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A Word to Altar Girls

The presence and participation of girls as altar servers has become fairly commonplace since their official introduction in the 1990’s. Just as we would hope that our young men might be inspired to consider a vocation to the priesthood; it is desired that our young ladies might give some thought toward a calling to the religious life as either a sister or a nun. While it is only “private” revelation, I have routinely shared with our altar girls the following citation from Mary of Agreda’s CITY OF GOD about the Virgin Mary’s service in the temple:

“The priest also gave Her a rule for her occupations and said: ‘My Daughter thou wilt assist at the exercises of divine praise and song in honor of the Lord with all reverence and devotion, and always pray to the Most High for the necessities of his holy temple and of his people, and for the coming of the Messiah.” . . . The most holy Child remained on her knees, while She listened to the words of the priest and then asked his blessing; . . . In the performance of works not commanded Her our Queen and Lady distinguished Herself from other maidens by asking her teacher to be allowed to serve them all. . . . By means of her infused science She understood all the mysteries and ceremonies of the temple; but She was anxious to learn them also by study and practice, as if She were ignorant of them, nor did She ever fail in any ceremony or duty, no matter how small. She was most eager for humiliation and most submissive in her self-contempt; . . .” (pp. 130-132).

If our girls and women can in some small way imitate this kind of model, then the novelty of their service should prove no problem. Notice the word “maidens” in the text? Although not translated, the Roman Canon mentions God’s servants and handmaids. Considering the political climate, such an appreciation would be a wonderful counter-cultural sign of humility, not to men, but to almighty God.

2 Responses

  1. Thanks for your reply Father! I am certain my children do not feel rejected in the slightest by those attitudes. In fact, they love their parish very much, and our parish priest is a wonderful supporter of the girl altar servers as well as our Knights of Columbus. Hopefully we will get some religious from the altar girls as well.

    God bless you too!

  2. Dear Father,

    I enjoy reading your blog and on occasion have quoted your stories in my own website for 4th degree Knights.

    I read the story about Altar Girls and was curious about it. You see, I have three girls and all three love being Altar Girls at our local parish. However, there is another parish (much closer to my home, I might add) where some groups there are extremely resistant to having Altar Girls. For this reason, although I travel 45 minutes for Mass one way, and the other parish is no more than 5 minutes away, I do it every Sunday, because my girls like to serve!

    I asked someone in the other parish why they were so resistant, and their story was that, firstly, it was against the Roman Canon, and that Altar Girls were only allowed by special dispensation…which is why they are allowed in my parish, apparently. And secondly, they figure that if girls became Altar Servers, they boys would stop coming!

    The final slap in the face (for me, at least) was that they (the adults in that parish) would rather serve at Mass for their pastor than to have girls serve there. The other reason is, as you say, they hope that their boys take up the call to vocation.

    Suffice to say, they seem to have forgotten that it is possible that girls are just as needed as religious nuns. My sister is a nun and I could wish for nothing more than any or all of my girls to take up Religious Orders.

    Why do you think some priests and parishioners are so against Girl Altar servers?


    The rule throughout most of the Church's history restricted service of the altar to males. The Congregation for Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in 1994 gave an interpretation of canon law (230) that would permit altar girls. Many of us preferred to keep the older discipline, but the surprise Vatican move changed things. The argument I initally made was that the priesthood was reserved to men and since the altar server functioned as an extension of the priest's hands then they should be males, too. But, it was a debate that I lost. There is still a preference for males but there is nothing in canon law (not Roman Canon) that absolutely forbids females. Individual bishops and pastors have discretion as to whether or not to allow altar girls. I have since made the argument that vocations to religious life might emerge for girls in such service; however, I was vetoed when I suggested that female servers wear habit-like vesture with veils. I commend the faith of your children and your efforts to keep them close to the Church. I hope that your girls do not feel rejected or hurt by the attitudes of critics. Along with the boys, our young girls make wonderful and devout servers. God bless you all!

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