Observations of a priest new to the TLM

From a priest reader:

I hope priests continue to write in.  I would like their contributions to be a regular feature here.

Fr. Z.,

I am a pastor who recently began offering Mass in the Extraordinary Form.

In fact, today marked my third Sunday! I have a reflection on my experience that I’d like to share with you. It is, perhaps, related to the story on the altar rail you posted recently. [Here and here.]

Offering Mass in the EF is difficult. I think I spent a few hours learning the OF. In fact, in a couple of hours, anyone could learn to do all the page turning and gestures of the OF. On the other hand, I spent probably 20 to 30 hours learning the EF.

Also, you would have the add the three years I spent studying Latin in the Seminary.

My point is simply this: whether consciously or unconsciously, there is no one in the congregation who could say "I could do that.

In the EF the priest and the people would sense more strongly that the priest is doing something out of the ordinary (no pun intended); that he is doing something that no one else could do.

This practical reality helps to disclose his ontological reality.  Just thought I’d share that with you.

Thanks for that!  And keep up the good work!


In his observation that the Ordinary Form is so simple that anyone could learn to do it in a short period of time, the writer brings to my mind a serious error made by those who support the ordination of women and those who don’t grasp what a "minister" is the in Catholic sense.

Priesthood and ministry are not merely grounded in "doing stuff".  If that were the case, then it would make sense to put in those positions the people who do the better job of it.  Saying Mass, or being a minister in the deeper sense goes beyond simply being the one who can do the job better than others who might have been chosen.

I think this could also apply to the "altar girl"/server issue.  Just because some girls could do a better job serving than some boys of the same age doesn’t mean that it is a good thing for girls to serve Mass.

At a certain point we must check ourselves to see if we are falling into this trap when we consider ministry in the Church.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Karen says:

    Yeah, sure. Why not? So much fun to explain to a girl while Jesus wouldn’t really want her handing Him the cruet. [This is just silly.] Oh, she *could* hand Him the cruet, but she’s lacking that all important genitalia. So much more fun to hang out the “no girls allowed” club. Just remember, those girls will likely grow up to have children themselves and the primary responsibility [as in most families] of passing down the faith. “Mommy, why can’t I serve Mass, the boys aren’t clerics.”
    “because why”
    “because your brother won’t grow up to be a priest if you serve Mass”
    “how’s that? so because he’s insecure in his masculinity, I can’t serve Mass?”

    Let’s hope she has a strong belief in the Eucharist to put up with that and bears it as another cross.

    It’s one thing to exclude women from the priesthood if there is not the confidence to know that women can be ordained. But to forbid what can be can well induce unnecessary anger at the church. It’s social custom pure and simple. Must have had an all male wait staff at the last supper. But I bet the women got stuck washing the dishes. [cliché ]

  2. Ray from MN says:

    I suspect the prohibition of women priests is only one of many issues opposing Church teaching and practices held strongly by women who are really upset by the ban.

    The same is true for homosexual men who are upset that they can’t be priests.

  3. Karen says:

    BTW, I was a little surprised the priest felt this way. I’m surprised he didn’t feel that he was the only one who could do it was because he was he only one present ordained!!

    [In other words, if someone in the congregation HAS studied Latin, and happens to know the rubrics well, is he then going to start feeling not unique?]

    I’d think the rubrics and the Latin would be the LEAST of the preparation. What about all the theology, and commitment to living a celibate life and giving of himself as a gift to the people? One would think that would be the harder part!

  4. It’s much more than what is visible to the eye going on at the altar. IF we really knew what was truly going on at the altar, I don’t think any of us would be anywhere but Mass.

    Women by their very nature tend to step up and do things when they see things not being done. Hence when the lack of males serving at the altar, women stepped up to serve. This is a laudable…however leadership skills with males takes time to develop. This is why most women will marry older guys, because the level of maturity is much greater than that of a guy the same age as her.

