Altar Boy Stats FOLLOW UP (and fun photo)

Remember the post about the number of altar boys increasing when there are no girls on the team? HERE

A reader sent this:

I’ve attached as proof a “sacristy selfie” the rascally rascals (including our #2 son) took yesterday ~ when our pastor saw it on FB, he said “This is what happens when I’m praying.” LOL  I told him he could either install a baby monitor (the one-way video kind) or a pinball machine like the Vatican. ;o)

On another happy note, I realized yesterday that at least 7 priests in our diocese now celebrate the EF regularly! Priest by Priest!  [Do I hear an “Amen!”?  I’ll bet they are on the young side, too.]

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Some future priests, God willing.

  2. kpoterack says:

    Which diocese is this?

  3. Scarltherr says:

    Since I recognize one of those rascals, my guess is this is in Omaha.

  4. inara says:

    It’s Charlotte, NC ~ :o)

    Actually, Father Z, you’d be pleasantly surprised at the ages of our EF priests ~ yes, a few are just barely 30, but two just celebrated 20 years as a priest & the rest are in the middle somewhere. We are so blessed!

    We are gearing up for our 9th Eucharistic Congress this weekend & hoping for yet another record turnout:

  5. ClavesCoelorum says:

    Great! Indeed, brick by brick, Priest by Priest. How about “Bishop by Bishop” now? :)

  6. TimG says:

    Fr Z

    That is awesome. I am going to get one of our rascals this weekend and send it over, you should start an album of pics!

  7. Austin Catholics says:

    (Not trying to troll; I honestly do not understand the push for an all-male server corps.) [You’ll get there. Don’t worry.]

    1) We certainly need more priests, and if an all-male server pool helps us get there, that’s good. It is not intuitively obvious to me, however, that excluding girls will result in more priests. That doesn’t follow at all.

    2) Commenters on this blog seem to feel altar servers are in unofficial training to be priests, like little kids playing dress-up with their parents’ clothing. I was an alter server 40 years ago and I never felt that I was a junior priest. I’ve been going to church all my life and it never occurred to me that altar servers were more likely to become clerics.

    3) I’m not somebody who thinks girls have a right to be servers (or that anybody has that right) or that it would be an injustice to exclude girls. But as a practical matter – don’t we need altar servers? Cutting the available pool in half won’t likely help. People here seem to feel that an all-male service will make more boys want to join up, but that strikes me as wishful thinking. Further, altar service is a way (one of many possible ways) for girls to get involved with the church. (Please don’t respond “There are plenty of other ways girls can contribute!!” Of course there are. That’s beside the point. It’s not about fairness; it’s about pragmatism, Somebody has to be an altar server.)

    4) Tradition. I’m 50 years old and a I said in an earlier thread my sister served with me when I was 13. As far a I know, there have been girl altar servers at every parish I’ve belonged to since (I honestly don’t pay much attention to the servers, but I assume they are both sexes,) Most US Catholics are younger than I and have probably always had girl servers. At this time, girl altar servers ARE tradition. An all-male service would be a break with tradition.

    (Newness may explain the appeal of the Latin mass to younger Catholics – it’s a break with tradition – something new, something their parents are not familiar with. Same with “boys only” on the altar.)

  8. sw85 says:

    4) Tradition. I’m 50 years old and a I said in an earlier thread my sister served with me when I was 13. As far a I know, there have been girl altar servers at every parish I’ve belonged to since (I honestly don’t pay much attention to the servers, but I assume they are both sexes,) Most US Catholics are younger than I and have probably always had girl servers. At this time, girl altar servers ARE tradition. An all-male service would be a break with tradition.

    That’s a pretty… horribly impoverished… understanding of what constitutes “tradition.”

    (Newness may explain the appeal of the Latin mass to younger Catholics – it’s a break with tradition – something new, something their parents are not familiar with. Same with “boys only” on the altar.)

    I’m both young (27) and a young Catholic (baptized last year). I can’t speak for anyone else but I can attest that my tradition-minded friends and I do not value the TLM for anything like the petty and superficial reasons you cite here. I prefer it because its radically theophanic content is a welcome change from the tedious and anthropocentric self-referentialism of the OF the way it’s always and everywhere celebrated in my diocese.

