QUAERITUR: Children playing Mass… but… girls?

I get a great Quaeritur via e-mail.

 

Father,

Thank you for your time and effort with WDTPRS and your website. [You’re welcome.]

I’m a father of three children, raised with my brother in the early ’60’s by our wonderful traditional Catholic parents.  (Both of us were busy servers just an alley walk away from Holy Cross Church for many years…how could we have known how close to Heaven we were then?)

My 6 year old twin girls discovered the "stash" of my brother’s and my play vestments, chalice, paten, and other liturgical items from our youth that we "played" Mass in our fabulous childhood.

Naturally, my girls immediately begged me and my wife to prepare them an altar so that they may reanact Mass.  They are quite familiar with both the Novus Ordo English and Latin Mass from our parish of Old St. Mary’s in Cincinnati.

They’re 6 years old.!  What shall we tell them Father?

 

How sweet!

I love the idea of children so captivated by Holy Mass that they want to do it also. 

And I think it is most natural thing in the world.

Your concern is that girls shouldn’t be encouraged to think that they can say Mass, and rightly so.

Perhaps there is a way in which you could use those things to walk them through Mass, explaning it, without one of them acting the part of the priest?

That might give you the chance to spend time with them in a good pursuit, and help them understand Mass?  I am not sure to what extent at 6 years you need to go into roles in the Church and sexual differences.  You are their father and will know best about this.

I am sure that some of the readers will want to chime in, and as long as they write reasonable things, this is a good topic.

Finally, I think this is simply wonderful, the idea that children want to have Holy Mass, in their style, in the family home, which is the domestic Church!

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39 Responses to QUAERITUR: Children playing Mass… but… girls?

  1. Julie says:

    +

    I will be especially interested in responses to this as our parish prepares to embark on the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program of religious education.

  2. Kelly says:

    As the father of 3 little girls I share similar concerns. I’m not sure what the answer is but I’m blessed to have 2 boys as well, and can help guide the play so that the boys take on the priestly role. Perhaps you have a cousin or neighbor boy to incorporate into the play or maybe you as father could take it on and play with them? Along a similar line of thought, I have concerns with taking my girls to Masses where the parish priest allows alter girls. We try to avoid going to parishes where this is allowed but cannot always make it to the one parish in our area that does not do it. I’d really like to hear what others tell their girls. Is there any chance that Rome would not allow it any longer???

  3. Peter Kwasniewski says:

    Friends,

    My son (8) and daughter (5) frequently “play Mass” together at home, donning as many vestments as they can find, using gold Montessori implements we have provided, bells, and sometimes even incense (on holidays). We have spoken with a lot of other homeschooling families who have noticed that not only the boys but also the girls need to be involved as part of their own working out of numerous spontaneous religious ideas, not to mention what they learn in catechism. At so tender an age girls do not attach any “political” or “ecclesiastical” significance to enacting the Mass. What the children really want is to explore the symbols and gestures of the faith that they see; they have to act them out and make them their own. It is about Catholic identity and, if you will, the priesthood of the baptized in a very blatant, rudimentary, and acted-out sense, appropriate to young minds that have few theological distinctions.

    Again, we’ve been told that as the girls get older, they can understand better what the priesthood is and why only men are priests, and at that point, they express their religious thinking and feeling in different ways. To prohibit this kind of play at a very young age would seem to me inappropriate.

  4. Kristen J says:

    I’m a mother of three little ones (two girls and a boy) and I do not see myself allowing the girls to play priest.

    Long story short, I had a similar interest as a little girl and, while visiting my aunt’s convent in the 80s (her order, I now know, is rather messed-up), the sisters helped me “celebrate” Mass, which, though it was for me a celebration of the richness of our Faith, also inculcated in me a belief in female ordination that I didn’t shake until high school and my involvement in the pro-life movement. Also, I believe that it was a source of perverse joy for the heterodox nuns; it pains me every time my “Mass” is mentioned, as it seems to be the sisters’ favorite memory of me as a child!

    On a practical level, I would encourage little girls to learn to love the Mass and Eucharist by taking them to daily Mass and little Adoration stops as often as possible. It might also be good to inculcate in them a love of the saints, including priest-saints, as friends for their lives and as influences if they themselves are mothers to boys someday. If a boy wants to play priest, that’s a different matter, but I would still put the emphasis on the things I just mentioned.

    May God bless you!

