Saturday, 14 February 2015

Sigh, that old Canard .... Altar Serving and Girls. My Thoughts on the Issue due to a Recent Article on Deacon's Bench

Hello Everyone,

It seems that an old canard, one that fires the salvos of insults between Traditional Catholics and "CINOs," priests and laity on both sides alike, in the name of ..... being liturgical sticklers or dissenting liberals, has resurfaced. What am I talking about? Altar girls. (cough, pardon me, female "altar servers", lest the politically correct "church police of the Church of Nice" come after me)

Initially, I came across such news because of this article below:

Turns out the new Trad Hero since Benedict Emeritus XVI to come along, Cardinal Burke, idolized as being an anti-Francis who will restore tradition by the Radicals Misrepresenting Traditionalists, lamented in an interview about how the feminization of the Church has happened and weakened its importance in joe laity`s life, and altar girls had been implied (not directly a cause) as part of that. Don`t go around putting blame on things that are not directly quoted in +Burke`s interview. The mentioned part is here, though I've cut down the answer to the interviewer's question on the New Emangelization blog:

" Matthew:   Your Eminence, what has been the impact of this Catholic “man-crisis” on the Church?

Cardinal Burke:  The Church becomes very feminized. Women are wonderful, of course. They respond very naturally to the invitation to be active in the Church. Apart from the priest, the sanctuary has become full of women. The activities in the parish and even the liturgy have been influenced by women and have become so feminine in many places that men do not want to get involved ....

The rampant liturgical experimentation after Vatican II, much of which was not sanctioned by Vatican II, stripped the Rite of the Mass of much of its careful articulation of the Sacred Mysteries that had been developed over centuries .... 

The introduction of girl servers also led many boys to abandon altar service. Young boys don’t want to do things with girls. It’s just natural. The girls were also very good at altar service. So many boys drifted away over time. I want to emphasize that the practice of having exclusively boys as altar servers has nothing to do with inequality of women in the Church.

I think that this has contributed to a loss of priestly vocations. It requires a certain manly discipline to serve as an altar boy in service at the side of priest, and most priests have their first deep experiences of the liturgy as altar boys. If we are not training young men as altar boys, giving them an experience of serving God in the liturgy, we should not be surprised that vocations have fallen dramatically...."

- See more at:

Ever since then, bloggers on both sides of the pond have been firing off evaluations of the matter. It was just merely another online blogging exercise, until a ``Star`` shot across the sky over ``the Sea.`` In the United States of America, A pastor named Fr. Illo of a parish in San Francisco, California called ``Star of the Sea`` (referring to a title given to Mary), decided to restrict the (now) ``Ministry`` (I disagree on calling it such) of altar serving to boys only, harkening back to a time pre-Vatican II/of the Latin Mass. I implore you to read the parish's official policy as to why the clergy decided on this decision, with the full knowledge and support of the diocesan bishop

Once this story got covered, needless to say bad press attacked from all angles, the priest and his decision, and (in truth a few) liberal/dissenting people and some (read: one) disappointed female server(s) complained. Basically Fr. Illo was a bad, bad, evil, misogynist priest who is not with the (FALSE) "Spirit of Vatican II." He's the meanest, strictest priest evuh!!! However, on a positive note, good faithful Catholics have decided to come to the aid of the parish by creating a "kickstarter" type of internet/electronic donation campaign. The site is here: Guess
what, they've reached their $50K goal within 2.5 weeks. Guess people really do NOT feel offended to support something so traditional as this noble practice in the Church's liturgical tradition.

In my neck of the pond here in Toronto, via correspondence from Scotland, journalist and author of Seraphic Singles, Dorothy Cummings McLean, commented on this matter in this week's Catholic Register. You may see the editorial article here.

Now, this is about altar serving, and as a young male who is friendly to Traditional Catholicism, including the Latin Mass, and whose blog made this from day 1 his primary focus, you may be wondering (or expecting) my opinion in this, including siding with one side or another.

Personal Background
Before I give my take, it would help to reflect on my personal experiences in altar serving. Contrary to dreamers, I did NOT start as a Latin Mass trad doing Latin Masses in my crib. I was born in the 80's in Toronto, and during my youth, generally, the Latin Mass had been phased out in the Archdiocese of Toronto for the Novus Ordo. Also, the pivotal "Agatha Christie" indult to offer the Latin Mass, did NOT happen to exist until 1988, when Ecclesia Dei was formed in Rome in response to the SSPX violating the will of the Church by illegal consecration of bishops, and beginning their likely eternal separation from the busom of Rome, though not fully complete to this day.

