ASK FATHER: Cassock, surplice, girls

From a reader…

QUAERITUR:

Father, Am I correct in saying that Cassock & Surplice is male attire
and that girls should NOT wear it? And if this is the case why do
people let it happen? I am taking over the training of our altar
servers who currently wear unisex albs & waist cords. I want to
encourage more boys to serve and my plan is to select well trained
boys from the current corp to wear Cassock & Surplice and serve as a
group which should encourage more boys to step up. Thank you for your
time and many thanks for your excellent blog.

You are welcome.

Yes, cassock and surplice are masculine dress because they are part of proper clerical dress. Only clerics and those who substitute for clerics should wear them.

“But Father! But Father!” you libs and others shall howl, “Women and girls can substitute for acolytes now. You hate Vatican II!”

Yes, there was a deeply regrettable, history and common sense shattering interpretation of law that now allows females to substitute for real acolytes.

That said, I repeat, only males and the males who substitute for clerics should wear clerical garb.

A woman or girl in clerical garb is an absurdity, a dreadful sight, absolutely to be avoided. The poor ladies are being mistreated by being asked to wear it. Such condescension towards the fairer sex! People are being abused by being forced to see misdressed servers. Why aren’t congregations shown more respect? Such a violation of decorum.

I would also direct the honorable readership back to my POLLS about all make service at the altar and the relationship of same to vocations.

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60 Responses to ASK FATHER: Cassock, surplice, girls

  1. uptoncp says:

    But why should that apply to a surplice and not to an alb? Is that not equally a garment of clerics and those substituting for them?

  2. PA mom says:

    Ok. The thing is, our parish uses the surplice and alb anyway for boys and girls.

    And I have realized by reading here that it is wrong, and realized that I would be very distressed to see that change to the potato sacks with cords.

    It is so lovely seeing them in the more reverent attire and most of them are just little.

    It turns out I am a dissident in my own little way as I know I am making excuses for breaking a rule, but please don’t take away my Beauty. There is so little of it around sometimes…

  3. Mike says:

    It is puzzling (until one considers its infernal source) how the specious “Spirit of Vatican II” can jettison distinctive religious dress with one hand and clutch it with the other.

  4. Ben Yanke says:

    Altar girls shold be encouraged to wear cassocks in the sanctuary just as soon as their male counterparts are encouraged to put on sun dresses after Mass. Both are equally absurd.

  5. Bosco says:

    Uh oh! Bravely spoken, Father Z.,

    To quote Mr. Spock from the 1967 Star Trek Episode, “The Changeling”:

    “Your logic is impeccable, Captain. We are in grave danger.”

  6. Priam1184 says:

    @Ben Yanke: You are forgetting sir that this is the United States of America in the year of our Lord 2014: some people might take your offhand comment about boys in sun dresses seriously and start doing it!!

    Father if we make this argument about “decorum” then we will have already lost among 90% of the populace: this is probably the most anti-decorous age in the long history man. Make the argument be one about truth and falsehood, not a wholly artificial and mutable concept like decorum.

  7. APX says:

    If you want only males wearing cassocks and albs, then have only male altar servers. It looks really tacky for altar servers to be dressed different.

    I want to encourage more boys to serve and my plan is to select well trained boys from the current corp to wear Cassock & Surplice and serve as a group which should encourage more boys to step up.
    No, I think you’re trying to be elitist. Why not start by having them all trained equally well? This just sounds like an opportunity for pride to seep into some servers.

  8. Our priest dresses up adult female readers in our parish, but thankfully, only for his many ecumenical services elsewhere. After this year’s ecumenical reconciliation service in our “worship space,” I cannot help fearing we will host some sort of ecumenical shindig where our parish’s women will play dress-up.

    Stitch by stitch.

  9. OrthodoxChick says:

    Priam1184,

    “You are forgetting sir that this is the United States of America in the year of our Lord 2014″

    Priam, we aren’t supposed to be calling it “the year of our Lord” anymore. Did you not receive the secular progressive memo from those in charge of the new world order??? All Christian measurements of history, as in B.C. and A.D. have been done away with. The secular world has, for about the past 12-15 years, replaced B.C. & A.D. with B.C. E. (“Before the Common Era”) and C.E. (“Common Era”). Just pick up any public school history book and see for yourself. Or watch one of those fake documentaries on the History channel.