  5. Deborah says:

    I would not recommend allowing young girls to pretend they are priests offering Holy Mass. It should be an important part of the catechetics for young girls that only men can be priests and why. And yes, they do understand this even at the age of 6 years old.

    Just as boys “playing nun” by dressing up in a woman’s religious habit is not something to be encouraged so to girls dressing up “playing priest” should not be encouraged. They may do it on their own and parents shouldn’t freak out of course however by providing the materials for them to do such things as “play” is simply a bad idea.

    So what can parents do? Allow the girls to use dolls to “play Mass” – a male and female doll.

    Make a small altar, doll sized along with a small Mass set. They can use the male doll as the priest with various vestments, cassock, etc.. As far as which dolls, I’ve seen some families use Barbie and Ken and either make the vestments, religious habit (for Barbie),etc, themselves or I’m pretty sure I’ve seen some online homeschooling families who make and sell them.

    I know there are some who oppose using Barbie but personally I have seen this work out well and in fact mothers use the opportunity when buying clothes for Barbie as a lesson in modesty for the young girls.

  6. Deborah says:

    And to go along with my above post…

    The girls who are using dolls to play Mass can have many other dolls to use as the parishioners who are attending Holy Mass. They can dress up the dolls in their Sunday best which they would love to do.

    Also, a tiny tabernacle can be made, too.

  7. Gloria says:

    With fondness I remember acting as an altar “boy” with a neighbor girl when we were about 8-9 years old (I’m now 76). Her father had built an altar in her oldest brother’s bedroom. He was twelve and wanted to be a priest. He practiced saying Mass and his sister and I gave the responses, moved the missal, brought the cruets,etc. We learned the rubrics early on. We answered all in Latin, by the way. We never expected to be altar “girls,” but it was fun to pretend and a big help to her brother. He became a Dominican and was much saddened after Vatican II with the turn of events and the ensuing attitudes. He was traditional to the end in his heart. Latin was no problem for parochial school children in the 30s and 40s. We learned to pray in Latin and sang Latin in the children’s choir. In the eighth grade we had a debate about altar “girls.” The boys took the con, the girls the pro (naturally). The girls won the debate and some actually were upset when they found they would not be fitted for cassocks and allowed to serve at Mass. I think I know where they’re coming from today! Gloria

  8. Mary says:

    I think Father’s advice is very good. Use the altar items and vestments to show your little girls how they all work, but do it in the context of “this is what Father does” and this is what it means. I wouldn’t let them pretend to be priests, because little kids love play-acting for others and showing off and getting praise if they do it right. You would be forced to compliment them if they did a good “priest” immitation. Role-playing is a huge part of childhood development, and it is something to be taken very seriously. I think that much of the so-called gender identity issues are from lack of proper guidance on what is gender appropriate. Kids need boundaries, and they want to know the “rules”. Telling them there are no rules leads to confusion in the kids, because instinctively they know that girls and boys are different and should have different roles.

    When I was a little girl I was very disappointed knowing that I could never be an altar boy or a priest. If I had had my own Mass-kit and been allowed to play-act the part of the priest and been praised for being able to do it well, it would have harmed my developing sense of proper gender roles. I went through a period of time where I was sad and jealous (internally, as I never told anyone) that my brother could be an altar boy and I couldn’t. It wouldn’t have taken much for those “it’s not fair” temptations to grow into a real problem. I hadn’t gotten to the point of thinking that girls should be allowed to be priests or altar-boys (that was too radical of a concept for me at that age), but I definitely resented not being a boy so that I could be an altar boy or priest.

    I remember the one time I tried to “play Mass” and act the role of a priest. I was 9 or 10 years old, and I was with some little Catholic friends (boys and girls) about my age, and I suggested we “play Mass” and I would be the priest. They agreed, but as soon as I started, I suddenly realized that I didn’t know how to do it, and my friends realized it too. They soon became really bored and drifted away leaving me feeling embarrassed by the whole idea and attempt.

    Looking back on that little episode, I have always been very grateful for that “failure”. I somehow know that if that attempt had been a success and I had impressed my friends with what a good “priest” I was, it would have made the whole gender-jealousy phase I was going through a lot worse and likely planted some feminist-women-priest seeds.

