I got a charming email today from the secretary at the church where my son is a server. He is not a server at our parish church because no one ever expressed much interest in having him. However, at the church down the street, where I often go for Adoration and sometimes confession, he was welcomed with open arms. The friars seem to have an infinite amount of patience. This helps, because Matt doesn't learn or think like most of us. On Sunday, the server who was scheduled didn't show up, so Matt was pressed into service. This is another good reason why one should never arrive at church two minutes before Mass begins. Whatever happened, it gave the pastor the impetus to amend the Holy Week schedule and Matthew will now serve, God-willing, on Holy Thursday and at the Easter Vigil.
I saw an interesting thread on Father's Z blog yesterday about a book from Angelus Press called Letters to an Altar Boy. Just once, I wish I could read a post about altar boys without the mention of altar girls. The comments weren't too bad yesterday, but in the past, quite a few were totally devoid of charity. I don't happen to be someone who believes the Church should provide equal opportunities for boys and girls. But I do happen to be the mother of a once-little girl who served at the Novus Ordo for 5 years with the utmost reverence and care. I didn't encourage this because I thought my daughter should have the same opportunity as my son. I encouraged it because I found it heartbreaking that our parish had so many young people and so few servers. I got tired of hearing the poor pastor beg for boys or girls to help him.
When our new pastor came, I had a suspicion that he would prefer to have boys, so I broached the subject with him. He was very clear that while he wished he had more boys, he really didn't have an objection to keeping Rebecca on. Every so often, I would open the door again for him to dismiss her, but he passed. Rebecca served at the Easter Vigil every year. She was the appointed bell-ringer on Holy Thursday and at the Easter Vigil and despite her physical problems, she carried out her duties reliably and with great attention and care. She never complained about being tired or bored. She always wore an expression of angelic beauty, if I don't say so myself.
One day Father asked me if I had taught her to genuflect when he genuflected when returning the ciborium to the tabernacle. I told him I had not. He smiled. He told me that none of the other servers ever did that except Rebecca. He asked me if I realized the great privilege she had to be so close to the Lord during the Consecration. I said yes, but I reminded him that she served at his pleasure, and he was free to dismiss her. The problem was that outside of the TLM, he had no new servers.
Finally, an adorable little cherub-faced boy came along who was willing to serve. Rebecca trained him as though he was her baby brother. She did everything she could to both teach him and protect him. One Saturday evening, Father told her he thought her charge was ready to fly solo. It was the last time she served.
No one was scandalized, unless they imagined it. Rebecca found it amusing that some people fear that because she served at the altar, she might want to become a priest. She spent her years serving in total oblivion of the resentment and even hostility that some people have toward girls serving the Novus Ordo. I really have no idea how and why girls were permitted to begin serving. To be honest, I'm relieved that we were insulated from it all. I'm also extremely grateful that not one but two of my children have had this privilege.
BTW, I have not read the book that Father Z featured on his blog, but I have read another excellent book from Angelus Press that a priest lent us. Know Your Mass, while geared toward the Extraordinary Form, is a wonderful resource and a charming book to help young people understand what happens at Mass and why.
I respect the tradition of boys only and I know it's the best way to try to groom young men for the priesthood. I present my story for those who are insistent that girls are easily distracted simpletons who serve merely so they can meet boys and demand equal treatment. There will always be stereotypes. And there will always be exceptions.