Should My Daughters Be Altar Servers?


altar server pic

“I wish I could serve more often.”

I’ve heard this more than once from my ten-year-old son.  He experienced being an altar server for the first time this year.  When I asked him how he liked it, he responded with a silly, almost giddy, smile and simply said, “It was cool!”

For a ten-year-old boy, those three words say a lot.

So, his statement, “I wish I could serve more often” gives me pause.

My daughters are not old enough to be altar servers yet, but, when they are, should boys like my son be given priority?  If my daughters serve at all, would they be taking the opportunity away from boys eager to fill the position?  Boys who could have a front row seat to the vocation they might be called to one day?

When girls were officially permitted to fill the role of altar server at Mass 20 years ago, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments stated that:

“The Holy See wishes to recall that it will always be very appropriate to follow the noble tradition of having boys serve at the altar.  As is well known, this has led to a reassuring development of priestly vocations.  Thus the obligation to support such groups of altar boys will always continue.” [source]

This term, “obligation,” is one on which to reflect.

The Wikipedia online encyclopedia defines obligation as “a course of action that someone is required to take, whether legal or moral.”

It would appear, then, that we have a moral requirement to support having boys at the altar.  As Father Edward McNamara says,

“The Holy See’s recommendation is to retain as far as possible the custom of having only boys as servers.  But it leaves to the bishop the choice of permitting women and girls for a good reason and to the pastor of each parish the decision as to whether to act on the bishop’s permission.”

It is not my intent to present a right way and a wrong way with this article.  I have several good friends whose daughters serve regularly, and I certainly respect their decision.  Parishes, especially, that have a limited number of boys available to serve would greatly benefit from the Holy See’s allowance for female assistance.  I do, however, understand the research that reveals the link between altar boys and the growth of priestly vocations.

Maybe one way that I, as a parent, can support the growth of the priesthood is by leaving the role of altar server to the boys of our parish while I help my daughters find other ways they can serve.

Father John Lankeit, rector of the Phoenix diocesan cathedral, has restructured the Cathedral’s program to allow boys to serve at the altar and girls to train as sacristans.  This article explains:

“The decision was made in order to encourage young men and women to honor their God-given differentiation and complementarity, and to discern more clearly how such differentiation points to specific vocations in the Church.”

Children are searching for who they are during the vulnerable, formative years.

Father McNamara points out that:

“Preteen boys in particular are very attracted to activities that cater especially for them, and they tend to reject sharing activities with girls.”

This differentiation between the roles of girls and boys has proven to not only affect the priesthood positively, but also those vocations designated for women.  A parish in Ann Arbor, Michigan, that limits altar serving to boys has seen surges in both men’s and women’s vocations.

So, do I wish my son could serve more often than once a month at a daily Mass?  Absolutely.  Will my daughters be trained as altar servers?  Not likely, since our parish is teeming with eager young boys.  Like my son, I want those boys to have the opportunity to be up there at that altar as often as possible.  I want them to be an arm’s length away from a grace that was created specifically for them.  I want them to be close enough to hear Jesus calling if the priesthood is the vocation for which they were created.

And as for my girls?  They will have plenty of opportunity to develop their feminine strengths through the ministries designed specifically for them.  Little Flowers Girls Club, the sacristan ministry, Altar Society, and pilgrimages and picnics with a local community of consecrated sisters all wait to receive my daughters’ gifts.

My children are all loved equally by the Father who created them, but they were all designed to return that love in their own, unique ways.

Do/will your daughters train to be altar servers?  Why or why not?  I welcome a conversation on this topic!

Copyright 2014, Charisse Tierney


About Author

Charisse Tierney lives in Wichita, Kansas, with her husband Rob and seven children. Charisse is a stay-at-home mom, musician, NFP teacher, and a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd catechist in training. She is also a contributing author to The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion and Family Foundations magazine. Charisse blogs at Paving the Path to Purity and can be found on Facebook.