    Instead, being embarrassed in front of my friends actually helped me get over my budding resentment about not being able to be a priest. I then decided that if I couldn’t be a priest and offer Mass, I would become a nun so that at least I could hear Confessions! (I was under the impression that nuns heard ladies Confessions, and priests heard men’s Confessions.) It was only when I found out that nuns don’t hear confessions at all, that I finally gave up on my sacerdotal desires altogether. Deo Gratias!

  9. Geoffrey says:

    My sister and I would “play school” when we were young. We attended Catholic school and so naturally that was our “play school” as well. We would take our classes to Mass and act in our roles as teachers… I doubled as the choir director and we both were Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist using potato chips! The celebrant was “imaginary.” Long story short, any child could “play Mass” and not be the celebrant. Of course, that is easier to do with the ordinary form rather than the extraordinary form. Encouraging them to be choir directors would probably be the safest bet!

  10. T. Chan says:

    Dr. Kwasniewski–I hope what you say is true. My 2 yo niece has been imitating the priests she sees on EWTN.

  11. Peter Karl T. Perkins says:

    I think that, sometimes, the sweetest and most charitable response to little children is to tell them that some things are for girls, and some things for boys. Children will be more thankful, I think, if parents make that clear. They want to know where the barriers are. It helps them find their place. What if boys found mum’s old children’s costumes and wanted to play nurse or housewife? It would be better to laugh it off and tell them that that’s for girls. Same thing here: playing priest is for boys.

    P.K.T.P.

  12. Katherine says:

    My children have many times spontaniously decided to “play Mass” and my oldest, a 9 yo boy always plays the priest (he was a TLM altar server). They made a tabernacle from an old cardboard box they decorated with holy cards and a paten and chalice from kitchen items. I had to provide the cracker wafers. I recall him telling his 7 year old sister, “You CAN’T be the priest, only boys can do that!” Just like I tell my 3 year old little boy not to wear dresses for play I can tell the girls they can’t play the priest. Boys and girls are different and can play with different things. Boys grow up to be daddies or priests, girls grow up to be mommies or nuns.

  13. Faith says:

    I think you should all lighten up!!!! Didn’t you play cowboys and Indians? Did you grow up to be either? I, as a girl growing up played “Church”. We use to fight over who was going to play the priest, until……..we found a position that was more fun. Yes! The usher who passed the collection basket!
    This is called “play” and while I’m not condoning encouraging it; I’m certainly not upset by it. Nor was I upset when my sons played with dolls. I was and am upset by the violent video games I see, although I also remember playing “soldier.”
    So maybe we adults should just butt out and let kids be kids.

  14. Maureen says:

    There were a good many female saints whose biographies reveal that as children they played Mass, played being preaching missionaries, and played being martyrs. (Male saints did this too, of course.) Female saints also often dressed up as male saints or Jesus, although obviously they liked dressing up as female saints, too. Kids just tend to imitate what they’re thinking about at the moment; there’s nothing disturbing about that.

    When I was a kid, it never occurred to us to play at anything Catholic. We got the general impression that it was okay to think about this sort of thing, but not to show it, even in front of our parents. And here we are without many vocations in my generation. I think that is sad.

  15. Elizabeth says:

    I laughed when I read Mary’s comment above, as that was exactly how I felt growing up in the 60’s with 4 altar boy brothers. When we “played” Mass, I was never allowed to be priest, and I did feel resentful at times. But like her, I’m grateful I didn’t have my latent feminism pandered to! Mind you, at the time I used to go to bed at night praying that I’d wake up next day and be a boy! However, I survived all that gender angst, and when my son was about 5 yrs old he “offered” play Mass for a Lutheran pastor friend, and her 18 month old son. I was embarrassed that he wanted to do it, but she wanted him to go ahead. I was embarrassed again when I couldn’t remember which bit came next, when he got stuck, but she knew what he should say. But I was mortified when my son very solemnly gave her son the “Host” (made from circles cut out of rice paper) and the poor baby began to choke on it!!! Was this a punishment for inter denominational communion?!!!!!

  16. AM says:

    We have the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in our (middle-of-the-road Canadian) parish. I have always boggled at the use of the little models of the altar, vessels, etc., which are apparently used to teach the children about “what happens at Mass” and to get them “used” to it.

    I think the idea of making them familiar in that way is a mistake. But the Catechesis is pretty sound and I must say my children haven’t absorbed some strange idea that anyone can be a priest, Mass is just a play, etc., etc.