    It’s not about power struggle, or boys can only do this, rather it’s about understanding the very nature of man and women are different. If Jesus was female, this entire argument would be reversed. Yet, I don’t believe that males would complain in the same manner. Mainly due to the fact that, I believe that males go more “if it makes sense, then go.” We don’t tend to react to situations emotionally, but rather with a more linear style of thinking.

  5. That being said…IMHO as someone whose taken time to study the rubrics and Latin intensively, that\’s the part I find the easiest with the EF. (I serve at the EF, and I believe that it\’s important for us as servers to know what\’s going on at every single detail)

    The theology behind every single action I figure is what takes more to learn, and is much more difficult than the actual rubrics themselves…as you say there\’s more to being a priest than just \”doing stuff\”

  6. Ben Trovato says:

    Karen: you would do well to understand the arguments against the presence of females in the sanctuary before you attack the tradition. You have set up a straw man and then destroyed it. That will only persuade the ignorant and those who are already convinced that the Church’s tradition is more rich in oppression than in wisdom.

  7. Maura says:

    I want to share a personal story of being an altar girl and how it in turn confused me for a long while. When I was in middle school, I wrote to a parish priest and asked why I couldn’t be an altar server. No one explained it to me. They just said I couldn’t because only boys were allowed… and that this might change. Once in high school, girls were allowed and the parish priest told me to sign up… so I did.

    I don’t know if I did more as a reaction or as a desire to serve. But from this, I questioned why women couldn’t be priests since, after all, we could assist at Mass now. There were plenty of female disciples and Jesus first appeared to a woman after he rose from the dead. Since then, I came to understand a few fundamental differences between males and females, and also reasons for priestly celibacy. I also came to understand why all the Apostles were men. Christ had his reasons for this. We may not know all of them, but we know many.

    Females are naturally inclined to service. We nurture and care for our families, take care of the sick, enjoy giving to others. Males need a little more coaxing toward service. In many parishes, the introduction of altar girls has diminished altar boys and this is a tragedy. We need more priests, not less. Boys need a little push to serve; girls want to jump right in and help (admittedly a generalization). It should be encouraged for boys to look up to priests as strong, masculine role models. Exclusive boys clubs (and exclusive girls clubs, for that matter) are important. They help build character and encourage the proper expression of masculine and feminine identity.

    Sure a girl could hand the priest a cruet. But that is not the lesson here. Being an altar server is the perfect training ground for much needed priests. And it was God’s intention understood through Divine Grace that priest should be men. It’s not at all about excluding girls, but including boys.

  8. Peg says:

    It has been said over and over again (but some of us still don’t get it)that the Blessed Virgin Mary of all creatures ever created (even angels)was the most worthy to assume the priesthood and yet it was not given to her. Tradition has it that St. John the Evangelist was her priest. Why? God has his reasons, so why do some of us still fulminate?

  9. Amy H says:

    I think what the above comments need to remember is the key statement in this Father’s letter: “This practical reality helps to disclose his ontological reality.”

    Of course the theology behind every action is the most difficult because it’s the most important part to understand — but this priest seems to be, as a shepherd of a flock, rightfully concerned about how to impart and enact this theology in the concrete worship of the faithful. He didn’t seem to be saying he was special because he understood difficult rubrics; but rather, the fact that his ordination makes him a bearer of Christ in the sacraments is more apparent to the congregation when he is saying a mass that is outside the everyday actions/experience of most lay people. He said we can “SENSE more strongly that the priest is doing something … that no one else could do,” that the surface-level experience of fancy Latin (fancy to your average bear) helps guide our minds and hearts to the theological reality that he is the only one who can do it by virtue of his ordination, the indelible mark on his soul and the powers granted by God.

  10. Amy H says:

    To address the comments made by Karen: first of all, the tone is completely disrespectful. If you are really in this fight because you want to serve God and be near to Him in the Eucharist, you’ve got to cut the pride and sarcasm in the face of His representatives.