  9. TimG says:

    As I posted in another thread, my boys think it’s cool to have all boys as servers. They carry torches, they fight over who gets to paten for Father, they carry the biggest crucifix they can handle, they ring the bells loudly and solidly, and they want nothing to do with girls when serving. When girls used to serve they resisted strongly and NEVER volunteered if it wasn’t “their week” on the schedule.

  10. TimG says:

    Oh and by the way, they also fight over who gets to carry the censor and the boat.

  11. FredDaHead says:

    Austin Catholics,

    Having only boys as altar servers has, according to Fr Holloway’s data, increased the number of servers by an average of 4.5x in parishes where it has been adopted. Clearly, it works to increase numbers. It seems logical that such a large increase in the sheer number of servers would at least contribute to an increase in vocations.

    I’ll second sw85’s assessment of your poor understanding of tradition. The “break in tradition” is what happened in the last 50 years, not the fact that some of us, especially young(er) people, are trying to go back to the way things used to be. Note the normal use of the term “traditionalist” in this context. Most young, practicing Catholics I know are better-catechised (and much less likely to be cafeteria Catholics), more traditional-leaning, and more aware of the abuses in the OF than their parents are—if their parents even still go to church at all.

  12. george says:


    If you are 50 and your sister served with you when you were 13, that would have been in about 1976, right? I thought the indult was granted in the 1990’s, no? If it was prior to the indult, then it was an abuse.

  13. Jim says:

    Austin Catholics,
    Every noticed that in almost every parish where there are “girl Altar boys”, it very soon becomes the case that there would only be girls remaining? Now why is that?

    It’s got something to do with the way young boys think – “hey its a girl thing – let me move along.” Guys have an inbuilt resistance to effemination. Boys just don’t do “girly stuff” (Girly stuff is good for girls – but boys are not girls) – not if they have a choice. When you effeminate something that was a male thing – the guys just leave.

    Newness may explain the appeal of the Latin mass to younger Catholics – it’s a break with tradition – something new, something their parents are not familiar with. Same with “boys only” on the altar.
    Lets rearrange the words a little bit :-)
    The newness of the Ordinary Form makes the Latin mass appeal to younger Catholics (I am 32). It certainly is a break with tradition – and breaking with tradition is not something that our parents were not familiar with.

    Tradition. I’m 50 years old and a I said in an earlier thread my sister served with me when I was 13
    Well I am 32 and I don’t remember seeing girl Altar boys more than 10 years ago in any parish in my part of the world.

  14. Jim says:

    Austin Catholics,
    This book, which is now free on the author’s website as pdf files, might help you understand why:

    The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity

    by Leon J. Podles

  15. TimG says:

    @ Jim
    Well said. My boys are very proud to don the cassock and surplus at Mass…’s like a military uniform when they think about the decades (centuries?) of altar servers having gone before them. It’s like being a page or a squire to a knight. It’s like a club, where they can talk about sports or whatever (let’s be honest, it’s not always religious) as they wait for Mass to start.

    Once Mass does start, the vast majority of all of the boys at our parish are ALL business and they get on the other guys if they don’t do their job correctly. The very youngest know this and yet they cannot wait to start serving. Our priest fairly recently honored three of the older boys by training them as MCs and they love the responsibility.

  16. “Cutting the available pool in half won’t likely help.

    Actually, cutting the available pool in half–by including only boys–at least doubles the number of altar servers. In short order. Every place it’s tried. Every time. Seems to be the rule that has no exception. (Till someone can come up with one.)

  17. Katie says:

    I would be willing to bet that some if not all of those boys attended the Quo Vadis vocation discernment camp this summer… The holy spirit is truly doing good work through our Priests and our Bishop here in the Diocese of Charlotte! Praise be to God! :-D

  18. New Sister says:

    Handsome bunch!