  1. I totally agree with you. I have nine sons and one daughter. All my sons have been Alter Servers except for two. ( one was super shy when he was younger and our youngest has Down syndrome, but maybe he will learn one day). I did not encourage my daughter to be an Alter Server and she understood that it was better for boys to be Alter servers because of the link to the Priesthood. I have one son in the Seminary and I have a hunch that at least one more son has a calling to the Priesthood. I very much believe that being an Alter Server was one of the biggest influences in feeling called to the Priesthood for my son in the Seminary, and I see it also with my younger son whom I think has a Vocation. Having to compete with girls on the Alter is not helpful for boys. They want to belong to something that is reserved for boys. Our Parish is blessed with many boys who serve and I think it is awesome to see especially, high school boys still serving at Mass.

  2. I was against it when JPII did it and I still think altar girls are a bad idea. For all of the talk of giving boys priority, the pope knew he was capitulating when he did it. And, he knew that none of the caveats would mean anything in implementation. I live in a very conservative diocese, and before the ink was dry, altar girls were ubiquitous. The bishop held the cathedral as an exception for a couple of years, then suddenly decided he had to get on the bandwagon.

    Now I have a nine-year-old daughter who is an altar server at our parish. She was very excited about it and I decided that, in the absence of priestly or episcopal spine, my denying her the opportunity was more likely to harm her faith than strengthen it. I am proud of her for wanting to serve. And her reason for wanting to be a server “so that I can be as close to Jesus as possible” is certainly a holy one. My 12-year-old son on the other hand, doesn’t want to be an altar server, and with the flood of girls, it’s impossible to tell him he needs to stand up and shoulder the responsibility.

  3. I don’t agree with this. If either of my two girls wishes to serve, she shall. If my son wishes to serve, he shall. If he doesn’t and they do, I’m fine with that, too. Although only men can be ordained priests, I think limiting the role of young girls in the church to only certain positions isn’t the right message.
    My brother is a priest and was never called to serve – one doesn’t lead to the other.

  4. I never had daughters, but I tend to agree with Marilee that if I had had daughters, I would have encouraged them to serve. I’m happy that you shared your input Charisse and do look forward to a respectful conversation here.

  5. I do not (yet) have any girls. BUT – I was an Altar Server and LOVED it! It was the greatest thing I had done for my church. I was in the choir and HATED it. I was a reader and was always, always nervous… And, as an adult, I served as a Eucharistic Minister until I became pregnant with child #3. That was a great honor, but the best thing I had ever done was be an altar server. I tell my oldest boy, who is 5, about it all the time when we are at Mass and how cool it was. If I ever have a girl, I will definitely do the same thing – tell her how cool it was. I mean, come on, what better way for a kid to be INVOLVED in the Mass?! Not many like to sing along…and some (gasp!) claim it is “boring” (in fact, some of my brothers still do say that, unfortunately…the youngest is in middle school). I think that it is a great opportunity to be given to a child and this is something I will always support. Didn’t Jesus say “let the children come to me?” I don’t see anything about just boys or just girls. 😉

  6. My daughter wanted to serve, and since there weren’t many boys lining up to do so, I encouraged her. She served right through her junior year of high school, when finally her younger brother took her place.
    If girls won’t be encouraged to serve at the altar, there needs to be something else in place for them to do. “There are different ministries, but the same Spirit…”

    • Altar girls are completely unnecessary
      They have so many other avenues to serve
      Let the boys have their space on the altar with the male priests. Pretty girls can be a big distraction too. I say just continue with altar boys only.

      • I question the need for your comment about pretty girls being a distraction. How is it a problem for a pretty girl to be a server, but not a handsome young man? Would it be a similar problem if the same girl were not an altar server but, instead, a cantor or lector? Physical appearance should never be a reason to disqualify someone from service to God.