    What are you?? Some kind of faithful Christian or something??!!!!! BTW, I’ll be using both B.C. & A.D. until my dying day – as I’m sure most or all here will. But just so we all keep up with the trash going on around us…

  10. KnightOfTruth says:

    Today Altar Girls in 4 inch, not kidding, heals. Always a shock when not at my home parish of only Altar Boys (15 to 20 per Mass) and over 20% of the Diocese’ vocations. Another local parish has the boys in Cassock and Surplice and the girls in nice Albs. Since making a shift to this model about 3 years ago they have gone from 80% girls 20% boys to 90% boys and 10% girls and now, too, have produced seminarians.

  11. Papabile says:

    I know these are ONLY guidelines from the USCCB (then NCCB) — but they need to be changed.

    Guidelines for Altar Servers

    The following guidelines were prepared by the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy and presented to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops for discussion at the June 1994 Special Assembly on Thursday, June 16, 1994. The suggested guidelines may be used as a basis for developing diocesan guidelines.

    Although institution into the ministry of acolyte is reserved to lay men, the diocesan bishop may permit the liturgical functions of the instituted acolyte to be carried out by altar servers, men and women, boys and girls. Such persons may carry out all the functions listed in no. 100 and nos. 189-193 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal.

    The determination that women and girls may function as servers in the liturgy should be made by the bishop on the diocesan level so that there might be a uniform diocesan policy.
    No distinction should be made between the functions carried out in the sanctuary by men and boys and those carried out by women and girls. The term “altar boys” should be replaced by “servers”. The term “server” should be used for those who carry out the functions of the instituted acolyte.
    Servers should be mature enough to understand their responsibilities and to carry them out well and with appropriate reverence. They should have already received holy communion for the first time and normally receive the eucharist whenever they participate in the liturgy.
    Servers should receive proper formation before they begin to function. The formation should include instruction on the Mass and its parts and their meaning, the various objects used in the liturgy (their names and use), and the various functions of the server during the Mass and other liturgical celebrations. Servers should also receive appropriate guidance on maintaining proper decorum and attire when serving Mass and other functions.
    Since the role of server is integral to the normal celebration of the Mass, at least one server should assist the priest. On Sundays and other more important occasions, two or more servers should be employed to carry out the various functions normally entrusted to these ministers.
    Servers should normally be vested. This is within the tradition of the Church and prevents difficulties regarding appropriate dress for these ministers. All servers should wear the same liturgical vesture.1
    Servers carry the cross, the processional candles, hold the book for the priest celebrant when he is not at the altar, carry the incense and censer, present the bread, wine, and water to the priest during the preparation of the gifts or assist him when he receives the gifts from the people, wash the hands of the priest, assist the priest celebrant and deacon as necessary. When appropriate, a server may also ring a bell as a signal to the faithful.
    Servers respond to the prayers and dialogues of the priest along with the congregation. They also join in singing the hymns and other chants of the liturgy.
    Servers should be seated in a place from which they can easily assist the priest celebrant and deacon. The place next to the priest is normally reserved for the deacon.
    Servers may not distribute holy communion unless they have been mandated for this function by the bishop.
    The Order for the Blessing of Altar Servers, Sacristans, Musicians, and Ushers (Book of Blessings, nos. 1847-1870) may be used before servers first begin to function in this ministry.

    Footnotes

    1″In the diocese of the United States of America, acolytes, altar servers, lectors, and other lay ministers may wear an alb or other suitable vesture or other appropriate and dignified clothing.” (Girm 337)

  12. Imrahil says:

    Forgive me, but I do not see anything specifically masculine in the altar server dress (as it is called) than, yes, that it’s clerical and that clergy is male. Which is another battle, though. Should women be altar servers at all?

    It was the unanimous opinion around here that if so, they would wear altar server dress. The thing is that while the altar girl, as such, was a breach of tradition, the fact that she wears altar server dress was not intended or received as a breach of tradition but just as the (conditionally) natural thing.

    There may be a sense in separating altar servers by their sex with dress (oh yes there may), but let’s face it, this would mean creating a new (rational) tradition, not returning to it. (And if so, please, no “prayer sack”-style albs. Let there be skirts, the regional costume, etc. That would be female.)

    As an aside, the directive mentioned by the dear Papabile that altar boys should not be called altar boys is, even I’d say for those not opposing altar girls, rather dispiritingly on the modernizing gender-mainstreaming pc line.