Once the indult did exist, however. only the Oratorians of St. Phillip Neri offered it as one Mass at St. Vincent de Paul Church. I do not know how well attended it was, but I can say that until Summorum Pontificum happened in 2007, there wasn't a real uptick in the Archdiocese of Toronto until that, or knowledge it existed. One can also credit the Traditional Catholics using the Internet for its wider awareness. I personally did NOT attend my first Latin Mass till May 2011. So bottom line: The all-male serving environment was not even on my radar, nor generally anywhere in the Archdiocese of Toronto in my youth.

Thus, I altar served in the Novus Ordo at various points of my life, in co-ed programs. I started Novus Ordo serving in grade 6 until I went to university in September 2002, and have resumed it on and off to this day (e.g. adult funeral serving at one parish, fill in with another community of my fiancee's on a request basis ...). My EF serving started in October 2011 with my first Mass being as a torchbearer, assisting a Solemn Mass that was organized by St. Patrick's Gregorian choir, at the downtown parish of St. Patrick's Toronto (Redemptorist. St. Alphonsus Liguori is AWESOME!!!).

In terms of my program experience, I can say that they were, at most, functionally based. Basically, all servers of all sexes were trained what to do, and how to do it. Sadly, we were never taught about the significance of serving, what the Mass was about, and what each item's symbolic and theological significance was. Most of my serving has us wear those ugly white albs, however at my parish that I moved to mid-way in high school, we DID have the red cassock and surplice, worn by both sexes (which the current pastor or the one before sought to give to another parish or throw away, replacing it with unisex white albs. If anyone there reads this, I detest that decision!). Now, whenever I serve, I try to wear my personal black surplice and cassock, though sometimes I must wear the alb, more to not disturb things by being one person in alb, one in cassock.

In terms of sexual tension caused by females present, NONE of that existed in any of my programs. We served cause we wanted to, or our friends did, and we wore whatever was provided. I was not in any way, intimidated by female servers. Many a time, families of siblings served together, boys and girls. However, I will say that these programs DESERVED, and SHOULD have some element of mentioning why one serves, what the items stand for symbolically, and that it traditionally was a way for young men to first discern the call of priesthood (and still is!). This would include altar serving's history, such as the traditional Minor Orders.

In fact, before my fiancee came into the picture, I did ponder the priesthood, at least as a possibility, should my life continue the way it would have been (single,) and I wasn't advancing in my career, not to mention personal circumstances in my life leading me to think this was "God's Plan". Well praying to the Holy Family might have changed that. You gotta be ready for whatever they throw at you when it comes to Christ's intended vocation for you!

My Take on the Matter
So, after going through all this, and revealing my personal experience, these are my final thoughts on the matter, ones you ALL should consider:

1) ALTAR SERVING, SINGLE-SEX PROGRAMS, & VOCATIONS - Altar serving, still, is one of the primary means whereby young men can become closely involved with the daily life of the Catholic priesthood and cause a young man to be "up close" to his priests, and our Lord in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, considering it as a lifelong vocation. That is not to say that young women do not ponder service to the Lord via the Mass if they choose to altar serve. When there are all male programs, the programs grow and retain many more numbers of young boys/men, and the likelihood of vocations DOES increase significantly, and seems to be a trend, especially among those of the EF parishes and dioceses. Here's examples I obtained from Fr. Z's blog, as before recent discussion, he touched the subject with a couple of posts, one proving with a USCCB poll that most of the ordinandi has considered priesthood thanks to altar serving, and another post with a small sampling, of actual before-after programming in certain USA parishes. The chart from the 2nd posting, is posted here to illustrate the boys-only point.

Think about it at its basest level. If altar serving is the biggest factor to increase the number of young men considering vocations to the priesthood, the more boys you have in altar serving, the bigger the pot to draw vocations from. MORE ALTAR BOYS, MORE VOCATIONS. Get it?

2) Ability to serve between the sexes and co-ed programs - I will not deny that altar girls/women do their job well. I've seen the ladies more capable of looking reverent and focused on the altar when they serve, even better than the males. Maybe it's just a maturity thing, but they can do it as well, and even exceed males at times (unless those men are disciplined and trained equally as the ladies!). I can personally say this, having observed my fiancee do this, and the servers she trains in terms of their carrying out of actions on the altar. She trains them all well! Regardless, it seems that when there are the co-ed programs, the ability of young men to want to focus and succeed drops, whether due to serving being a girly thing NOT to inspire to, or they feel inadequate and unable to compete with the more "superior" sex in the co-ed environment. A co-ed serving program CAN pose additional challenges to our shortened attention-span young men with their ``fandangled Iphony thingees``, along with younger age preference for male peer groups, and older males in puberty with their attraction to the opposite sex.