  7. I have been serving at the Altar practically my whole life, first as a boy, now as an Acolyte (girls were not an option during my formative years). Girls serving at our Parish is not an option, but the same is not true in the Archdiocese. Boys learn all the elements of the Mass, correct Liturgical names etc. which is important for discernment of the Priesthood. They are taught the gravity of the Mass and work with the Seminarians to better understand the role of a Priest. All to often Mass is considered “entertainment”, (in fact someone once told me that the people in the “audience” appreciate how hard we work with the boys to learn how to serve)
    Boys who serve with a “look at me” attitude do not serve very long, mostly due to peer pressure. Boys who “goof off” are simply told to remove their cassocks and sit with their parents or if it is a practice they are just removed altogether. Pre-teen and teen of boys and girls together…is particularly (and obviously) problematic and the solemnity of the Holy sacrifice of the Mass is too precious.
    Knowing that serving is a framework for the Priesthood why would a young lady want to serve?
    What is the motivation behind the request?
    Men and women each have unique roles to play according to God’s design and part of doing “God’s Will” is humbly accepting our unique roles.

  8. I was born before girls had the opportunity to serve at the altar. Consequently, I grew up knowing nothing about the terminology or use of altar cloths, vessels, etc. Stepping into the sacristy terrifies me, even now as an adult who regularly cantors at mass. All of the duties and trappings of the altar seem off-limits to me, which is sad. I love being awed by sacred things, but the feeling of being excluded is not, I think, what Jesus desires.

    I rejoice that my own daughters know everything about serving at the altar. They are deeply reverent, and in an intimate way. My sons also love serving. Neither the boys nor the girls are confused about the (boys and girls) servers’ role and the (man) priest’s role. Who knows, some day my sons may become priests, and their sisters can serve for them.

    The implication of Fr. McNamara’s statement distresses me: “Preteen boys in particular are very attracted to activities that cater especially for them, and they tend to reject sharing activities with girls.” Preteen boys who learn that they will be supported in their unwillingness to share become grown men who expect similar accommodations. Priests who “reject sharing” the task of evangelization with women tend to be unpleasant men, limited in their ministerial effectiveness. Men and women have distinct roles, but indulging boys who refuse to collaborate will not benefit the Church in the New Evangelization.

    The hunger to serve at the altar is God’s gift. If a boy’s emerging vocation is snuffed out because girls also hunger for the Lord, I question the health of that boy’s discernment. There is room around the altar for boys and girls. Let’s continue to pray that the boys called to ordained priesthood respond generously.

    • Ashley Miller on

      I agree completely. If my daughters feel called to serve at the altar, I will encourage that desire. Yes, each person is called to serve the church in a unique way, however, I don’t believe we are always called according to our masculinity or femininity. Perhaps serving at the altar will encourage a girl to follow a vocation as a religious sister. I would also like to see the establishment of a female diaconate, however, which I know many traditional Catholics will disagree with vehemently.

  9. Excellent article Charisse. You are spot on in your analysis. Thank you for linking to my article as well. Holy Mother Church has always recognized the link between boys serving and vocations. I’ve covered this on several occasions. The CARA data also reinforces that, for most called to the priesthood, serving was a common factor in their spiritual development. Additionally, boys are indeed less likely to serve with girls, for reasons similar to what we find in team sports. We must remind ourselves that this is a very new innovation in the history of the Church and very counter intuitive to the purpose behind servers. Also, remember, the need for servers is actually minimal. If boys aren’t available, don’t use servers.

    God bless!

    Brian Williams/Liturgy Guy

    • Theresa Foster on

      Thank you Brian. I have 2 daughters who are now grown women. They were born before girls were allowed on the altar. I will never be comfortable with girls serving on the altar. I know that it is allowed.

  10. Charisse Tierney on

    Thank you so much, everyone, for contributing your thoughts to this topic! It is so helpful to understand everyone’s viewpoint on this issue. I do hope that, no matter how we all feel about it, we continue to strive to find ways to convey the sacredness and importance of the Holy Mass to our sons and our daughters. God bless you all, as you are clearly passionate about passing the Faith on to your children!