    Secondly, the imagined scenario in which the mother has no theological answer to give to her would-be altar server daughter simply shows that the hypothetical mother does not understand the answer — not that there isn’t one. Your understanding seems to be that the only thing keeping girls from being altar servers (and, one could continue, by logical extension, keeping women from becoming priests?) is “that all-important genitalia” — an assumption that is as shallow as it is insulting to the tradition of Holy Mother Church. No one who believes in the intrinsic unity of the body and soul can seriously believe the Church distinguishes between men and women simply because of their “genitalia.” There is a mystery in the difference of a woman and a man in the eyes of God, and theologians have been working for thousands of years to try to discover some greater insight into this mystery. One guide is the fact that, as Joe points out, Christ Himself was a man, and he instituted the sacrament of His Body and Blood to men, his apostles. Your comment that He “must have had an all male wait staff at the last supper” is an apt one, for He did: in the first and forebears of His holy priesthood, His Apostles. Their descendants, our priests, are his divine “waitstaff” in this world, bearing us His Bread of Life. And for that He chose men. Like it or not, it is something we have to accept (hopefully with good grace and gratitude), and it is wiser to try do discover the reason that He did this than to second-guess his appointed descendants guiding us today.

    Now I realize that I am potentially bleeding together what you left as distinct categories: that is, you never claimed that women should be ordained, simply that they should be altar servers. I don’t want to undermine that, or imply that you are being disobedient to the Church’s directives. But in my mind the distinction is not very meaningful, because the very mystical reason that makes men the most appropriate — in fact, the rightful — bearers of the sacraments is true for all men, of all ages, in all capacities of serving the altar. If a man is the only one who can [be ordained to be able to] pour the wine and consecrate the Blood of Our Lord, according to his nature as a man, then a young man is the only one who should hand him the cruet to do it. The role of the altar server is simply too close (spatially and theologically, to a degree) to the role of the priest to warrant a complete change in the nature of the person filling that role.

    This is my small attempt to puzzle out the theological reason behind the Holy Tradition of our Church. The true purpose of male altar servers may be something far different from what I have been able to reason out, but believe that our Holy Mother Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, had a reason beyond simple “social custom.” That is one Mother who has the absolute “primary responsibility … of passing down the faith,” as you say — and it is our duty to try to understand the teachings she brings us of God.

  11. musicus says:

    Learning the EF has provided me insight into the NO. It seems that the “hermeneutic” behind the NO is Mass-facing-the-people with its accompanying house-cleaning of the Latin and most of the marvelous gestures and bowings. This is entirely ironic, because there is nothing about versus populum in the call for reform in SC.

  12. Amy H says:

    Ah, sorry for the mini-essay. I was just reaching for what Ben, Maura, and Peg said more succinctly.

    Although I might disagree with Maura’s comment that girls are more inclined to service than boys. Perhaps it is just as true that girls are more inclined to pride in this area? And impatience with our leaders? We always need to remember the New Eve’s humility, so that we will not reenact the first Eve’s sin.

  13. Peg says:

    Well done!

  14. Karen says:

    Amy, I think girls should be allowed to serve Mass, for the same reasons boys serve Mass. i.e. to LEARN THE MASS BETTER. It has sickened me the number of women who think, for instance that holy water goes in the water cruet. A former server would never think that. And yet I run across grown women who think that. I want children of both sexes to learn and love the Mass at an intimate level.

    Separate girl/boy groups do have their place. But there is NO equivalent for girls to learn and know the Mass on such an intimate basis.

    Do boys stop wanting to become doctors because more women have become doctors? Do boys stop wanting to become big league ball players because a 10 year old girl might play on the team when they’re young?

    If a boy is meant to grow up to be a man who wants to be a priest, nothing should stop him. With a little effort you can find a little something for them all to do.

    And no, I do not argue that women should be priests. It’s quite one thing to respect the argument that we don’t know if we have the authority to do that. There may well be a reason why JEsus didn’t pick women for priests – who knows? some creeps might get their jollies by confessing weird sexual sins. We just don’t know. It may be for the same reason that you wouldn’t cast Julie Andrews to play Captain Von Trapp. I respect that logic and boundary. But I do not respect so much the argument “because the boys have to have 100% of the club house. Because. Just because.”