3) Content of Programs - Further, the programs may not give sufficient training, and/or explanation of what the role entails, as well as theology and historical meaning behind what the servers do or use, while on the altar. I have been through two parish serving programs in my youth and both failed to teach what the Mass was truly about and what we do as servers and what it means to be an altar server. I am sure many of you can agree that most of your parish programs currently, or in your life, also fail in this regard, and are more of a functional based program that teaches you hows and whats, not why`s and significance. Were this to change for even co-ed, Novus Ordo programs, this could affect markedly how men and women view altar serving.

3.1. Caveat - HOWEVER, Just because a parish has a co-ed program in the Novus Ordo, DOES NOT mean that 0% vocations are possible. Further, it also does not mean a modern day, Novus Ordo serving program cannot teach the proper meaning of what altar serving is about, what is behind what servers say or do, install discipline and reverence for Christ, and/or inspire vocations to the priesthood. If done right, it CAN do all that. Check out this example by a guest poster at The Deacon`s Bench blog. It takes a lot of work, but it IS possible to overcome the hurdles NOT faced by all-boys, Latin Mass altar serving.

4) WHAT MUST BE SAID, ABOUT INSISTENCE ON NO GIRLS ALLOWED ON THE ALTAR FOR YOU RADICALS MISREPRESENTING TRADITIONALISTS (RMTs), YOUR LEADERS, & YOUR ADHERENTS, AND TO DEFEND THE WHOLE OF THE LATIN MASS, AND GOOD CATHOLIC TRADITIONALISTS ... For all you EF preferring Traditionalists, especially you Trads Behaving Badly, it is a pitiful and spiritually sick act of sin to say girls should be banned from serving the altar, or to denigrate those females who serve the altar in the Novus Ordo by calling them names such as cross-dressers. I am not making that last statement up! A local blogger did that two seasons of Advent ago. In fact, that post is still in his blog's archives as of the making of this post. I will NOT reveal that bloggers site, unless they want to detract my character on their own blog. If done, I will not be afraid to reveal that blog to demonstrate to readers I am not lying. Should the post be taken down to cover one's "donkey", I will post screen caps should an insult still be used against me. Don`t hide your sins from the public. Cover-up is worse, on top of the original crime. Act civil, and I will keep a modicum of respect by not stating the blog name.

Further, when you RMTs rant and rave against female altar servers in the Novus Ordo, and even participation in the life of the Church and obtaining higher Catholic education, all you do is uphold the evil stereotypes of Traditionalists that liberals and mis-educated laity call us, and give those haters of the Latin Mass and Catholic Tradition more power. It will only embolden them to attack Catholic Tradition further. That means the Latin Mass, by the way, which also means an excuse to BAN IT! There are ways that are not covered by the Church's legislation, though I won't speculate here at S.U.D. These examples were told to be by a fellow U of T Newmanite when I assisted at a Latin Mass at Newman Center in October 2013. That misguided, but angry RMT, did that, and it sickens me I found out much after the fact. I would have dealt with that curmudgeon swiftly and with just anger.

Now, If you like to see the Latin Mass disappear again, save schismatic and/or societies NOT in communion wit the Church, keep committing calumnies against altar girls verbally and on the Internet. By the way, if I ever catch you doing that in person when I assist in the Latin Mass, I will call you out on your sin, and I don't care what your age or position is, whether you are old, young, your parents are present, a female, a male, a priest of the Lord, Jesus Christ, or one not in communion with the Church. I will do it while in civic clothes, or in my surplice and cassock. This is one thing I will not hold back from doing, because I am tired of you RMTs screwing this up in our Archdiocese and giving good Trads a bad reputation with your sinful works. It doesn't attract people to the Latin Mass! It's NOT your personal Mass, it's everyone's, a necessity for the New Evangelization, and ALL Catholics (and non-Catholics) are welcome too. Act with proper decorum and respect that is expected of Traditional and/or Latin Mass Catholics! If you still can't hold it back, go whine with your friends over cigars and alcoholic beverages in your homes/pubs, or your gatherings wherever with your lady friends, but do NOT DO IT IN PUBLIC IN THE CHURCH!