  13. Volanges says:

    uptoncp says: “But why should that apply to a surplice and not to an alb? Is that not equally a garment of clerics and those substituting for them?”
    ———————–
    IGMR 339. Acolythi, lectores, aliique ministri laici albam vel aliam vestem in singulis regionibus a Conferentia Episcoporum legitime probatam induere possunt.
    GIRM 339. Acolytes, readers, and other lay ministers may wear the alb or other suitable attire that has been legitimately approved by the Conference of Bishops (cf. no. 390).

    So it’s not a exclusively a ‘clerical’ garment. It’s up to the Bishops Conferences to determine how the ministers are dressed in their respective countries and in Canada and the US at least they have decided that the alb is proper to all ministers, instituted or not.

  14. frjim4321 says:

    The guidelines of the USCCB resolve this situation nicely.

    I was at a place where girls wore albs and the boys wore cassock and surplice. It was fairly bizarre. The boys wore red cassocks but then th0se who were favorites of the priest in charge of servers were told to wear black surplices. Then the super-favorites were groomed to be ‘junior emcees,’ turning the pages at the altar etc.

    It caused a lot of consternation on the part of the girls who felt (rightly so) that they were being treated as second-class. It caused grumbling among the parents because it appeared that the priest was favoring the boys.

    Even though the serving program was officially both girls and boys this priest would sneakily stack the schedule on important days (bishop’s visit, pastor’s anniversary, etc.) with all boys.

    I don’t think anything untoward was going on, but there was a lot of talk about this priest’s double standard.

  15. frjim4321 says:

    Oh, and if C&S are clerical by nature (which I don’t agree with) they’re not appropriate for altar servers (even boys) because they are not clerics.

  16. jhayes says:

    ?In the diocese of the United States of America, acolytes, altar servers, lectors, and other lay ministers may wear an alb or other suitable vesture or other appropriate and dignified clothing.” (Girm 337)

    In the most recent version of the GIRM, it is #339, which deletes “other suitable vesture” and leaves the options as just the alb or “other appropriate and dignified clothing” (not vesture).

    339. In the Dioceses of the United States of America, acolytes, altar servers, readers, and other lay ministers may wear the alb or other appropriate and dignified clothing.

    The GIRM also says that the alb is a sacred garment:

    336. The sacred garment common to all ordained and instituted ministers of any rank is the alb, to be tied at the waist with a cincture unless it is made so as to fit even without such.

    When I was an altar server in pre-Vatican II days, we wore cassocks and surplices, but the alb is now universal for altar servers in all the churches I have visited in recent years.

  17. majuscule says:

    Let us pray for the questioner who states: I am taking over the training of our altar
    servers…

    May God help you in implementing the changes. I hope parents of the girls and the boys not chosen for the Cassock Surplice Group will be understanding and will not howl in outrage and throw a spittle flecked nutty.

    I may sound flip but I am serious. We need more brave people like you and you need our prayers.

  18. Volanges says:

    frjim4321, it seems to me that the priest in your anecdote should have just had the spine to rule that girls couldn’t be altar servers. He obviously didn’t want them there and he would have been perfectly within his right as girls only serve at the discretion of the celebrant.

  19. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Why was there such a push to have girls serve in the first place? (No, I don’t mean, “What do the opposing sides say about their adversaries’ motives). On what grounds did the proponents of girl altar boys advance their case to the Roman dicastery, and on what grounds did that dicastery magically find what had been missing previously in our understanding of the relevant canons?

    I seem to recall that the argument had two prongs: 1) the canon doesn’t forbid it, so it must be approved; 2) equality and fairness requires that this old-fashioned idea be jettisoned, as we prepare for the 3rd age of the Church.

  20. gretta says:

    I have heard the reasoning for allowing female altar servers explained this way. The law was changed to permit women to be readers of scripture and extraordinary ministers of communion. These roles are considered to be “greater” roles than that of an altar server, since the role of an altar server is usually performed by a child and is effectively fetching and carrying things for the priest. There is a legal understanding that “if the greater, than the lesser.” So the argument goes that if women are permitted to perform the greater functions of reading the word and distributing communion, then it makes no sense to prohibit them from exercising the lesser role of an altar server.

  21. Gregorius says:

    With all these debates over acolytes, I think many of us miss a very important point that could help solve this issue- serving at the altar is first and foremost a job for adults. I imagine many parents see serving as a child’s function, and thus are more likely to get upset if their darling little girl doesn’t get the same opportunities to participate in church as the boys. I think parish priests should impose a temporary moratorium on children serving, and get the Knights of Columbus or some other adult men to serve for a few months. As the parishioners get used to seeing adult men at the altar, the priest can explain over those months in the homily or in the bulletin the proper history and theology behind serving Mass, plus the current rules laid down by Paul VI. Then the priest can reintroduce boys into serving alongside the men. There could even be father/son serving teams!