    How great it is to see a child of either sex be taken from the general congregation, where s/he has been having wandering attention, little understanding of why things are done and when they are done … to within a year being able to anticipate the priest’s needs and paying rapt attention at Mass. And if done right, learning to love the Mass instead of being dragged to Mass.

  15. Andrew says:

    Reading some of the exchanges here concerning servers, there seems to be a common thread along the “learning role” of the server. I think this points to a much larger failure in catechesis. Being of the post-VII generation I cannot speak for what came before, but I can say that catechesis, either in formal sessions or through homilies, is sadly lacking. I understand that we do learn by doing, but if we need to have servers (of either sex) serving for the sake of learning about the Mass then we’ve reached a sad state.

    I’m not trying to indicate that the above readers think that this is the only role of the server – not at all. I’m attempting to point out some of the implications of the statement. I have never served, but have been blessed to be interested in liturgical history and so come to love and understand the Mass that way. One would think that a great deal of learning about the Mass could go on outside of serving it. Even the priest, about whom this post started, highlighted how much he had to learn before saying the Mass. I think that all this points to the decline of good catechesis. This might also be due to problems in Catholic education systems, but mindful of Fr Z’s rabbit-hole rule I’ll stop. Some of the blame for this may belong to the OF as commonly celebrated. If all priests “said the black; did the red” then we could learn from the OF just as we do from the EF rather than facing a novel experience in every church in which we worship.

  16. Maureen says:

    Karen, if you think girls should serve in order to learn the Mass intimately, then you’re saying:

    A) All girls and boys should serve. No exceptions.
    B) Serving is more intimate than being a member of the congregation.

    This is dangerously close to saying that being in the sanctuary is more religious than being laity, and that’s the first step to clericalism. It’s also dangerously close to disrespecting the traditional devotional means of becoming more intimate with Christ, and more interested in the Mass. This is not to disrespect your experience… but it’s like saying that the only way to learn science is to play with chemicals in the lab, when that doesn’t teach very much about physics or astronomy except in a tangential way.

    There is more to Mass than mechanics. They are holy and important mechanics, but that’s not all that’s going on.

    As a child, I could “see” a lot more of Mass by prayer and meditation in my pew than I ever could have seen by being forced to carry out ritual actions in full view of five hundred people. I would have learned a lot about clumsiness, humiliation, tripping, and dropping things. (You don’t even want to know the sorts of things I’ve managed to do as a cantor. And the walking and bowing part of that is not exactly a complicated activity.) If someone forced me to become a server as part of my religious education, I would have had to cut my throat or become an Episcopalian. The very thought of being an adult acolyte will probably give me nightmares this evening.

    Why can’t we all just love and appreciate the holiness of our own vocations? Why are we always trying to pretend that the hand is holier than the eye?

    Maybe your girls were meant to serve, since God permitted the law to change. Serving yourself or letting your girls serve is certainly a valid choice for you, seeing as it’s currently permitted by canon law. But whether or not this “experimentum” becomes a blip in church history or not, it’s certainly not surprising if some people feel it should be a blip. And it’s certainly not strange if the vast majority of Catholics have not served — even among boys, even in the old days — and if they still find intimacy with the Eucharist.

    I do find it kinda weird that you’d think serving would mean somebody’d learn to know all about the Mass. Only if the priest cares about the rubrics, my friend! Otherwise, what gets engrained in the server is _bad_ information. Lots of it.

  17. Maureen says:

    It occurs to me that one of the things I’ve gathered about the old days might be wrong.

    Tell me, isn’t it true that in the old days, most boys didn’t serve? That it was a privilege to be picked as a boy who was mature enough to be trusted with the important job, and smart or persistent enough to say the Latin? And isn’t that why we have the perpetual chorus of “I was an altarboy” when men want to talk up their Catholic credentials?

