Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How Arlington's Policy on Altar Girls Helped One Young Man Find His Priestly Vocation

School girls bringing up the gifts at Mass in Kerala
More on the water problem in Loudon County: A few weeks back (November 23) I wrote about Father Michael Taylor of the Diocese of Arlington who is discontinuing allowing girls to serve Mass in his parish.  I received the following reaction to that post.  My correspondent wrote me:  
My wife and I and our three children, then ages 16, 15, and 13 moved from Indianapolis to Northern Virginia in 1994 and registered in our local parish.  All three of my children had been Mass servers in our parish in Indianapolis and wanted to continue in this ministry in our new home, but the pastor said that the two boys (the 16 and 15 year olds) were most welcome but that girls were not allowed to be altar servers in the Arlington Diocese.  My daughter was crushed and her brothers, very protective of her, decided that if she could not be altar servers they would prefer not to serve either.  The boys are “Irish twins”—that is, two siblings born within the same 12 month period—and they are a “matched set”—both over six foot, basketball players—tall, well built, and if I do say so, very handsome.  (They take after their mother.)   
     The pastor was anxious to have them become servers and approached them several times after Sunday Mass about becoming altar servers.  They were awkward and shy in their refusals but told him that no, they were not interested.  They were both in scouting and also active in the parish youth group.  The younger son has a particularly good singing voice and not only sang with the youth choir, but sometimes soloed or cantored at Mass.  The Church has always been very important to us as a family and we had strong ties to Saint Meinrad’s Abbey while we lived in Indiana.  I had taken them several times to Gethsemane Abbey in Kentucky as well.  I was always hopeful that one or the other might choose a priestly vocation.  My older brother is a Trappist Monk , and my mother’s brother, now deceased, was a Monsignor in the Boston Archdiocese.  
      In any event, the pastor showed up at our door one summer evening.  Bishop Keating was to come for Confirmation that fall and he wanted to give another pitch about the boys becoming servers.  They would be perfect he said for carrying the bishop’s miter and crosier.  As we sat on the terrace my wife explained to Father that this was a family decision and that if their sister could not serve, the boys chose not to serve.  My wife has a strong personality and felt very strongly about this, as do I, but it was very clear that this was the boys’ decision.  Nevertheless, in mid sentence, Father turned to me and said: “you had better get control of your family back from that b**** and be the man to make decisions for your family.”   The following Sunday my wife, my children, and I began attending the Episcopal Church.  We have found it to be a very happy home.  And yes, my older son found a vocation to the priesthood.  He and his wife are both priests and together serve a large campus ministry parish in the Midwest.  Father opened our eyes to see that a Church that would keep girls—or women—off the altar cannot possibly be proclaiming the Truth of Christ in whom “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female” (Gal 3:28).  So good luck to our former “pastor,” to Father Taylor, and the Diocese of Arlington—the Episcopal Church can use more folk like you.      
A note from your Blogger: I want to make it perfectly clear, lest there be any confusion on the matter, that Father Taylor is not the pastor mentioned in this letter but it was another "gentleman."  Father Taylor was only newly ordained at the time and had not yet been given a parish of his own,  Moreover, as I pointed out in my earlier article, Father Taylor, whatever his opinion on girls serving Mass,  is an exceptionally kind man and good priest.  Obviously that cannot be said of all the clergy today.

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