  11. Julie Lindeman on

    I was so fortunate as a child to have the honor of serving. I grew up in a town of less than 1000 people and there were 28 girls and 8 boys in my graduating class. My friends and I were the first female altar servers in the parish. If it was not for us, there would have been no altar servers at all. I am not exaggerating. I do not believe it is fair to girls to only call upon them to serve when there are no boys to do so. Yes, I am a feminist and I do not believe that is a negative thing. Many girls followed in our footsteps as there were never many boys who were active in their faith. We trained the younger girls and then grew older and helped create a choir which also did not exist in our parish until we entered high school. The experience was so meaningful to us and it remains a vital part of my home parish to this day. While the thought of only allowing boys to serve may be an idea that can be entertained by larger parishes, it is simply not feasible for small parishes who share a priest between 3-5 parishes. Regardless of the size, I would absolutely support my 4 daughters if they chose to serve. It was an experience that allowed me to grow in my faith in a way I don’t believe I could have any other way. In addition, I still believe it is wrong to only call upon women and girls in times of hardship. Is that the only time we’re “good enough?” I think not.

  12. I trained Altar Servers for many years. The girls always seemed to be more devoted than the boys. Out of all those years only one boy has entered the seminary…just saying….

    • “Out of all those years only one boy has entered the seminary…just saying”. That makes sense actually. Contrast your experience with this:

      Those dioceses (Lincoln & Arlington), parishes and orders (FSSP, ICK, etc) that only permit boys to serve have not struggled with vocations. The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) of Georgetown reports the following data concerning recently ordained:

      In the 2010 survey of ordinands 70 percent of the 339 respondents had been servers.

      In the 2011 survey 71 percent of the 329 respondents had been servers.

      In the 2012 survey 75 percent of the respondents had been servers.

      Finally, in the 2013 survey 67 percent of the 366 respondents had been altar servers.

      This of course makes sense considering what Rome itself said when allowing for female servers:

      “(T)he Holy See wishes to recall that it will always be very appropriate to follow the noble tradition of having boys serve at the altar. As is well known, this has led to a reassuring development of priestly vocations.
      Thus the obligation to support such groups of altar boys will always continue.”

      As a father of five, four of whom are girls, I understand that this has nothing to do with necessity or any misunderstood “right” to assist. Let’s be clear: the Church survived two millennium with only males assisting at Mass, typically minor orders or acolytes. An innovation from 1994 is worth revisiting to assess its impact upon the willingness of boys to serve and discern. Those who attend parishes which offer the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (which does not allow for female servers since it follows the Missal of 1962 & applicable canon law) understand the correlation between serving at the altar and vocational discernment.

      Here is a link to one of my posts on the topic. I would also encourage you to read the initial post that Charisse links to in the above article.

      God bless!

      • This reasoning MAY suffer from a case of post hoc ergo propter hoc. Are there any statstics showing similar findings about other devotional practices? What percentage of ordinands, for example, also said the Rosary when they were boys? Prayed before bedtime? Went on retreat? If those numbers also hover around 70%, then we have not established a distinct causal connection.

        Here is what the 2012 CARA survey of ordinands reports:
        Ordinands of the Class of 2012 have been active in parish ministries, with three-quarters
        indicating they served as an altar server and more than half (53 percent) participating in a
        parish youth group. One-fifth (22 percent) participated in a World Youth Day before
        entering the seminary.
         Nearly seven in ten ordinands report regularly praying the Rosary (68 percent) and
        participating in Eucharistic Adoration (65 percent) before entering the seminary.

        Since praying the Rosary and serving at Mass are similarly popular among ordinands, we cannot cite this study as conclusive evidence that boys serving at the altar (to the exclusion of girls) increases vocations.

        • Grace, it is always good to dig deeper and assess the evidence that we have available, so your comment is excellent. And the Rosary (and all forms of prayer no doubt) are significant common factors for any young man discerning the priesthood.

          I would point to two things again: the results from all four years worth of surveys, and the Vatican’s own statement (cited above) that the noble tradition of boys serving “has led to a reassuring development of priestly vocations”.

          For anyone who hears Mass at a parish which permits only boys to serve, the connection is quite obvious. For those who often participate in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, even more so.

