From a reader:
My parish priest recently asked an older (semi-retired) female altar server (former MC & Sacristan) from another parish to train our altar servers for enrolment into the Guild of St Stephen (http://www.guildofststephen.org/).
First of all she discourages genuflecting (as it looks uneven if those carrying things don’t genuflect – and being older she can’t do it as easily) – but when training for the lavabo / consecration / ablutions she had another female server from her parish stand in as the priest, and used the real chalice (and drank the unconsecrated wine herself from the priest’s chalice). Is this sacrilege?
There are several points to consider.
First, I cannot tell if this involves the Novus Ordo or the Usus Antiquior. If it involves the Usus Antiquior, then it is deeply wrong to discourage genuflecting, because it is required. If it is the Novus Ordo, then… well… as deeply stupid as the rubric is not to genuflect when passing in front of the tabernacle, there is a rubric about that. That rubric is so dumb that were someone to confess to me that he genuflected anyway, I would have a hard time getting worked up about it.
To have a female stand in as the priest during a practice…. sacrilege? Welllll…. no, probably not. It would be better were a male of any age to do that. Far better. But, so long as the female wasn’t dressing up, etc., I guess I could in a grouchy way live with that for the purpose of a practice.
Should women, for example, never be able to help an Extraordinary Form altar boy learn his Latin responses? Learn to hold his hands properly when standing? Genuflect properly? If those things, then why not a little more? If there are no men available to teach them, then who?
Now…using the real chalice? I don’t like that at all. That is unnecessary for the purpose of a practice. They don’t need a real chalice, even though they might want to practice carrying the chalice from the credence table to the altar. Using actual wine for the practice? Drinking from the chalice. This is starting to sound a lot like “simulation” of a sacrament, which would be a very serious matter indeed.
Anything that smacks of simulation – by adults in front of children – should be avoided. Young children “playing Mass” is a different matter, though parents ought to watch that like the proverbial… NSA. I was going to say proverbial hawk, but… you know.
This opens up another, deeper, issue.
Some things used during sacred liturgy are constituted as sacred things. The chalice is one of these. They are to be used in a sacred space, the church building, and then within the even more sacred space of the sanctuary, the proper place of those who are set aside as consecrated persons. It does make a difference who enters the sanctuary and what he or she does there. Also, the priest’s hands are consecrated so that he can handle sacred things. I am always pleased to see altar boys or lay people working in sacristies who are trained to handle sacred vessels while wearing gloves or with some other cloth between their bare hands and the vessel itself.
It is important for our Catholic identity to revive a strong sense of the sacred: sacred times, places, persons and objects.
If you are really concerned that someone is going over the line in these practices, then it behooves you to bring your concerns to the attention of the parish priest. I would’t go to him for something trivial, however.