  19. churchlady says:

    Austin –
    Where you grew up must have been one of the first parishes to allow girls to be servers. I’m just a couple years older than you and the first I remember girls serving was in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Even then, at my then-parish Msgr. relunctantly allowed girls.
    Why the big push for all males? We have a major crisis happening in our country where men are not men at all. There are SO few things / activities / clubs, etc. that allow men to be men and for men to bring up boys to be men and for boys to be boys with just boys. Boys and men need to be allowed to be male without females in the mix all the time, especially in a vocation that is male only. We need men to be strong, chivalrous, chaste – they learn that in an all male sacristy. Yes, it begins at home, but it is strengthened with our good priests who ask these boys to man-up. It is a big deal that serving is a stepping stone to the priesthood. Each of my sons has discerned or is discerning his vocation and simply being with other young men on the altar, lead by real men (those who train and the priests) has helped them in that discernment process.
    And girls – I already commented about things girls can do. One thing girls (women) need to realize is the power they have with men, if that is what they are looking for. Always look to Our Blessed Mother and see how powerful she was while Jesus was here on Earth and how most powerful she is now. We need our girls, also, to realize the beauty of their femininity and the power of their womanhood without mixing the roles. Let the boys be boys and the girls be girls, the way God intended them all to be.

  20. MariaKap says:

    I’m 50 and never ever saw a female altar server until the 90’s. The church up the street from us has male only servers and they are overrun with boys who are eager to serve. There are so many that they each only serve get a turn on the schedule every other month. Meanwhile, my parish down the street has female altar servers. But not nearly as many boys. Sad.

  21. Two seminarians already from our altarboy crew:

    And more very likely on the way. And I’ll bet the same is true of any similar photo of altar boys (only) taken several years ago.

  22. wmeyer says:

    Two seminarians already from our altarboy crew

    Henry that’s terrific! I also think we would all do well to drop the “altar server” moniker in favor of “altar boys” and “girl altar boys”, which makes the wrongness so glaring.

  23. Elizium23 says:

    So what will you call me? An “adult altar boy”? How cumbersome. I prefer to be called an altar server.

    Redemptionis Sacramentum decreed this terminology. Why do you disagree with the wisdom of Holy Church?

  24. Jim says:


    If this is the line that you refer to as the decree in Redemptionis Sacramentum: “It is altogether laudable to maintain the noble custom by which boys or youths, customarily termed servers”, that doesn’t sound like a decree at all, but only a reference to a custom.

    It does not say anywhere that “If you use the phrase girl altar boy. Anathema sit!”

  25. Phil Steinacker says:


    Yours is an interesting claim.

    I just visited the Vatican document to which you linked and ran a page search for “altar server.”

    As soon as I typed in “altar” that word was immediately highlighted in blue. When I finished typing in “server” the blue disappeared.

    Near as I can tell the phrase does not exist in that document.

    Perhaps you have confused this document with another?

  26. edm says:

    I know that in this diocese in northern New Jersey girls were permitted to serve sometime around 1976 or 1977. Then, after a few years they were not allowed, again for a while. Cannot say with confidence when they were brought back.

  27. av8er says:

    Very cool pic.

  28. ncstevem says:

    wmeyer – How about ‘altar boys’ and ‘altar tom-boys’ ? [How about ‘altar boys’ and ‘altar former-boys’?]

  29. Long-Skirts says:


    Today five sons
    Served on the altar
    Determined boys
    Who would not falter.

    Boys at home
    Who fight and shove
    But on the altar
    Assist with love.

    At home shouting
    From top of lung
    On the altar
    Latin’s sung.

    At home running
    Can’t sit still
    On the altar
    Disciplined will.

    At home throwing
    Cereal, toast
    On the altar
    Adoring Host.

    At home bedrooms
    Scattered scene
    On the altar
    Order, serene.

    I proud mother
    Faithful to Rome
    Five sons on the altar
    Five men at home.

  30. Ella says:

    Does the U.S.A. have to be the start of every terrible nouveau Catholic trend in the world? The answer to so many questions I have had since I converted are all too often met with the answer “well in the United States…” such as: Why must we sissify the ranks of the altar boys and decimate their numbers by adding girls? Why on earth are people in the congregation doing the orans position or holding hands during the Our Father? Why build weirdly ugly theater-in-the round modernistic church buildings? Why do I have to queue up for the Eucharist like I’m ordering a meal at McDonald’s? Don’t get me wrong, I love my country but it seems all too frequently we start bad and/or immoral trends rather than be the “city on a hill”.