    Whereas nowadays, of course, all the kids can sign up for various jobs, and thus it wouldn’t occur to me to trumpet to the skies that I was a lector in seventh grade. :)

  18. Karen: I think girls should be allowed to serve Mass, for the same reasons boys serve Mass. i.e. to LEARN THE MASS BETTER.

    That is not why anyone serves Mass.

    Mass is not a didactic moment.

    It’s quite one thing to respect the argument that we don’t know if we have the authority to do that.

    This is the second time you have made a comment like this, namely, with the suggestion that the Church “doesn’t know if” women can be ordained.

    That is quite false, and I think you know that it is false.

    It is a matter of infallible teaching, as the CDF explained, and it was precisely what John Paul II clarified in Ordinatio sacerdotalis: the Church does not have the authority to ordain women.

    “Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare 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.”

    So… that is that. We need not let this trouble us again and I trust that you will no longer make this mistake – at least around here.

  19. Origen Adamantius says:

    I have several random thoughts on the things presented.

    1) Priestly identity should not be dependent on the ability to do obscure (from the point of the people present) things. THere are plenty of people who actually are well versed in the theology of the EF. The simplicity (relative to the EF) of the OF is interesting considering how many are unable to follow the rubrics. Ignorance and obscurity do not make good arguments for the distinctiveness of the ordained priesthood to those who have lost that understanding–rather we need to reclaim the true understanding of sacrament. It is necessary to be a human being to be a priest. Those who share in the priesthood of Jesus the High priest sing his humanity-the incarnate son.

    2) Not every disagreement in the Church necessitates that one side is with the Church and the other is automatically against the Church: “cut the pride and sarcasm in the face of His representatives.” As ever, which representatives? Those that allowed altar servers-with permission from Rome? THose Bishops that place obstacles in the way the EF contrary to rome? THose who agree with ROme only when Rome agrees with them?

  20. Lucia says:

    Frankly, I think that if people are getting hostile over roles in the Mass, they are completely missing the point.

  21. Kathleen says:

    Maureen: “Tell me, isn’t it true that in the old days most boys didn’t serve?”

    I think it depended upon the number of boys available, i.e., how large the
    school was. My grade school in the early 50’s had 100 students, K-8, and I’m
    pretty sure nearly all boys served. There were two daily morning Masses, and
    and boys (I think starting in 5th grade) served in one-week rotations. Four boys per
    week, you would have need for most of the boys in that age group. There were
    three Sunday Masses. The boys all did very well. I think at larger schools,
    there was selectivity in choosing altar boys.

    At my current parish, the school has 400 students, allows altar girls, and must
    resort to adults(males) to serve the two daily (a.m. and p.m.) Masses. At a
    meeting last summer I asked why students don’t serve, and did not get any
    satisfactory answer.

  22. TAAD says:

    Just a dad’s point of view. When I was growing up as a young boy I wanted to do what other men did. I didn’t want to be caught doing anything that girls did. You can call it what you will, but it is fact, that boy’s will tend to want to do what other boys do, not what girls do. So what is happening is that as more girls serve you will have a slow, silent withdraw from serving. I see it happening. Even in other area’s men will tend to leave it when women take over. Not out any sexism ideology, but just out of our nature. As someone said above, if something is being handled, men will leave it go. It’s in our nature to act in certain ways.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the Mass have to do with Christ the Bridegroom and His Bride the Church. So how can a woman be a bridegroom? A woman can’t be wed to another bride.

  23. paul says:

    I just really believe it is strange seeing girls dress up as boys, just my opinion. Next, the Mass is the re-presentation of Calvary- I don’t remember hearing that there were boys or girls there. I say do away with altar servers- have only priests/ deacons up at the altar. Perhaps there could be a common group that the church could put together outside of Mass for the kids to join and feel a part of the church. I think a charitable group visiting the elderly would be great.

  24. One minor quibble:

    I think I spent a few hours learning the OF.

    Unless this priest was a very recent convert, he has attended hundreds of masses in the OF. To pick some arbitrary figures: if we suppose he started paying attention to Mass at age five, and was ordained at age 25, and attended Sunday Masses but never weekday masses, that’s 1,040 Masses he has attended. So what he really means is, “After spending a thousand hours watching and listening to the Ordinary Form, it only took a few hours of conscious study to learn how to preside at it.”