  17. Elizabeth says:

    I laughed when I read Mary’s comment above, as that was exactly how I felt growing up in the 60’s with 4 altar boy brothers. When we “played” Mass, I was never allowed to be priest, and I did feel resentful at times. But like her, I’m grateful I didn’t have my latent feminism pandered to! Mind you, at the time I used to go to bed at night praying that I’d wake up next day and be a boy!
    (But for all that role-playing, none of my brothers ended up a Priest; the one who obviously could have had a calling, is now a firm atheist, so is the youngest, the other two are married to non-Catholics, and neither they nor their children practise -ho, hum).
    However, I survived all that gender angst, and when my son was about 5 yrs old he “offered” play Mass for a Lutheran pastor friend, and her 18 month old son. I was embarrassed that he wanted to do it, but she wanted him to go ahead. I was embarrassed again when I couldn’t remember which bit came next, when he got stuck, but she knew what he should say. But I was mortified when my son very solemnly gave her son the “Host” – made from circles cut out of rice paper – and the poor baby began to choke on it! Was this a punishment for inter denominational communion?!!!!!

  18. Stu says:

    My youngest son pretends to say Mass with the miniature tabernacle and altar we have in our living room and his older brother serves for him. I actually use the evolution for training purposes at times. My wife and I have always been very direct with our daughters that being a priest is not something that God offers them in way of a vocation. Furthermore, when we attended a Novus Ordo parish I did not allow my oldest daughter to serve even though it was permitted by our priest. Afterall, I do get final say on such things. However, I believe we have filled our children with so many stories of saints (man and woman) that my daughters realize that what is important is for us to do what He wants vice what we sometimes think we want to do.

    A funny side story. On a visit last year to the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament in Huntsville, my children were talking with two Franciscan friars who were present. My youngest son, who was six at the time, informed the friars that he had his own vestments and that he routinely said Mass but then downplayed it with “but it’s only low Mass”. :)

  19. Faith: So maybe we adults should just butt out and let kids be kids.

    Wow. I think that, for the most part, that is a really bad idea.

    I would make an exception for the wonderful advice of the ancient author of books on education of children, Quintillian, who said that if, during the summer a child is healthy, he has learned enough. But that refers to keeping children too busy with organized or structured activities during the summer. He have to let them be imaginative in using their time.

    But that does not mean let kids do what they want and adults should butt out.

    I have the image of burning cities across the globe.

  20. Tobias H says:

    Rev. and dear Father, I agree that letting our kids do whatever they want to is a bad idea.

    But I also think it’s a very bad idea to try to control our children to the point of forbidding these innocent games. I can imagine one of my own daughters, as a grown up in the future, joining some “women’s ordination” group in rebellion and yelling at me: “And I wasn’t even allowed to PLAY a priest!” (And then, certainly, I won’t be able to stop her.)

    So please, friends, rejoice if your little angels want to pretend they are priests. It means they love God and the Church. And nothing more than that.

  21. Tim Ferguson says:

    Personally, I think children should be encouraged to play “canonist”…but so far I’ve been unable to even convince my nieces and nephews of that.

    I agree with the sentiments above about needing to reinforce in kids appropriate gender roles. I think that our contemporary society has done a doozy of a job undermining that, along with the notion that “any kid can grow up to be whatever he (or she) wants.” That sets up a lot of disappointment, IMHO.

    I know of one priest who went into a parish that had altar girls. Instead of simply doing away with them outright, which would have caused a revolution, he had one of the older Sisters in a nearby convent establish a group called Mary’s Handmaids, or something like that for the girls. He himself organized a group of Knights of the Altar for the boys. Gradually, Mary’s Handmaids took over the task of keeping the sacristy organized, washing and ironing the altar cloths, cleaning the church, scheduling the servers. In addition, they had sleepovers at the convent, regular prayer meetings and teas and fun outings. Within a year, all of the altar girls wanted to be part of Mary’s Handmaids instead of serving Mass, and the Knights of the Altar took over those responsibilities entirely.

    Perhaps encouraging young girls to imitate good and holy Sisters (and yes, there still are many out there) rather than imitate priests would be a good plan.

  22. I played “Mass” long before my first Holy Communion, which is a pleasant memory for me now that I’m actually ordained. One of the neighbour girls acted as a member of the congregation.

    I know many families today who make vestments for their little boys. The little girls dress up as nuns, teaching nuns or cloistered nuns, wimple and large flowing veil included. How cute!

    What a great way to encourage vocations!

