LET IT aLL sTART hERE
For Catholics who care...
I am a problem solver; however, it has taken me most of my 50 years on earth to understand that there is not much I can do to change most things. It has been a hard lesson to learn, and an even more difficult truth for me to accept. To leave all things in the hands of Our Lord has been challenging for me.
I have invoked the Serenity Prayer so often that I secretly suspect it may be conspicuously flashing across my forehead - in neon!
But, there is one thing I am convinced that I can do something about: Advocating to restore the Altar Boy back to his rightly place beside the priest during Mass. I am hoping that the subject of this blog, a dilemma many parishes are plagued with, will catch the attention of someone in the Albany (NY) Diocese who then will Tweet Pope Francis and encourage him to check out this week’s blog. Perhaps then the powers that be will focus efforts on what I perceive as symptomatic of a greater problem: The dreaded “Catholic Man-Crisis” which inevitably has its effect on vocations to the priesthood.
Before LetItAllStartHere, started here, I was planning to produce a documentary chronicling lives of Altar Boys. I discovered a significant connection between an adult man’s commitment to a career in the service of others, and the time they spent, serving Mass. Their willingness to serve God as young boys was often reflected in their chosen vocations be that as a firefighter, police officer, environmentalist, foster parent, teacher, coach, etc. It was my intention to have the documentary celebrate the lives of these men and it would also become my way of answering Pope Francis’ call to participate in The New Evangelization.
As of today, our parish has only one dedicated altar boy. There are two or three adult women altar servers. These generous women have stepped up to assist the priest during Mass, and I am grateful to them. However, that is certainly not the answer to the problem that has been ignored for far too many years. One that has inevitably resulted in the shortage of males who are actively involved in the Catholic Church at this time.
The slow extinction of the altar boy must be reversed. The use of surrogate altar servers - be they young girls or grown women, seems to be preventing the Church from taking the necessary steps to recruit young men who are willing to volunteer their time and talents to serve our Lord. And it is an obvious, to me, that these females have become obstacles for boys who either feel uncomfortable being “up there with girls” or complacent, saying to themselves : If “mom” is going to handle it, like she makes my bed or cleans my room, I will just sit back and let her.
I understand that we live in different times. In the past, parental influence played a large part in a boy’s decision to serve on the altar during Mass. I recognize that our culture does not encourage or support a boy’s choice to become an altar boy. I get that the popular pastime for a young boy these days is to participate in a sport, or lose oneself in the fantasy life of a gamer. But that doesn’t mean that I think this issue should not be talked about because…quite frankly...“what’s the use?” and the attempt to resurrect the altar boy, abandoned.
I am not afraid to admit that I am in agreement with Rev. Joseph Illo, pastor of Star of the Sea Church in San Francisco, who came under fire for his courageous and controversial decision to phase out female altar servers. Fr. Joseph believes there is an “intrinsic connection” between the priesthood and serving at the altar; since women can’t be priests, it makes sense to have only altar boys. He added: “Maybe the most important thing is that it prepares boys to consider the priesthood.” How can anyone reject this logic? I don’t. And I am determined to do something about it. How about you?