Perhaps I am getting a little nudge from above regarding my blogging efforts. I was looking through today's Washington Post and I saw an above the fold picture in the local section of a woman holding two young girls. It looked like there had been some terrible tragedy to befall the family. Then I looked at the headline- A Northern Virginia parish had decided to move away from female altar servers and to return to an all male altar boy corp dressed in cassocks. That is what lead this woman to look so doleful and "traumatized." In fact, they stopped attending that church and were driving long distances in order to find a church that did have altar girls.
Quick background, the diocese in question was one of the last two in the U.S. to decide to allow female altar servers when that permission was granted in the 1980's. When they made the change, the bishop allowed each priest to make the decision for his parish and the majority of parishes in this diocese do have all male altar boy. They also currently have 35 or 36 seminarians in formation. Fr. Zuhlsdorf, the Arizona Catholic blog and Fr. Longenecker have much more articulate postings regarding many of the good solid reasons for having an male altar boys. The priest in this Virginia parish is allowing currently trained girls to continue and has restored the boys to wearing a cassock instead of the horrible white albs tied with rope that are ubiquitous in your typical OF parish.
For the record, my daughter WILL NOT be an altar serviette. Luckily, due to attending the TLM on Sundays and being careful which OF masses we attend during the week, I have been able to minimize her exposure to this phenomenon. This is not because I am oppressing my child. From the looks of the woman in the article and the comments of another woman whose daughter they are the victims of the 1970's plus catechisis that holds: 1)active participation means everyone must be doing something pretty much every second of mass. 2) the more people on the altar "actively participating" the better and 3)its not fair. All of which adds up to the Kindergarten Approach to Liturgy i.e. everyone has to have a turn or its not fair.
The reality is, God made humans male and female and He made us to complement each other. Men cannot carry and bear children. It's not "unfair" to men that they do not get to share in that aspect of creation that God has granted to women. Men have other gifts they bring as the father. My point being, there are too many attempts to erase the differences between the sexes and the differences in what we have been called to do and to be as members of the body of Christ. Christ chose to call only men to the priesthood. That is not a policy and it cannot change, period. Being able to be an altar boy is not the only factor in a vocation to the priesthood, of course, but it is a key factor for many men. The "the black robes" or cassocks as we call them, are a clerical garment, which is why only the boys are now wearing them, and that is because direct service at the altar to assist the priest as he offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, can be critical to helping a boy or young man, be and remain open to a priestly vocation to which he may be called. In this day of families kept artificially small and 24/7 noise from computers, televisions and phones there is much working against vocation development.
The third to fourth grade is usually when most parish's allow training to be altar servers and it is also a time when children are really keying into differences and is a healthy and necessary stage. Girls can have a tendency to take over due to the fact that they generally mature faster, which can lead to them dominating the altar server corp and making it less attractive for boys and especially for older- high school aged boys. My parish back home always retained an all male server corp and are also notable for always having a server corp where the oldest "aged out" when they left for college instead of largely stopping service before high school rather than serve surrounded by grade school boys and numerous grade and middle school girls.
Here are some good post about the issue in general"