  22. vandalia says:

    There is a far simpler solution: Only clerics should be allowed to wear clerical attire.

    I find it hilarious that people are horrified that trivial actions such as using the “orans” position during the Pater Noster or extending hands during a blessing, or using lay EMHC will irrevocably blur the division between clergy and laity, yet kids wearing clerical attire or “substituting for a cleric” do not.

    So if the laity are so gullible about such matters, why should we not automatically EXPECT that members of a parish where servers wear cassock and surplice will assume that an adult male may wear alb and stole and “substitute” for the priest in a case of necessity?

    If demonstrating and reinforcing the distinction between clergy and laity is so critical these days, why take actions that are CERTAIN to result in confusion among the faithful? As I said, there is a very simple solution – if you are not a cleric, do not wear clerical attire.

  23. What is so “bizarre” about boys and girls dressing differently, even when they serve at the altar?

    And I note that when people complained about the boys wearing cassock and surplice, while the girls wore albs, that this somehow meant the girls were second-class. Why not assume the opposite? What’s inherently more “superior” about a cassock-and-surplice?

  24. when i was growing up my brother was an altar boy. I didn’t feel the least bit slighted nor would it have ever occurred to me that i was a 2nd class citizen because he was an altar boy and there was no such thing as an altar girl. In fact i was very proud of my brother to see him in his black cassock with white surplice and his little card he was learning Latin from. I was always free to read the card but not once felt badly because I couldn’t become an altar boy [or altar girl]. Some of the altar boys we had BECAME priests.My brother went onto be a teacher.He was not called to be a priest. If someone would have told me back then we’d have altar girls i would have said no way on earth.

  25. Supertradmum says:

    May I throw in a fox among the chickens? What is really creepy is a woman of 40 something who wears complete acolyte garb and serves in a parish in Kent. She wears the cassock and surplice and the priests of a certain “new” order let her do this.

    Some people remarked to me about the appropriateness of this and I echoed Fr. Z., about masculine garb. Such confusion and to me, this is a scandal.

  26. Supertradmum says:

    PS My above comment begs the question as to when an altar girl becomes an altar woman and should altar women be allowed?

  27. Makemeaspark says:

    At our parish our pastor announced about a year ago that he had ordered Cassock and Surplice for the Altar boys, and that when they arrived boys who were serving would wear them. If a girl or girls were serving all would were the alb. If it were an all boy group they would wear the Cassocks and Surplice.

    There used to be quite a few girls serving at mass. Now there are only an occasional one. Even though Father typically has 5 at the 11 O clock mass and 6 on High Holy days. Keep in mind this is an ordinary form mass. Our pastor has added lots of pomp and majesty to our masses. We in the choir sing lots of chant and some polyphony. No Hagen or Hass. We have the Six candles and crucifix on the altar, a lovely brass holder for the book on the altar.

    About six months ago our Resurecifix was replaced with a large traditional styled Crucifix. YEAH! We have lots of smells and bells. I see our Parish growing and the number of ladies with their heads covered at mass increasing. This has not been done by heavy handed edict but the leading of the Holy Spirit! Pray and God will give the actions, it may take time, lots of time but be faithful!

    https://scontent-b-ord.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn2/t1.0-9/1470205_401910303273683_1199477119_n.jpg Our new Crucifix.

  28. slainewe says:

    I highly agree with Gregorius that “serving at the altar is first and foremost a job for adults.”

    The Mass is Calvary. It is infinitely more serious than any battlefield. Yes, young boys are incorporated into the ranks of soldiers at times, but it is the exception. As cute as little boys look in the Sanctuary, we should remember that they carry the nails for Christ’s Crucifixion. And making any daughter of Mary do this is a total eclipse of manhood.

  29. vetusta ecclesia says:

    As a boy I and my companions took pride in serving the Usus Antiquior (the ony “usus” there was around) competently and with confidence. It lead one to a greater understanding of the liturgy. The problem with the NO is that, despite the sanctuary being frequently filled with an army of servers of both sexes, there is in fact very little for them to do do and few rubrics to get right. Boys, in particular, take pride in getting complicated manoeuvres right.

  30. frjim4321 says:

    What is so “bizarre” about boys and girls dressing differently, even when they serve at the altar?