5) Reversing the Novus Ordo Co-Ed Serving Option? Not Likely, and Too Disruptive to do at the Moment - The 90's altar girl indult got passed and abused. It is not able to be shoved back into "Pandora's Box," and there are enough Latin Masses and some dioceses/parishes doing male-only serving to satisfy the "liturical" OCD people (No offense intended to those with diagnosed mental disorders of compulsion. I mean it expressively for those unhappy, pickle-faced people.) Even without the Latin Mass, some parishes and dioceses are reverting back to all-male serving. No Pope would be stupid to enforce it to return again, and lose most of the Catholic populace in developed countries, unless major evidence and reason presented itself and it was the Lord's ABSOLUTE will at the time. In other words, we are talking an extreme hypothetical scenario, and the answer, Virginia is, NO, there will not be a reversal of that indult.

Angry at me? Want to make calumnies on your blog or yell at me in person? Well I can't stop you from digging yourself a bigger spiritual grave for your soul, but you go do that and watch onlookers and/or readers glance at you in disgust for your outburst. As for your liturgical needs, you have 2 choices: 1) Offer it up to Christ and be happy you even can partake in the Mass while our Christian brethen worldwide are being denied their rights and martyred in bloodshed for being Christian, particularly in the Middle East, OR 2) Keep your opinions to yourself and stay in the EF or other rites in the Church where they only have male altar servers (e.g. Byzantine, Anglican Ordinate ...).

6) My final point of encouragement for female altar servers - Finally, in the Novus Ordo, females are more than welcome to altar serve for Christ! The indult got abused, but that doesn't mean it's a wasted opportunity! GO! Serve! Do it if you prayerfully feel called to do it! And consider a vocation to the Church as a habited religious.

Now, that's my two dollars on this issue. It's a lot, but that's my take on it as an EF altar server, who's not trying to be an exclusively EF person, but also has served in Novus Ordo programs, and since has understood serving more as well as the Mass.

I might serve the EF and like the order and visuals and what I hear and see and do, and desire you explore this with me too. Still, I am not a oaf or a pickle-faced pepper, trad behaving badly to want a prohibition on girls altar serving. I cannot say the same for the hearts and minds of some of my Trad brethen out there in the world and in my Archdiocese.

I know that most of the Catholic populace is OF and why girl altar servers were allowed. I also know, the Church has a human element to it that cannot be ignored, and here, the Church, through John Paul II, acted in a humane manner. You gotta consider everything, weaknesses, strengths, and what is best overall right NOW, this day, in the Church on a topic like this. While we cannot control the individual decisions of bishops in (Arch)dioceses, and the Church's laws allow them to decide on parishes or diocese-wide serving policies, banning altar girls on a mass scale, at this point in time with history in the books for the Latin Rite, is unacceptable. Furthermore, has it been a major damage point to render liturgies invalid and illicit, where by the sacrament of the Eucharist is NOT conferred with the bread and wine? NO! Not following the General instruction of the Roman Missal and the Ordo for the Mass does that. In the grand scheme of things, fighting over all-boys or co-ed will NOT help with the Church and the Proclamation of the Good News.

To all Latin Mass servers, from ages 8 to 108: Novus Ordo, Extraordinary Form/Latin Mass, or other rite in the Church, Servimus Unum Deum .... We Serve the One Lord.   

Pax Tibi Christi, Julian Barkin.

P.S. Combox moderation is on & this post is RED FLAG status. One wrong move or violation of my blog rules, even those that are "warnings," equals public banning and no publishing of your comments. Same goes for harassing emails in my inbox of any level. It's a free country still to lambaste me on your blog, so I cannot stop you from that, though be prepared for a reply on here should your post warrant it.

P.P.S. BTW .... While I made serving guides for the Latin Mass here on Servimus, girls and ladies, serving program trainers and priests, you can happily learn from my tools guides and apply that to your programs. If you want to use my material specifically in a formal/written document, you must: a) make an initial request in writing to my e-mail. b) We will communicate further to discuss details as to what and how you want to use my material. If this is to my satisfaction then, c) Once you receive formal written confirmation from me, and possibly agree to certain conditions, you will then have full permission to use my material from S.U.D. d) In addition, if you want more material developed than what is here, I would be interested in paid, compensatory, commissioned work to help you out. that would have to be done on my own time, aside from my part-time job.

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