  23. Hung Doan says:

    Play mass! I have a female friend who, as a child, helped her brother play mass in the following manner: her brother was the celebrant, and she was the nun who played the organ! How sweet is that?! Anyhow, if I were to have children of my own….

  24. Argent says:

    Dear Father,

    I agree with Mr. Ferguson. I would advise your correspondent to encourage his wife and daughters to join their parish’s Altar Society. Our parish welcomes young girls and their mums to the Society. Here we learn to care for the linens, vestments, monitor liturgical supplies, etc. Why playact when you can do the real thing? It is an opportunity for girls with their mothers to learn that this service is very necessary.

    One lady commented that when she is at Mass and looks at the high altar and sees the tabernacle veil she feels a sense of satisfaction in knowing that she took part in “setting the stage” so to speak. For me, there is a deep joy in laundering the linens with care and reverence, ironing them crisply and folding them just so. One learns humility in sweeping the floors and vacuuming the rug and dusting the statues. Isn’t that what we want our children to learn? Humility in approaching the Mass.

  25. Gavin says:

    If I may post my not-a-parent-and-in-my-20s useless perspective:

    When I was very young I would play priest. I would get out my children’s handmissal, set up a table in the living room, and have my mother watch while I performed all the actions and read all the words in the book. Yes, I as a child was better at saying Mass than most priests who can’t seem to “say the black and do the red”! Anyway, I did it for so long that I learned all the prayers of the Mass by rote through it and knew the structure of Mass forwards and backwards. Of course, growing up in the 90s this was useless since you don’t see priests ever FOLLOWING the rubrics – “Where is he!? He forgot the ‘I confess’!!”. Within a couple years, and no encouragement from my mother, I had lost any desire to become a priest.

    So I’d suggest there’s nothing wrong with little girls playing Mass. My girlfriend grew up in the LCMS (MUCH more conservative than American Catholicism!) and used to play pastor, much to the nervousness of her father (a pastor himself). Today, I know few people more against female ordination than her. But she, like me, is very dedicated to liturgy. Given the experiences I’ve had, I don’t think that playing Mass does much more for young children than give them an intimate knowledge of the liturgy. And I’d count that as a good thing. If your girls are still playing priest at the age of 13, then DEFINITELY put a stop to it. But if they’re just a young child imitating something they love and see as holy, let them learn.

  26. SMJ says:

    When I was a little boy I even planned processions and holy hours in my home!

  27. Cathy Dawson says:

    I think at age 6 it’s pretty normal for little girls to play games where they
    pretend to take on a boy role. When I was a kid for the most part girls didn’t
    play with boys, so when we played an imaginary game like “house” one girl would
    be the mommy and one the daddy, one the sister and one the brother. None of us
    who had to play a boy role (not the most coveted ones, btw) ever thought it would
    be a good thing to grow up and become a daddy. It seems to me like it would be
    ok to pretend to be a boy as long as it’s innocent and they know they’re
    pretending to be a boy. But, I wasn’t raised Catholic and didn’t go through all
    the silly stuff that went with the implementation of Vatican II (although I’m
    enduring a good deal now) so maybe I’m not as sensitive to these things as I
    ought to be.

  28. Sam Schmitt says:

    Please listen to Peter Kwasniewski – he speaks from experience and not from some strange notion that a six-year-old girl will want to become a priest when she grows up after having played one when she was six, any more than I want to be a cowboy (or and Indian) for having played one when I was a little kid.

  29. Scott Smith says:

    When I was little my mother didn’t want me to have a play Mass. She thought it was a sacreligious. Once I heard that I moved on and played something else and for me, I respected even more the sacredness of the Mass.

  30. Peter Karl T. Perkins says:

    We stop wanting to be cowboys and Indians when we grow up? I always wanted to be an Indian then, and I still do. The fact that it’s impossible is another matter. I always used to think that those cowboys were arrogant. What made them think it was their land? They were thieves! While my view on this has deveolped somewhat, I still sympathise with the Indian side, really. We don’t grow up, we grow out. Even as a small child, I was a papalist and a monarchist, and I still am.

    P.K.T.P.

  31. Elise B. says:

    I am 75 years old and this has brought back memories. I was a boarder in a convent. To teach us the procedure of the Mass, the nuns dressed a little girl in priestly vestments (very small – for a 10 year-old about) and she played the role of the priest. This was in the early 40s. It was only to teach us about the Mass as it was more complicated than the NO. Nobody thought at that time of having women priests.