    And I note that when people complained about the boys wearing cassock and surplice, while the girls wore albs, that this somehow meant the girls were second-class. Why not assume the opposite? What’s inherently more “superior” about a cassock-and-surplice? Fr. Martin Fox

    It’s not unlike the old “separate but equal” argument that everyone knew was a farce.

    The alb is always right, and there’s really no good reason not to use the alb.

    At a previous parish the girls wore a navy skirt and white blouse and the boys wore navy slack and a white shirt. That worked quite well.

  31. amenamen says:

    What is so “bizarre” about boys and girls dressing differently at the altar?

    Gag.
    http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/ugly-brides-7-men-wearing-wedding-gowns

  32. Lavrans says:

    There is no reason for altar girls, period. Serving the altar has a direct connection to the priesthood, as evidenced by surveys and background data on our seminarians nationwide. It is an apprenticeship for the priesthood, which girls cannot share in. The priesthood is not a position of power, but rather a sharing in the priest-victimhood of Christ. Indeed, they are “other Christs” among us. They are male because Christ is male. There is nothing wrong with having the pipeline to future priests be filled with males as well. And as far as dress goes, the cassock and surplice should be reserved for altar boys only. The dress like priests because they are priest apprentices. Perhaps we should call them that and eliminate the ambiguity altogether. A bulletin could read,
    this week at Mass we have Johnny, Jimmy, and Joey as our priest apprentices and Janey and Susie as sacristan and cantor.” Get rid of the term “server” altogether. If nothing else, it will confuse the “less-tradition-minded” priests and liberal laity among us. What would they do then?

    Men and women are different, and so are boys and girls. Equal in dignity, but not the same. Attempting to mask that reality belies a loyalty to political correctness over the truth and reality. When my family and I encounter altar girls, we leave the parish and go elsewhere, for any priest or parish that encourages an untruth is not worth our time or money.

  33. mamamagistra says:

    Regarding boys’ serving (as opposed to adult men), what about the CDW’s 7/21/2001 response to the dubium (which answered in the negative whether priests were obliged to use female altar servers)?

    …such an authorization [to use female altar servers] may not, in any way, exclude men or, in particular, boys from service at the altar, nor require that priests of the diocese would make use of female altar servers, since “it will always be very appropriate to follow the noble tradition of having boys serve at the altar” (Circular Letter to the Presidents of Episcopal Conference, March 15, 1994, no. 2). Indeed, the obligation to support groups of altar boys will always remain, not least of all due to the well known assistance that such programs have provided since time immemorial in encouraging future priestly vocations (cf. ibid.) emphasis added

    Vocations sometimes are discerned at fairly young ages; and a crew of well-trained boys First Communion age through teen-age (and they do stick around when it’s all boys) can serve quite competently.

    The archbishop closed stating that the letter is normative. Wonder what it will take for the USCCB to adjust their guidelines. So sad; there’s nothing like seeing grown women vested, serving the Mass, that is as telling an indicator of the future of that parish.

    The questioner’s plan to vest the boys in cassock and surplus is a good one (And why not all the boys? — there are other ways (e.g., who gets to be thurifer, emcee, etc. to differentiate ranks of boys). Maybe next step would be to grandfather in the already-serving girls but not sign-up new girls.

    – CDW letter is available at http://www.adoremus.org/CDW-AltarServers.html#sthash.XVmAiS01.dpuf

  34. I asked:

    What is so “bizarre” about boys and girls dressing differently, even when they serve at the altar?

    And I note that when people complained about the boys wearing cassock and surplice, while the girls wore albs, that this somehow meant the girls were second-class. Why not assume the opposite? What’s inherently more “superior” about a cassock-and-surplice?

    Fr Jim replied:

    It’s not unlike the old “separate but equal” argument that everyone knew was a farce.

    Oh Father, I’m sorry, but that might be the dumbest thing I’ve seen online in a week.

    Boys and girls dressing differently is like “separate but equal”? Then, no doubt, actually separating boys and girls for various activities is like what? Jim Crow?

  35. Sorry for the italics mess-up.

  36. James Joseph says:

    Girl-altar-boys in clerical dress. I believe this is not accord with ‘synesis’ nor ‘gnome’.