  31. stilicho says:

    I’m 53 and can remember a female altar server at my old parish in the diocese of Memphis, circa 1975-76.

  32. churchlady says:

    Long skirts –
    That is beautiful and I completely feel the sentiments, only with three sons.

  33. Kathleen10 says:

    That photo is fantastic! What handsome boys, and how heartwarming to see the future of our church, right there in that picture.
    A male only altar server/boy corps is the sensible thing for so many reasons, all well put here.
    Raise the bar, expect excellence, and the boys will meet it. In a healthy church with strong priestly leadership and parents who really identify as Catholic to support them, especially Dads, boys will show up.
    Long-Skirts. I like that.

  34. APX says:

    This is what happens when I’m praying.”

    Probably better than them getting into the sacramental wine as was customary in my dad’s days of being and altar boy.

  35. Chuck3030 says:

    While many make the point that having an all male server corps is helpful for young men in hearing their vocations, I want to bring up another point from personal experience.
    I serve (regularly) at campus here, and we have a co-ed sanctuary (servers, EMHC’s, lectors,et al.). Last Sunday, I was one of three servers, with one man and a woman. There was a single female lector (here, there is usually two of them. no idea why). To the best of my knowledge, the other two servers are engaged, and (unbeknownst to her) my heart belongs to the woman who was the lector that night. I personally had trouble at times concentrating on the mass because of how frequently my thoughts drifted to her. I know that this diminished the service I was able to render, and, while I cannot speak for the other servers, I cannot imagine it being any different for them (thinking of eachother, that is).

  36. Katylamb says:

    My son began serving 6 years ago when he was nine years old. He wanted to quit a few years ago when he had to serve with two girls. He said they were “bossy.” He said they made him feel stupid and wouldn’t let him do anything. The few other boy servers did quit but we didn’t let him quit. Now we have a rector that seems to only use boy servers. There are many of them. We have lots of servers and they show up often even when not scheduled. My son serves almost every week. The girls my son served with are in his youth group and he likes them very much. He just hated serving with them. I have seen (on other forums) the mothers of girls point out that girls are less clumsy, less forgetful, more graceful and quick to learn. All that may be true, I don’t know. However, it warms my heart to see my son and his friends, bulls in china shops at home, slopping their milk and forgetting what they’re supposed to do, seriously and carefully serving at Mass. Some of them, God willing, will be priests someday. The graceful, flitting, competent girls won’t. That’s all.

  37. Bruce Wayne says:


    You are pointing out the flip side of the coin that is rarely addressed, specifically, what are young girls, adolescent and teenage girls like in their own right and how does that play into the way in which they serve alongside male altar servers?

    It seems fairly typical in the pro-female servers responses to FR. Z’s two recent, relevant posts that they either have looked at boys as needing to be told to “grow-up” and serve alongside girls, or they look at the issue as if it was about rights and equality, i.e., with a frankly insipid politicized perspective. Both points of view are far too constrained or blinkered to really get to the bottom of the issue and see why an all male service makes the most sense. Both approaches demonstrate a lack of reflective observation of human nature as it develops in boys and girls. As far as I have seen here you are the first to point out that “girls will be girls” in ways that might make them less suited for coed altar service.

  38. Nan says:

    @Elysium, not knowing how old you are, I don’t know which category you fit into; you’ve eliminated altar boy so you’re either an altar guy or an altar geezer.

    RE: Altar girls, I wasn’t raised in a religious household so I have luckily only been exposed once. My aunt commented on how cute the altar girls were…I responded that they thought so too. The girls were there to be noticed.

    @27 y/o new Catholic, congrats, thanks for coming home.

  39. MangiaMamma says:

    What a great photo! My family came into The Church just 2 1/2 years ago, and my two boys (ages 22 & 20) have been serving since the first time asked after becoming Catholic. Now they are both at school- oldest a senior at Thomas More in NH with younger brother in first year at Christendom, and both still serving.
    My oldest son put in his application for our Archdiocese for seminary before heading back to school. He is hoping to become a priest. The other is discerning religious life as well. Don’t let anyone tell you that altar serving does not affect the young men who get the opportunity to do it. My boys had never thought of working in any kind of ministry while we were evangelicals, but The Holy Spirit has been doing amazing things since their conversions!

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