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Altar Servers: A Boys’ Club?

Recently the Commonweal blog had a post about how some parishes and dioceses still do not allow girls to serve at the altar, 15 years after official permission was given.

This made me think of a book called Our New Friends. It was the Catholic version of the Dick and Jane elementary school readers, published by Scott, Foresman and Company. I remember this book from my own grade-school days; it was used during my schooling in the late 1960s, even though it had not changed much since the ’40s. A few years ago I found a copy on eBay, and I thought I’d share with you a chapter that explains why girls cannot be altar servers in typical 1940s logic.

This book is interesting because first of all it appears to acknowledge that this was a common question even back then. Secondly, it is interesting because today it somehow manages to be quaint, cute, humorous and horrifying, all at the same time. The way the priest dismisses the girls’ desire to serve at the altar of God is probably typical of how girl’s desires were treated in all walks of life then. It is so sad that some priests and bishops today are using the same line of reasoning.

1940s grade school reader

1940s grade school reader

By the way, this book has the name of the young student displayed prominently inside, written boldly in magenta crayon: Donald Coates. If you are Donald Coates or one of his children or grandchildren, contact me and I will send you a free copy of Ascend!

To see either of the images in a larger size, click on it.

5 Responses to “Altar Servers: A Boys’ Club?”

  1. [...] to miss what commenter (and deacon) Eric Stoltz posted in the thread below about altar girls. He scanned a few pages from a 1940s Catholic grade-school reader that are, as he says on his blog, “quaint, cute, [...]

  2. GenXsurvivor says:

    I totally want to get this book for my kids. Mass is a big thing. Going to Mass is the real job of assisting God. Girls do have this question–the book faces the question head on, and it gives the right answer. Awesome.

  3. I am glad to have found this blog, even if these illustrations leave me *speechless* for now.

  4. Sue says:

    Praise God for this book! It is a big deal for girls and boys, big and small to go to Church. It is even a bigger deal, to have girls and boys, big and small, unite their prayers and sufferings with that of the Priest, straight to Cross of Jesus Christ. Our Catholic masses have become way to focused on me, me, me instead of looking at what Jesus Christ did for us 2000 years ago and still is doing for us today. – Christ is truly present in the Eucharist. AS CATHOLICS – let us start acting like it he is there instead of everything else.

    I love children as much if not more than everyone, but until we start setting an example for those children in our Masses, you can not expect reverence to grow. I have attended Masses where I thought I was at a Rock Fest. I do not know about you, but I come to Mass to meet Christ in the Eucharist.


  5. Austin says:

    I can understand why people would be outraged that some priests do not allow girls to be alter servers. But I think it comes down to the different roles that Men and Woman have. While there is nothing wrong with a young girl serving the alter (in fact it certainly could be a good thing), it does not go 100% in line with the varying roles Men and Women have in the Church. Times change and had official permission not been given it would have been misconstrued greatly by the secular world. But next thing we know there will be serious Catholics with good intent questioning the legitimacy of only men being priests.

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