  37. momoften says:

    Girls should not serve at the altar. Period. I heard of a young girl who dressed up in cassock and surplices, was a server, and when she grew up was so disgruntled about not being able to play priest that she became a woman priestess in some denomination. SO –really, do we want our girls to aspire to be priests while grooming them on the altar? It isn’t fair to them, nor the boys to have girls on the altar. I will never forgot my youngest son(at age 6) when he saw a women emcee for a bishop dressed in some
    alb on the altar his words, “WHAT is she doing? Women are not supposed to be priests!!”
    After trying to explain it, I told him to go talk to the Bishop about it. He was right, she should not have been up there in an alb. Grrrrrr.

  38. Supertradmum says:

    Can anyone answer a real question as at what age an altar girl is too old to serve? I mean, does the Church allow altar women?

    Still stuck on this lady in Kent looking like an Anglican priestess…..

  39. momoften says:

    Apparently yes, we have middle aged women serving and high school girls in one parish I know…and in cassock and surplice, really a penitential act to behold. The woman has frizzy graying hair. There is no age limit for altar boys, so why would there be one for women?

  40. FloridaJoan says:

    We too have adult women serving on the altar, in albs . The boys and girls are usually in albs BUT both have sometimes been in cassock and surplice . :-(

    When I attend the not-so-near TLM all that is changed ! That is when I see altar boys in cassock and surplice and sigh a sigh of relief. And, by the way, I also don’t have to witness the bare backed mini dresses or short shorts there, like I do at my home parish. :-(

    pax et bonum

  41. Fr.Jim said: “if C&S are clerical by nature (which I don’t agree with) they’re not appropriate for altar servers (even boys) because they are not clerics.”

    Then what is the alternative? The white alb which are also worn by clerics? Priests wear the white alb beneath their chasuble yet we see girls and boys alike all over the country wearing them to serve. To remain consistent you should insist that altar servers use Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle T-Shirts, flip flops, and cargo shorts; because, according to your line of reasoning, “they are not clerics.”

  42. Fr.Jim,

    Serving Our Lord in the Sanctuary, the Holy of Holies, is a special thing being performed in a special place. Dress should reflect this reality. Wearing “blouses, nice shirts, slacks” are still part of REGULAR attire of the world and should NOT be used in the Sanctuary. When I’m invited to a black-tie affair, I’m not going to find “a nice shirt, and khakis” as a substitute. That would be INAPPROPRIATE and RUDE. When the Church invites servers, not just TO the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, but in addition TO PERFORM AN OFFICIAL FUNCTION IN THE LITURGY as a server at the altar, then the dress should reflect the sublimity of the reality taking place before them.

    Cassocks and Surplice for boys should be the standard norm, because like we respond in the liturgy: “it is right and just.”

  43. msc says:

    Lavrans: I am sorry to hear that. The senior priest (a monsignor) at the church my wife and I usually attend allows altar girls. But despite that, he is the single best model for a wise and charitable priest and Christian I know. On the other hand, the main priest at the church where we regularly went for TLM in another city specialized in rambling, sometimes incoherent sermons, and seems to have forgotten that stuff about God and Love. I think our current monsignor does far more for the faith, despite the Novus Ordo and the occasional Dan Schutte [spelling?] and Marty Haugen “hymns” (which I believe he does not play a role in choosing). Life is a matter of compromises.

  44. jhayes says:

    Can anyone answer a real question as at what age an altar girl is too old to serve?

    Why would someone be too old to serve? A commenter above recommended getting rid of all children altar servers and replacing them with adult altar servers

    Adult women serve as lectors, cantors and EMHCs and can lead a “Communion Service in the Absence of a Priest.” Why would they not be altar servers?

    I don’t know of any age limit.

  45. Cantor says:

    I’m no longer bothered by boys and girls serving, in cassock and surplice. Indeed the finest pair of servers I’ve ever seen is a sister/brother team (now 17/15) that has long set the standard at our parish. Their humility and service is extraordinary, much enhanced by the fact that they’re great kids.

    The ones who bother me are the adult servers who seem to strut around in their “costumes” and exhibit little in the way of understanding their roles on the altar.

  46. Lavrans says:

    Ask young boys if they would prefer altar serving to be “boy’s only” or something they have to do with the girls. I’ve asked middle school boys that question. The answer was a unanimous “keep it boy’s only!” I rest my case. Parishes that have altar boy-girls end up with all girls and no boys. Its not a leadership development position, but an apprenticeship for the priesthood.

  47. Lavrans, you’re absolutely right. I was an altar boy for 10 years and our 3rd grade altar training graduation class before girls started were 100 boys. We were given rings upon graduating that read “Altar Boy” and we wore them with pride and honor. Gone are those days thanks to the Fr.Jims of the world who feign outrage at girls being excluded.