    I’m a layman and was never an altar boy, but I could probably recite Eucharistic Prayers 2, 3, and possibly even 1 without a text.

    On the other hand, not only is much more of the priest’s spoken text sub secreto in the EF, but many of his gestures are not obvious to the congregation.

    Just a quibble, which doesn’t affect the main point of this post!

  25. Origen Adamantius says:

    The groom/ bridegroom metaphor can only be taken so far (if disconnected from the humanity of Christ); otherwise one could argue that men do not belong to the church, after all men cannot be brides. Properly speaking, both men and women as part of the Church the bride of Christ. A priest, who signs Christ in his concrete humanity, does participate in the role of Christ the bridegroom but only after being part of the bride the Church.

    An altar server does not signify sacramentally Christ the high priest. However, there are strong indicators that service to the altar leads to vocations.

  26. Karen says: Just remember, those girls will likely grow up to have children themselves and the primary responsibility [as in most families] of passing down the faith. “Mommy, why can’t I serve Mass, the boys aren’t clerics.”

    Using this rationale, what happens when your daughter is 18 and ask, “Mommy – why can’t I be a priest?” What then, will you tell her? The Church is clear about an all male priesthood and that is a dead issue.

    There are humble responses to this kind of thing and there are prideful responses. Mommy’s explanation at a young age can create acceptance or resentment in her daughter. The first step is for parents, especially mothers, to accept it should a bishop or pastor exercise their legitimate right to an all male corp of servers. When parents accept it, so will the vast majority of children because parents will discover, with prayer, just the right way to bring them along.

  27. M. Sheiko says:

    Thank you for posting this, Father. We all need to show more gratitude for our priests! I remember years ago my pastor telling me about one of the elderly Hispanic women at his parish who asked to kiss his hands that bring us Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. He was so humbled! It made me realize how we always need to treat our priests.

  28. TJM says:

    This altar girl issue is soooooo bogus. My 3 brothers and I were altarboys. My sister, who is a very faithful Catholic NEVER said she wanted to serve at the altar (she re-confirmed that to me recently). Neither did any of her numerous girl friends we hung out with. This concept was almost undoubtably instilled in some young girls by older women with an agenda – i.e. the demolition of the all male priesthood. I suspect this began with liberal nuns who tried to mix apples with oranges – civil society norms versus Church norms. It’s the same type of argument advanced for gay marriage – it’s a civil right! How could you be against civil rights, except these folks conveniently overlook centuries of religious belief that the primary purpose of marriage is to procreate. Tom

  29. mcitl says:

    St. Therese wanted to be a priest. For the right reasons.

    She could not be a priest. For the right reasons.

    She became a great and powerful saint without becoming a priest. For the right reasons.

    Would that all of us would seek first, as she did, to be love in the heart of the Church.

    Then all other things would be given us besides.

    Whether or not we are priests.

  30. Jayna says:

    In my parish the number of girls and boys serving seems to be about even. Given the extremely progressive leanings of my parish, I’m actually surprised the number of boys is that high. It definitely could be worse. I myself serve Mondays at our noon Mass, but I must stress that it is only because my priest asked me to (I think shanghaied is actually a better way to put it). I can say with absolute certainty that I’m not taking the position away from any potential future priests (nor am I taking it away from any males who want to do it, I would certainly step aside if any of them did). If any of the men who attend daily Mass in my parish wanted to be priests, they probably should have gone into seminary about 50 years ago.

    I’d also like to add that as a child, when girls were not allowed to serve, I can say that I felt no need or desire to. It just was what it was and I accepted it. And to tell you the truth, to me it still looks weird to see girls serving the altar on Sundays. I think that weirds me out more than my serving on weekdays because they’re wearing albs and, for me, seeing females wearing anything resembling clerical clothing comes across as profoundly and utterly wrong.

