Friday 16 January 2015

What altar boys can do that altar girls can't

I came across this American Blogger - Liturgy Guy. Great post on the link between altar boys and the priesthood. Some of his other posts are great fun too.  Elsewhere he asks, "For a Church that is 2,000 years old, the practice of girls serving at the altar isn’t even as old as Justin Bieber. And yet it is defended as if there is no questioning the practice,"

Here is the post that caught my eye.  I occasionally serve Mass for another priest, which always reminds me that I was an altar boy too - I started at Ss Peter and Paul's in New Brighton. Now home to the Institute!  
This past week the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released the findings from the 2014 Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood. Prepared by Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) for the USCCB, the survey was completed by 365 ordinands, which constitutes a 77 percent response rate. At nearly 30 pages, there is a great deal of data to digest.
While the USCCB press release focused on areas such as the ethnicity and median age of this years ordinands, something far more interesting was tucked in at the bottom of the release.
Of the 365 men surveyed this year, a whopping 80 percent had been altar boys during their formative years. In comparison, only 52 percent of ordinands had been lectors, less than a third had been youth ministers and only 15 percent had ever attended a World Youth Day or a Steubenville Youth Conference.
Don’t just read that and move on. Truly ponder the implications of this statistic: eight of ten ordinands surveyed were altar boys growing up. 80 percent. This is the stat everyone needs to know. In all honesty we must acknowledge the very real correlation between serving and discerning. The survey has revealed this to us in the past, and confirms it yet again this year. 
Now consider this. In August 2010, Rome hosted the International Pilgrimage for Altar Servers, an event organized by Coetus Internationalis Ministrantium and held every five years. For the first time ever, the 2010 turnout had more girls than boys attending. Much like the statistical representation found in many parishes today, the pilgrimage of servers resulted in a 60:40 ratio of girls to boys.
Now here is another number to consider: zero. That’s the number of altar girls who will go on to become priests in the Catholic Church.
As I have written about before, the exclusive use of altar boys serving at Mass is helping to facilitate discernment and vocations within many parishes, often where both forms of the Roman Rite are reverently offered. This is in many ways one of the fruits of Summorum Pontificum, and it must continue. 
As stated earlier, we must honestly acknowledge this correlation between altar boys and vocations to the priesthood. Understanding this, shame on us if we do nothing to reverse the trend in parishes where fewer and fewer boys are serving.
80 percent or zero? Think about it.


1569 Rising said...


In my parish In Hexham & Newcastle, our 10 altar boys had been replaced within 3 years by a similar number of altar girls. All the boys had drifted away.
I entered Ushaw in the Junior House in 1958. Every single one of my year had been a server before entering Ushaw.

Jacobi said...


The solution to this problem,(and others), is in your hands. You are not required to use altar girls. You "may" use them but it is your decision. they are not compulsary.

So tell them nicely their services are no longer required.

Now I have no doubt a few mums, and possibly even more PC dads, will get a bit stroppy. But hard luck on them.

After all, it is up to you priests increasingly to run the show, oh I mean, the parish. In the next ten years or so there will be so few of you, no one, least of all a bishop, is going to raise any difficulties!

Fr Simon Henry said...

Dear Jacobi,
I have limited serving to boys in both parishes where I have been the parish priest. To suggest that this might be an easy thing to do or that the bishop and most other priests would not consider you antediluvian treat you as though you were out of your mind, is not a reflection of the actuality of the situation. No priest wants any of his parishioners to be unhapy, let alone to "get a bit stroppy" but when they do, that's not the end of it in these days: they write to the bishop (who will often support their views); they will write to the press; who will always support their views; they will write to the papal Nuncio and the Archbishop of Westminster (believe it or not). They will assemble together and challenge the priest in public and make his life very unpleasant. Traditional interpretations of Church teaching are not for the faint hearted, let me assure you. The idea that it is priests who "increasingly run the show" is also far from the reality. Diocese are now run like corporations, where health and safety and boards of directors hold sway and most parishes are dominated by groups of laity - and there are many who consider that the ideal path to follow.

Jacobi said...


I understand everything you say but things are going to change and boy, people, Catholic laity and bishops alike have just not even begun to realise how much.

Just look at the graphs. The recent figures from France show that within 26 years the post-Vat II Church will simply not exist because there will be no priests. There is no reason to believe that things will be any different in this country.

Except for one thing. The number of priests in the Traditional, pre-Vat II, or as I prefer to put it, Catholic Orders, though small at present, will exceed others in about 20 years.

A smaller Church as Benedict has predicted, but a Catholic Church which will expand again.

So, hold on to your hat, or biretta, or whatever that is that you wear, and tell your stroppy groups of laity to get lost.


Liam said...

To have the courage and state this in print is truly amazing. Most people know of this correlation between being a server and a call to the priesthood but choose to ignore for the sake of political correctness.
This however will change nothing, the powers to be are more interested in being inclusive rather than admit that not everyone should be an alter server.