          What strikes me as unsettling is how the onus to defend their position typically falls on those who support the historic practice, as compared to those who argue for a twenty year old practice, often based on personal feelings and anecdotal evidence.

          • Mr. Williams, while we are happy to have your participation in this conversation, I would ask that you refrain from personal attacks such as the last line of this comment. As long as the comments remain respectful in nature, I will permit this dialogue to continue but I’d ask you to move forward with caution. I’m asking the same of those on both sides of this conversation. I will note that since many dioceses not only support but actually encourage girls as altar servers, this is absolutely in line with current Church teachings. Again, please refrain from commenting directly in opposition with anyone’s stated opinion on this topic in a way that could be perceived as a personal attack.

          • Is Lisa saying that “…those who argue for a twenty year old practice, often based on personal feelings and anecdotal evidence.” is a personal attack? I didn’t read it that way.

  13. Krissy Weiser on

    My daughters will not be encouraged to serve at the altar. They will and are encouraged to serve in so many other places that God entrusted to women though. I would hate to take the opportunity away from a young boy, who being at the altar could open his ears to hear God’s voice calling him to be a priest one day.
    In having this conversation with a large group of Catholic moms, I’ve even heard tales of parishes that revert to boys-only eventually have much better success getting boys to participate when before girls did it “because boys weren’t signing up for it really.” And I, personally, believe that a quick way to do that is to stop using the girls, and if the boys are lacking use grown men to fill the gaps until the boys are back to the numbers we need. Or until the number of priests and deacons are back to being so overwhelming, that THEY are doing the serving.
    In nearly every aspect of life, when women become what men are, men back away from it, allowing it to become the not-as-natural role of women. And when this is a role that is to take place at an age when certain hormones are beginning to flood, and being around girls can tend to be a bit awkward for one reason or another anyway, I think it’s best that we not let the boys back off of this role to let the girls take over, letting it become a feminine thing to do.

  14. We don’t see enough children (boys or girls) of altar-serving age in our church to be able to be selective enough to only allow boys to serve. Our new parochial vicar made a big push in the last few weeks, talking to every family with children of the right age that he saw after Mass. He only got 14 to come to the meeting. With 5 Masses per weekend, that’s not enough to fully staff the Masses–and that’s before you allow for schedule changes!
    Right now, for me, this is less a question of “do boys and girls serve, or only boys” and more a question of, “where are the families with kids and why aren’t they encouraging their children to participate in parish life and ministry.”

  15. When my daughter attended her Catholic school she was encouraged along with others in her class to sign up as Altar Servers. She took the extensive training and became an Altar Server. She made an excellent one and her devotion was great. A few years later, she became a Team Captain Altar Server and assisted in training new younger servers. She was asked to serve at weddings and funerals since her devotion and attention to detail were noticed by parish coordinators. Although she did not have a vocation for religious life, I cherish the memories of seeing her assist at the Altar. I think that Altar Serving in an exceptional ministry for both girls and boys. I am thankful that this ministry is open to both genders.

    • I’m so glad your daughter had such a lovely experience, Leslie. I think it’s extremely important to keep in mind that the goal of serving at the altar is not solely to cultivate new priests. If that happens, great. But it is my very strong belief that a child – boy or girl – who finds his/her faith deepened by serving is a major “win” in the eyes of God. Boys AND girls.

      • Marilee, what are you basing this opinion upon? I don’t see a historical precedent for this view, nor did the Vatican’s 1994 permission to allow girls to serve argue this. While the secular culture argues that equality means sameness, the Church has always recognized that dignity and value does not mean that everyone has the same roles to play.

        • I don’t want to not reply, but I also do not wish to engage with you further by mounting a defense of my opinions.
          I do not agree with the manner in which you present your “evidence.” I also do not agree with boys becoming priests being the ultimate goal of serving. Serving God and serving the church is a privilege, one which I believe should be available to boys and girls as currently supported by the Church. And one which will be available to both my son and my daughters. It is my great hope that my daughters will not run into people who see them as less deserving or less worthy within our wonderful church.

