" liturgies, UGH ! Still, we can always boycott emotional hootenany "Masses." Greatly look forward to meeting you in person. We have lots to talk about. Maybe I can pin on your shiny new gold "hero" badge? Wish you'd been one of my students or officer candidates, awesome guy !

  • Posted by: - Oct. 07, 2003 1:48 AM ET USA

    Benbernie: Magnificent ! Please consider expanding that paragraph into a spiritual tract for the pamphlet racks, so often full of sappy rubbish.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 06, 2003 9:49 PM ET USA

    Another idea is to start up a group that studies the Doctors of the Church, or St Edmund Campion, or other martyrs for the Faith. If enough lay people (remember the Sensus Fidei) do enough things simultaneously, the Tower of Mordor will start to crumble. What are you waiting for?

  • Posted by: - Oct. 06, 2003 9:47 PM ET USA

    Face it guys, You want altar boys? Start planning to either start up your own parish, oratory or lobbying for a Tridentine or Latin Novus Ordo. Another tact is to try to start study groups focused around; Aquinas, JPII's Theology of the Body, or Scripture Studies using Ratzinger as your main texts. If the boys think Mass is effeminate, or the singing, then be prepared to buy some Gregorian Chant music CD's and start practicing. One of these initiatives will succeed.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 06, 2003 8:06 PM ET USA

    Our Church is totally clericalized if being Catholic means altar servers. Were I a pastor I'd end all liturgical roles for lay people, demand they all go home, make friends for Christ in ordinary life. Live these lives well. Forget altar service, choir, pastoral council. Study hard get married, have kids. Bring them and your friends to confession and Mass. Care for parents. Live presence of God. Learn to pray. Work hard. That's Church service! Forget the Church mice. They miss the point.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 06, 2003 5:57 PM ET USA

    Altar girls came about because our bishops have no use for tradition beyond that which serves their own power and enrichment. I'm a 37-year-old altar server at a Tridentine Mass (no girls) because I love tradition and was convinced over the years that the Priests of the New Order have no use for it. Every Sunday I went to a Novus Ordo Mass, there was some change. Sometimes they were big, but they were always for no other reason than somebody wanted a change and was willing to scream to get it.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 06, 2003 5:48 PM ET USA

    It isn't that men are lazy. It's that there has been a concerted effort in the Church to push men out of leadership positions or positions deemed to be an honor to hold. An effeminate priesthood teamed up with radical feminists to feminize the Mass in any way possible. So we have a flat, fickle Mass that emphasizes the emotional and de-emphasizes any sort of hierarchy. It follows trends and tries to look good -- for itself or for others but not for God. It is a liturgy for a narcissistic church.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 06, 2003 5:45 PM ET USA

    Well, verax, there's always ushering... At least in this neck of the woods ushers tend to be almost exclusively male. From which I conclude that collecting the money (yes, I know they do other things, but...) is still a male pursuit - a kind of modern day 'hewers of wood' and 'drawers of water'. So, we're still good for something, right?

  • Posted by: - Oct. 06, 2003 12:56 PM ET USA

    Yes, Karen. Consider the feminization of ministry in Protestant Churches. It may have started with the altar guild penetrating the sanctuary. Now: altar-girls, female Gospelers, lady-preachers, priestesses, bishopesses--some places, even "prophetesses," next: ?lionesses--soon, no men in church. All terrorized away !

  • Posted by: - Oct. 06, 2003 12:45 PM ET USA

    Of course the best way for her to serve her Church is to be obedient to the will of God and to serve others as if serving Christ, in her school and home and later in her work and with her children.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 06, 2003 12:29 PM ET USA

    One of my daughters is an altar server in my parish. For every one boy serving there are at least three girls! I like my daughter serving and it has given her a good experience in her faith. It has also created, I think, false expectations and a sense that she is entitled to it. So am hard pressed to stop her serving. But the boys are just not there. She also asked me how is she going to serve the Church if she stops altar service. And that I think is a good question.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 06, 2003 10:38 AM ET USA

    I definitely do have a problem with altar girls for the following reasons: 1) the rad femmes load the altar servers with girls to the extent that many boys no longer show up even when scheduled; 2)it's part of the process of desensitization rad femmes use to continue their effort for women priests; 3)it serves the purposes of those who consider the priesthood as hierarchical abuse and want to disempower the priesthood until it is nothing more than a protestant ministry so we can all be "equal."