  32. marie-f Crochu-Lozac'hmeur says:

    We live in France, and in the old catholic montessori Schools, children were teached in liturgy and catechism with the little vestments and altar sets.
    As we are studying about this ‘children Mass plays”, I have enjoyed to discover this blog.
    If you have time, here is a link about the inauguration of an exposition that we did prepare on the last summer, in the Museum of the Château de Josselin. The subject was “de Noé à la crèche” (may be translated “from noah to Christmas” .
    It is easier to telecharge the movie from 1 am to 10.30 am (it takes only about three minutes) and you will discover a great part of our collection of old children altars. We didn’t show the vestments sets done for children, as the museum is a doll museum. But we have a lot of them.
    It was a great wait for understanding what te liturgy was, even for the girls.

    link= http://dl.free.fr/iTfam65/P1240774.MOV

    Thanks for your reactions.

  33. Brian C. says:

    With all due respect to those who see girls “playing priest” as a “harmless exercise in piety”, I have to agree with those who warn against it.

    Peter Kwasniewski writes:

    At so tender an age girls do not attach any “political” or “ecclesiastical” significance to enacting the Mass.

    That’s almost certainly true–but I don’t think “fears of insurrection from young girls” is the foundation of the concerns being raised, here. I’m personally worried about getting the girls *used* to the idea of “playing priest”, only to jar them by taking that away from them at a later age.

    Will such girls be better able to follow the logical arguments about an all-male priesthood when they’re older? Probably… but, at least in my experience, we’d be taking a rather far-fetched gamble to assume that all girls (or any fallen human of any gender or age) will allow themselves to ge guided entirely by logic (**sigh** If only…!); we’re humans, after all… not “Star Trek Vulcans”. Rather, I’d expect such girls to be “emotionally confirmed” in the “play” experience, and that they’d be at least somewhat resentful of the later “removal” of the basis for their cherished play-times and happy memories, when you finally tried to change the rules on them (complete with logical explanation)…

    If it helps, try the following scenario: would you allow two young boys, or two young girls, to pretend-play “marry one another” (complete with kiss at the altar)? I don’t suggest that such a play would devastate their psyches at a blow, no… but wouldn’t you see a problem with giving them an “affective” (i.e. primally emotional) positive experience of “gay marriage”, complete with the experience of watching their parent(s) smile and nod their approval at the “darling, cute display”? I’d think that it’s a “nothing to gain, everything to lose” scenario which could potentially cause unneeded grief when you finally *do* decide to “drop the bomb” and tell them (at whatever age) that such play is “no longer appropriate” (and I’d be very curious to hear the verbal tap-dance that the parents would need to make, in doing so!).

    With all due respect, I think this “it’s cute and harmless–let them go as they will, with no guidance” may be a symptom of the parent being a bit loath to say “no” to their *own* “appetite for enjoyment” (e.g. too eager to enjoy the “cuteness of the play” to enact a prudent intervention). No one’s suggesting that girls not be allowed to “play Mass”; but is it really such a cruelly unfair proposition to suggest that they be directed toward playing a role other than that of “priest”?

    What the children really want is to explore the symbols and gestures of the faith that they see; they have to act them out and make them their own.

    I can understand what you mean by that (I think…), but children usually aren’t being that analytical; they just “immerse” themselves in the experiences, let those experiences “soak into their consciousnesses”, and run with them… which, in my experience, gives those experiences/impressions a great deal of “staying power” which isn’t easily overcome by “nicely logical reasoning” at a later time. Children do indeed “make the symbols their own”–but I hope you’d agree that they need guidance in discerning *how* to make particular symbols “their own”, and in what ways?

    It is about Catholic identity and, if you will, the priesthood of the baptized in a very blatant, rudimentary, and acted-out sense, appropriate to young minds that have few theological distinctions.

    That’s precisely the problem; the girls are ill-equipped to discern the iron-clad (and, in their case, insurmountable) difference between the “priesthood of the baptized” and “ministerial priesthood gained through Holy Orders”.

    Again, we’ve been told that as the girls get older, they can understand better what the priesthood is and why only men are priests, and at that point, they express their religious thinking and feeling in different ways.

    I’m just worried that their “fond memories” of such play experiences (many of which might be buried deeply in their subconscious minds, far beyond the reach of logic) will make such a “transition” much harder, less wholehearted, and even less likely as a whole.