    Fr.Jim said: “It caused a lot of consternation on the part of the girls who felt (rightly so) that they were being treated as second-class. It caused grumbling among the parents because it appeared that the priest was favoring the boys. Even though the serving program was officially both girls and boys this priest would sneakily stack the schedule on important days (bishop’s visit, pastor’s anniversary, etc.) with all boys . . . there was a lot of talk about this priest’s double standard.”

    Fr.Jim, I ask, did St. John Paul II practice a double standard when he wrote in 1980 Inaestimabile Donum, “There are, of course, various roles that women can perform in the liturgical assembly: these include reading of the Word of God and proclaiming the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful. Women are not, however, permitted to act as altar servers.”

    In his Apostolic Letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis (1994), the Saint Pope John Paul II, declared that “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

    The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith made clear in 1995, the statement that the Church has no authority to ordain women as priests, is not merely a matter of Church discipline (which can be changed), but belongs to the deposit of faith (which cannot). “This teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium 25, 2).

    Fr.Jim, is this treating girls as “second class?” Your example of the priest stacking boys was a good example to follow. He was correct to do so and I applaud him for it. His actions are consistent with Saint John Paul II’s statements in both Inestimabile Donum and Ordinatio Sacerdotalis and are held as the definitive position of the Roman Catholic Church. Your positions, Fr.Jim of feigned outrage using the standard of the modern American zeitgeist ARE NOT.

  48. Per Signum Crucis says:

    Thanks to vetusta ecclesia for enquiring exactly what the 15-20 servers (great to hear but…) at KnightOfTruth’s parish actually do? In our principal Sunday Mass, all jobs including thurifer etc can be done by four or five servers max: I have even managed with just two well-trained servers (one girl and one older boy) and myself once. The two cardinal rules I try to apply are: every server should have a job at Mass; and that being a good server is like being a good butler – efficient but discreet.

    As for Supertradmum’s altar woman in my old home county of Kent, is the parish (or that particular Mass(es) she serves at not blessed with many servers?

    Finally, from a purely practical point of view, “potato sacks with cords” are a nightmare especially for last-minute servers to get into (and yes, we do stress they should turn at no later than ten minutes before Mass but…) so I’m definitely with PA mom on that although at present we are a mix of senior servers in cassock and surplice and juniors in albs.

  49. Martin_B says:

    “Say the black – do the red”
    So, if 1) The black (in the US) says that all servers are to wear the same sort of liturgical dress, and 2) you consider cassock and surplices as male dress you only have two options.

    Option 1: Have only male servers and dress them the way you like, or
    Option 2: Have both male and female servers and dress them in Albs.

    One other point: I always hear people in traditional forums talking about “potato-sacks” or similar phrases when referring to the albs of the servers.
    Have you ever tried to dress your servers in traditional albs with amices and cinctures like the ones that are worn by the cantors at recent papal masses?

    BTW: I strongly support Gregorius in his call for adult servers.

  50. cwillia1 says:

    In my Byzantine Catholic parish it seems like every boy who attends regularly wants to serve at the altar. So we have glorious processions for the Little Entrance and the Great Entrance. There are enough older boys so that the 4 year olds can be kept in line. I see a strong message here to the young men that priesthood is a rich and powerful expression of true masculinity. This is reinforced by the fact that the vestments are all the same color.

  51. KnightOfTruth says:

    Thank you Per Signum Crucis and Vetusta Ecclesia for asking. Indeed 20 Altar boys in a church that seats about 400 is a huge number.
    Duties split out something like this:
    1 Leader/coordinator of movements
    1 Processes in and out with the Crucifix
    2 Tend to incense
    4 Carry Acolyte Candles
    6 Handle Patens at Communion
    2 Serve at beginning of Consecration
    1 is responsible for bells (The large outside bell rung 5 minutes before Mass, the smaller bell rung at the beginning of Mass and the bells used at Consecration.)
    Extras observe Communicants to confirm consumption of the Precious Body (and yes Monsignor has had to retrieve Consecrated Hosts from purses and between the pages of books)

    The older boys teach/coach the younger boys. Our seminarians serve when in town and Monsignor uses them as Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist. Very reverent and beautiful.

    On Wednesday nights (Special service as a perpetual Novena to Our Lady of Czestochowa – we are a Shrine) there may be as few as 4 Altar Boys.