          • I didn’t see anyone here say that girls shouldn’t be allowed to serve the church. There should be plenty of opportunities for everyone to serve. The only debate may be in what role. As Brian said equal in dignity does not mean sameness.

  16. Chere Bernhard on

    I am the mother of three, two boys and one girl. My oldest son is 7 and will be receiving his first communion this spring. We have our home parish that has altar boys and we occasional attend another parish closer to our home that has boys and girls. We have not changed parishes due to the fact that my son is uncomfortable with the fact that girls serve at the other parish, making him feel unwelcome. The girls are overbearing, disrespectful and lack discipline when they serve the altar, wearing in appropriate attire to church which is then covered by their robes. They act more superior to the boys who are younger than them (they only accept them starting at 9 years old) and the older boys rarely desire to serve the mass with the girls so they are assigned separately to increase the allotment of boys. There haven’t been any vocations even seriously considered in this parish for the last ten years.

    Our home parish accepts boys starting at three and out of diapers. My son has learned proper reverence for the altar, respect for his fellow altar boys, acolytes and priests, and he is far more pleasant during mass when he is not serving than he was before he started serving. Our parish has had several vocations in the last few years.

    Admittedly I have been a parish hopper in the past and I have seen it with my own eyes. Those parishes with female servers I’ve attended over ten years cannot equal in vocations all together what I have seen come out of the one parish with Altar boys.

    Another observation of the difference is the distinct overall feminization of a church with female servers (and EMU’s, lectors, sacristans, and even ushers) versus the overall embrace of the differences of the sexes at the parish with only Altar boys. I feel more respected as a woman at that parish with only Altar boys because the young men are taught to serve women of the parish outside of mass by being gentleman…it’s truly a lovely experience. On the other hand, the parish with the overall feminization has caused the men to lapse in their duties to the female sex, in the church, in public and within the home as we are considered not equal but the same, which is contrary to what the Church actually teaches us.

  17. Cynthia Coleman on

    To my mind, the question of WHO should be Altar Servers is based on WHAT is the purpose of altar servers? If the purpose of altar servers is a step on the way to the priesthood and to encourage vocations to the priesthood — then logically only boys should be servers.

    This reminds me of the question of Eucharist Ministers, properly called Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. The word “Extraordinary” is usually not used but is key. “Extraordinary” in that ordained bishops, priests and deacons are the “Ordinary” ministers. WHAT is the purpose of EMHC? To assist when there is a lack of ordained clergy. Looking back to when I was in a parish in NJ 15 years ago and the celebrant would sit in the presider’s chair at Communion while deferring to the EMHCs to serve…..I had no idea what I was doing standing in as an Extraordinary Minister when the Ordinary Minister was on the ‘sidelines’. WHO should have been serving Communion? Not me, while there was a priest available. But I did not know any better. And, yes, being a EMHC is a great honor, privilege and yes I have always loved it. But it is not about me, it is about what is right–not my rights.

    Do/can girl make great, pious, thoughtful, exemplary altar servers? Of course. Do some girls get a great spiritual benefit from being an altar servers. Surely.

    I have one teenage son (no daughter) who never wanted to be an altar server, no matter how often we suggested it. I don’t know if I would have encouraged a daughter to be an altar server but I am certain that I would have seeing it as a way to encourage piety and serve the Church. Now that I am learning more about altar servers, it is opening my eyes and I expect that now I would not encourage a daughter as an altar server. Even aside from the statistics and anecdoctal evidence of some commentors here that having girls and boys together deters boys, it just seems obvious to me that if one of the key purposes of altar servers is “development of priestly vocations” then the only priestly vocations are with boys.

    The Catholic Church is counter-cultural in avering the truth that men and women are equal and yet different. Male and female are complementary, not the same. This is certainly NOT the view of secular culture–which is all I, I, I, ME, ME, WHAT I WANT even if I am not suited to what I demand.