  31. It is necessary, of course, to separate the issue of female priests from that of female servers. The Church’s teaching on female priests is clear and indisputable. This is not, however, the case with female servers. The following points may prove helpful:

    The Order of Priest is divinely established. The Order of Acolyte (no longer recognised in Canon Law) was established by the Church.

    There is a principle which states “Quod Ecclesia fecit Ecclesia facere potest” i.e. “what the Church has done the Church can do.” Clearly the Church has allowed female servers, at least in the OF. Thus there is no question but that hte Church can also allow female servers in the EF.

    One serves Mass because one has a vocation to do so. Servers may be chosen so that they will learn more about the Mass or, in the case of males, so that any priestly vocation they may have may be nourished or for many other reasons, not least that servers are required to carry out the rite properly. But whatever may be the ostensible reason the fact is they are exercising a Liturgical ministry and they are doing so because they have the vocation to do so. Thousands of females are now serving Mass. In one way or other they have felt called to do so (just like boys) and the legitimate Church authorities have admitted them to the exercise of this ministry. Ontologically this constitutes a vocation.

    Let me make it clear that all of what I have said so far is not meant to argue for or against females serving in the EF. Certainly long standing custom is against it and this is but one of many things that need to be considered when making the decision as to whether to admit women to serve in the Usus Antiquior or not. But what I hope I have made clear is that there is nothing intrinsiclally against it and the Church is within it’s right to decide either way.

    Now, were I to argue in any way in favour of admitting females it would be simnply to point out that female servers have for some trime been considered to be a normal phenomenon just as the participation of women in so many other aspects of society, and even the Church is now taken for granted.

    As a result, the exclusion of female servers from the Usus Antiquior in 2008 would not likely be perceived in the same way it was 50 years ago. Females make up a good many members of the Church. My one and only concern is whether or not excluding females from the sanctuary in the EF would work to the detriment of that Use by causing females to reject it. Fortunately I believe we can rest confident in the wise judgement of Papa Ratzinger in this matter.

  32. avecrux says:

    Origen Adamantius –
    I think it is fair to critique Karen’s post as Amy H did.
    Karen posted a hypothetical conversation in which a mother confirms to her daughter that she cannot serve at Mass due to boys (in this hypothetical, her brother) being insecure in their masculinity. That is not catechesis taken seriously by a woman (whom Karen suggests has the primary responsibility for handing on the faith).

    Could it be, rather, that men become troubled when women who may be angry about their femininity desire to insert themselves into masculine roles? Femininity requires receptivity and vulnerability. Receptivity and vulnerability often lead to pain and hurt. Pain and hurt often lead to anger. Then we see women hardening themselves and no longer being vulnerable and receptive, justifying their grasp at control through arguments of utility. Thus, difficulties between the sexes only become more extreme.

    It is true that females are permitted to serve but there still remains a stated preference in favor of males.
    Much like Communion in the hand. It is permitted.
    We are also permitted (in our diocese) to miss Mass on All Saints Day this year because it falls on a Saturday.
    That doesn’t mean it is best.

  33. Guy Power says:

    Karen says …Oh, she could hand Him the cruet, but she’s lacking that all important genitalia.

    To paraphrase a punchline I heard regarding a similar statement, the priest responds: “Mercy! I use my hand for that!”

  34. Michael says:

    DAVID O’ROURKE, you say: “Clearly the Church has allowed female servers, at least in the OF.” Your “at least” suggests that the Church might have allowed female servers in the EF as well which is not true. In point of fact, we all know that by allowing female servers in the OF the Roman authorities (the “Church”, in your terminology) have bowed down to an illegitimate fait accompli pressure after at least two documents explicitly had forbidden it, as it was the case with many other matters, like Communion in the hand, Communion under both kinds, lay ministers, “intercommunion”, new Eucharistic prayers etc. I see in your “at least” the beginning of the same kind of pressure.

    I think that the current permision of women altar servers is a temporary concession to pressure, “ad experimentum”, but somebody might wish to comment.