    All I can say is that the environment Monsignor has created indeed attracts young men to an honest consideration of the call to a Priestly vocation.

  52. cl00bie says:

    I used to read a blog by a very progressive “liturgist” (two strikes :)) whose albs were getting threadbare, and they wanted to replace them. They were trying to decide if they wanted to replace them with albs or cassock/surplice. The boys and girls, themselves, decided cassock/surplice for the boys, and albs for the girls. Must be the Holy Spirit at work! :)

  53. Supertradmum says:

    Sorry, I highly dislike female servers and wish that the minor orders were never separated from the training of seminarians. Can we go back to that?

  54. Volanges says:

    Supertradmum says: Sorry, I highly dislike female servers and wish that the minor orders were never separated from the training of seminarians. Can we go back to that?
    ————
    Not sure what that would accomplish. Most parishes would still never see a real acolyte.

    What might work is more bishops consenting to institute men as permanent Lectors and Acolytes. Or priests simply saying “No more female altar servers.”

    I have no dog in this fight as my kids are grown up (daughter served, sons weren’t interested) and I have no interest in serving (did it once or twice when there was nobody else). I have no problem with female altar servers (children or adults) but if Fr. decided tomorrow that he wanted only boys I’d be fine with that too. I simply cannot get stressed over this. As long as they do it well, I don’t care who is up there. The best altar server I ever saw was my dad. He did it for 28 years before I was born and then probably an extra 10 after he retired. The rest pale by comparison.

  55. Bonomo says:

    I do find some of this a bit confusing. My impression has generally been that the alb is not not a clerical garment, but a white garment that is supposed to remind of our baptism. The cassock I’ve generally thought of as a base garment intended to simply cover whatever is underneath, and that the surplice is a stylized alb. These things I’ve thought of as “liturgical dress” (used by choirs in some places). I’ve never thought of any garment being particularly clerical until one gets to the amice, stole, chasuble, etc. I will note that the first time I wore an alb with a cincture was when serving Mass at the Catholic chapel aboard Camp LeJeune Marine Corps Base at the age of 17 and 18. The reason was simple: all of the cassocks and surplices were too small for me. That was a necessity of sorts, but I’ve never cared for wearing albs (especially badly made ones) when serving Mass. I was quite happy to see cassocks and surplices return to Holy Redeemer a couple of decades ago.

    Having noted my impressions of albs, cassocks, and surplices, I am surprised to see them officially referred to as uniquely (?) “clerical,” though I know that many have always thought of them that way. St. Josemaria Escriva directed the men serving at the altars in the chapels of which he had charge to wear secular attire (a coat and tie usually) when serving Mass. He certainly classified albs, cassocks, and surplices as clerical, and did not want laymen in his charge wearing them, ever.

    I will add my voice to those who think that serving at the altar should be reserved to male human beings who have reached a minimum age and competence. I think it forces clergy who care (and not all do) to reach out to boys and men, from whose ranks future priests come. Allowing clergy to allow females to serve is certainly convenient: the girls and women may show more enthusiasm at times, bathe more frequently (usually), and are, usually, a greater pool from which to draw candidates. However, in this as in so many other matters, short-cuts often wind up being a bad idea.

  56. slainewe says:

    Bottom line: Ever girl who serves takes the place of a boy who may have a vocation. It contradicts women’s primary responsibility of being the ones who say “yes” with Mary to HER SON’S (not her) crucifixion by encouraging men to serve.

    (So much of feminism is simply the imitation of Satan who was not satisfied with the role God gave him, but wanted what he perceived to be the starring role. The feminist prefers to PLAY a misbegotten man than to BE a woman.)

  57. Per Signum Crucis says:

    KnightOfTruth,

    Ah, that explains it, thanks. I had also wondered if you operated on a rota so that non-active servers one week are active the week after. My NO parish doesn’t have patens; the two acolytes can also carry out the offertory; and the MC may also be the crucifer or thurifer; all as required. We are, however, getting a small increase in servers so that jobs can be allocated more evenly.

    slainewe,

    I am sorry but, with the deepest respect, I believe that if a vocation is there, it is there and would not fail principally because of the presence of female altar servers. Serving is indeed a privileged window into the priesthood but boys leave for a variety of reasons; I’ve never yet had it said to me that it was “because of the girls”.

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  59. Lavrans says:

    Per Signum Crucis said, “I’ve never yet had it said to me that it was “because of the girls”.”

    I have. So I guess that blows that argument up.

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