    Speaking as one who (in my “loony liberal days”) used to be very much in favor of “women allowed to be priests”, I can attest to the fierce emotional “hooks” that such an idea can have in one’s mind and emotions. Very few kids would truly say, “It’s unfair that I can’t *really* grow up to be a cowboy who kills Indians by riddling them with bullets!” (and who among their adult guardians would truly encourage it?); but it’s not at all farfetched for them to start thinking, “It’s unfair that I can’t *really* grow up to be a priest and bless people by dispensing the Sacraments!” (especially since there are all too many adults who not only *could*, but *DO*, encourage that idea).

    FWIW: the “dolls” idea sounds like an excellent one, as does the “imaginary priest friend” idea!

    In Christ,
    Brian C.

  34. Maureen says:

    Then I guess we’ll have to get rid of St. Therese.

    Obviously she was warped for life by her early desire to be a priest. Never mind that this led to her becoming one of the great patrons and protectors of priests, through her prayers for them both on earth and in heaven. Never mind that this was part of her path towards becoming a Doctor of the Church.

    They just don’t love you anymore, Little Flower.

  35. Maureen: I think you may be overlooking the fact that in St. Therese’s time were no persistent obtuse challenges concerning the ordination of women. There are now.

    Your odd suggestion that we don’t “love” St. Therese because some people today think girls shouldn’t pretend to be priests is just plain strange.

  36. Sam Schmitt says:

    Brian C.

    With all due respect, you’re thinking too much. A little girl playing priest really doesn’t translate into heresy 15 or 20 years later.

  37. Lori says:

    One of my favorite memories is smooshing white bread really flat and cutting it out with shot glasses and pretending to give myself the Body of Christ. I did this on and off for many years. Playing priest is natural, I believe, for all those who long to imitate Christ.

  38. Lori. How sweet! I think you are right.

  39. Brian C. says:

    Sam Schmitt writes, in reply to my post:

    With all due respect, you’re thinking too much.

    :) Well… thinking *is* a habit of mine that I’ve tried to encourage whenever possible…

    Seriously, though: I’m never going to say that logic and reason are the end-all and be-all of existence, but it still gives me a creepy, seaweed-down-the-back feeling when I hear anyone say (to me or to anyone else), “Stop thinking so much!”, “Go with your feelings!” or the ever-popular “Follow your heart!” (Ten billion blood cells couldn’t *all* be wrong, after all! :) )

    A little girl playing priest really doesn’t translate into heresy 15 or 20 years later.

    Had that been a less sweeping statement, I might have agreed with you; I’d agree that “episodes of girls-playing-priest do not predestine those girls to lifetimes of spiritual squalor as heretics”, of course… any more than a puff or two on a cigarette condemns one to a certain and agonizing death by emphysema or lung cancer, or any more than the commission of a handful of venial sins in youth assigns one to a certain, predestined, and permanent place in the bowels of Hell after death! But my concerns were a bit more subtle than that; I’d follow those truisms with the suggestion that none of the original “catalysts” (listed above) are a particularly good idea, nor should they be encouraged by parents.

    In the case of girls playing priest: is it really the best response for parents to “bask/wallow in the cuteness of the moment”, and throw all caution and guidance to the wind, on the basis that “it’s probably harmless… and aw, shucks, it’s too adorable to stop them!”…? Some of the previous comments seemed to be suggesting that *no* warning/guidance should be given at all until later in life–when the girls have a better chance of understanding the reasons for an all-male clergy. (That was the post to which I was responding, in particular, in my last post.) I agree that the detailed explanations of an all-male clergy can wait… but I would suggest that a gentle, “Sweetheart, you *do* understand that girls can’t *really* be priests, don’t you?”, during (or soon after) the play event, would not be remiss…

    IMHO: in any case, it’d be wise to offer “age-appropriate disclaimers (about all-male clergy)” to girls who desire to “play priest”, though it’d be wiser to steer them (gently and creatively) away from that particular play-image altogether.

    Let’s be fair, here: I really don’t see the “damage” that would be done by encouraging such girls (who most likely *are* exercising piety as well as creativity,and certainly should *not* be *scolded* for their play!) to use male dolls to represent priests, or to use a “make-believe priest” (like an imaginary friend), or some other alternative to “playing priest” themselves, personally. Are you suggesting that such a redirection would somehow “wound” these girls in spirit, or “stunt” their creativity or piety?