    I see no logic in your “Quod Ecclesia fecit Ecclesia facere potest”, applied to the EF, because “the Church” has never “done” it. We want to recover the illegally suppressed treasure, and the worst way of doing it would be to mess with it at the very outset.

    The value of the Tridentine Mass is exactly in that it is the living witness of the present Church with the Church of the by-gone ages. Even in a secular sphere any piece of antique is valued as it is, if it is preserved in its original form, and the TLM is more than the peace of antique.

    It has also ecumenical implications. It is well known that the Orthodox authorities and theologians have welcomed the Summorum Pontificum as a sign that the Catholic liturgy is coming back to its senses. In their canons a woman is not permitted even to enter the Sanctuary. We can forget about reunion if we tamper with the TLM. As far as they are concerned the OF is unacceptable, and rightly so

  35. Origen Adamantius says:


    THere is nothing wrong with offering critique, however, assuming character flaws in those you disagree with is problematic.

    Within the CHurch receptivity is not exclusive to females, as members of the bride of Christ, all catholics, both male and female, are called to receptivity.

    If something is permitted by the Church (whether or not I or anyone else agrees), then following it is valid within the Church. Why imply that they are automatically acting out of hurt or anger or they are women who are trying to become men?

  36. Agnes says:

    At least where I come from, women provide for the strong spiritual support of the parish. We are the catechists, the volunteers, and the prayer warriors working the beads every morning or at daily Mass. Many of us have large families or are elderly. Many of us pursue an intimate relationship with the Lord from the back pew with squirmy babies.

    Are you proposing to tell me women are not doing enough for the building up of the Body of Christ? That by sitting in the pew we are somehow marginalized members of the Body? Do I really want that sense filtering into my daughters?

    I heartily disagree! The priests and altar boys can keep their jobs – If anything, I need to do LESS stuff!

  37. Tina in Ashburn says:

    Agnes: “I need to do LESS stuff!”
    Amen to that sistah’!

    Like everything else wrong in the Church, much of the mistakes come from the hierarchy and clergy. The wrong stuff is either promoted or allowed by men in authority.

    Yes, perhaps modernized nuns pushed for girl servers, but the clergy and hierarchy didn’t stop it. [Blessedly, this Arlington Diocese didn’t allow altar girls until very recently. How I love the parishes that still stick with this here.]

    I’ve said this in other threads on the female role subject, when a man figures out that a woman can do it, then a woman ends up doing it. {yes there are exceptions!} Its not that the men start doing the dishes, housecleaning, and nurturing the children when we go to work – nope, we are expected to do both.

    This pestilence dates back to Adam when he abdicated his position of authority and listened to Eve… and then blamed the situation on her. C’mon guys. Get with it – if a vacuum occurs from lack of boys, then too bad. Leave it empty until a male steps up.

    Can’t we girls stick together and do our real jobs and leave the men something to do?

    Now back to the subject, God Bless this dear priest saying the EF. A priest here recently told me it would take a year to learn the old Mass and he seemed overwhelmed at the prospect along with the daily grind of parish work. I hope there will be more encouragement that the EF doesn’t take forever to learn, although it is more complex than the OF [sheesh, at least it doesn’t present the labyrinth of OF options]. But now that I think of it, it appears that the Latin is the tougher part.

  38. avecrux says:

    Origen Adamantius –
    Would you accept a catechetical lesson which stated that only boys could serve at the altar because they are insecure in their masculinity? How about a catechetical lesson which reduced sexual difference to “genetalia”? Karen offered just that.
    Such erroneous and incomplete statements do not accord with truth.
    If you would like to read a good book on the origin of error, try Fr. Thomas Dubay’s “Faith and Certitude”.
    Most error resides in the will and it often stems from hurt and anger.

  39. Charivari Rob says:


    Thoughtful and analytical.

    Thank you.


  40. avecrux says:

    David O’Rourke, I’m not understanding what you say about a serving being a vocation, ontologically.
    I thought ontological changes were effected in the soul by the sacramental character – thus, through the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders, ontological changes occur.

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