Baptism. Check. First Holy Communion. Check. I had the prerequisites down. My only problem is that I’m a girl. Sure, this may have been a problem before, but never this barefaced. I always thought by the time I was eligible to be an altar server, the rules would have changed. But here I am. Unqualified.
I’ve been told I have grit. I’ve been told I have courage. I’ve even been told I have a big mouth. I’m proud of being classified as each.
So, at the tender age of eight, I’ve decided I’m going to be an altar server. Or at least make a big enough stink about it that others can do it after me.
I ask the nuns if they know if the rules are the same in Rome. One gets back to me and lets me know females can be altar servers according to the mother ship. It’s been allowed for almost 10 years. With that knowledge, I begin to speak to priests after mass and members of our congregation. It seems no one within our four walls is opposed to the idea, they just don’t change it because … well … no one ever brings it up.
To me, being an altar server is an honor. I always watch the kids who serve in awe. They seemed to know exactly what to do at exactly the right time. They get to stand on the altar and see mass from a different perspective. They get to hold the heavy book during the Blessing of the Bread. They get to hold the heavy cross and lead the procession at the beginning of mass and at the end. They’re seen and not heard. Always still, quiet, and ready. And they also get tipped – in cash – when they take on the somber role of serving during a funeral service or the joyful role of serving during a marriage.
What other legitimate job can an eight-year-old get?
I sign up for the upcoming training – this was really happening. And I’m amazed to see other young girls in class alongside me. I’m not the only one who wants to serve. I’m just the loudest one.
I love being an altar server just as much as I thought I would. I sign up for as many masses as I can and volunteer for any special services, as well. I live within walking distance of my church. And an eight-year-old walking three-quarters of a mile by myself isn’t unheard of. I’m proud of my new responsibility. I’m proud of myself.
To paraphrase Mark Twain, “But it is a blessed provision of nature that at times like these, as soon as a woman’s mercury has got down to a certain point there comes a revulsion, and she rallies. Hope springs up, and cheerfulness along with it, and then she is in good shape to do something for herself if anything can be done.”
Of course, it can be done. It just takes grit, courage, and a big mouth.