    As a matter of what is permitted, it seems clear that girls are permitted to be altar servers. But it sounds as if what is preferred/recommended from the Vatican is to have male servers.

  18. The Vatican clearly sees a connection between being an altar server and recognizing a call to the priesthood. It is clear that a ‘behind the scenes’ look at the Mass, as witnessed by altar servers, would lead to boys considering the vocation. Therefore, when girls enter the ranks of servers, there *may* be a similar effect on them – a desire to ‘have the power’ to consecrate bread and wine into Jesus’s Body and Blood. Really, it is only natural.

    However, correct and thorough teaching of the True Faith can overcome this problem. It can also overcome the issues mentioned above such as finding Mass ‘boring’ if not serving, not knowing Liturgical terms, not understanding what happens during Mass, etc. All it takes is for parents to take their responsibility and obligation to heart and to REALLY teach their children the Faith. Whether your children attend Catholic schools or go to CCD, they still need to be immersed in the Faith at home.

    Study the Catechism with your children. Go through the Liturgical items after Mass with them. Invite Father over after Mass or on a weeknight to discuss Mass and what happens during Mass. Discuss Liturgical seasons and how they differ from the secular seasons we see. Read Scripture together to learn where all our wonderful Traditions began. Learn about various saints and their lives to see which fits each member of your family best. Identify areas of your lives that could be improved by studying the cardinal virtues and vices. Really LIVE the Faith. Through this more than any amount of altar serving will make our children devout and life-long Catholics – even if they turn away for a while.

    My daughter is 5 and wants to be an altar server. However, she will be guided into a different area of serving our parish. Her brother is almost 7 and will be an altar server. They both already know the entire Consecration just from attending Sunday Masses with one daily Mass every week or so. They’re young, but already know many of the items used during the Liturgy, the Liturgical seasons, many saints, the basics of the Catechism, many Bible stories, countless hymns, sung Mass parts (Gloria, Holy, etc) and songs for Mass. We have been our parish’s ‘choir’ since they were infants in the womb. That is one of our ‘services’ to the parish.

    Not everyone needs to serve in the same way – not everyone has to ‘serve’ in a public or physical way at all. Participation in Mass is not about physically ‘doing’ something at Mass. Participating in the Mass is simply being there at witnessing The unbloody Sacrifice of Jesus on the altar. That is what Mass is about. Mass is NOT about how we feel about it or what we do. It is about Christ’s Sacrifice for us. Too often we get caught up in trying to ‘do’ something instead of worshiping God in the Mass. We go to Mass for God, not for ourselves. If all we can think of during Mass is ourselves and whether we’re doing enough, or entertained enough, or ‘participating’ enough, then we’re not really participating at all. We should go to Mass to be in awe of our Almighty God who created us, forgives our sins, died for us, and nourishes us with His very Own Body and Blood. We should go to Mass knowing that the angels do not even get to be this intimate with God – we consume Him! That is what Mass is about. The Mass is the most perfect prayer we have and just being in the church while Mass is being said – even if you can’t understand a word of it – with a reverent and prayerful heart is the best prayer we can offer God.

    So, don’t get caught up in trying to find a ‘service’ to perform at Mass – your service may simply be to pray the Mass. Outside of Mass just raise your children with knowledge of the Faith – don’t expect others or their ‘service’ do it for you.

  19. I would agree, except in my very small parish in a largely Lutheran part of my state, there are none of those experiences available for my daughter that you mention. If girls do not serve, there really is no other role that they can step into–then what? Encourage only my sons but not my daughter? We have no religious nearby, so seeing nuns as I did as a child doesn’t happen for her….It’s great in larger cities/parishes, but in very small towns it doesn’t always work….

    • There is a HUGE need for females (and males) to pray the Mass respectfully and appropriately. It’s not a service that should be overlooked. Or perhaps you could encourage her to wear a veil. Depending on her age, she could look into helping care for the vestments and cleaning the church. Or she could stand at the door and welcome people as they enter. But praying – pondering as Mary so frequently did – is definitely not a service to be batted away like it’s worthless.

      God bless!

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