Anything Can Be Done

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.


JoAnna Baanana
JoAnna Baanana
Mother, Marketer, Writer, and Reader. I’m a mother of two wonderful little humans. I’m also an avid reader, an insatiable learner, and a self-acknowledged survivor. I’m grateful to work at O’Brien Communications Group (OCG) because I’ve learned the self-soothing and restorative craft of writing. I used to resist calling myself a writer because I have a finance degree. I naively thought I needed an English degree to effectively express myself in writing. But now, writer is a title I proudly wear, and writing is something I’ll practice for the rest of my life.

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    • Thank you Laurie! We don’t always have to reinvent the wheel. Most issues we face are not brand new. How many people are in this world? We just have to investigate, read and learn as much as we can. And know that change is always possible!!

  1. Grit, courage, and a big mouth-all continue to serve you as you share your light, your heart, your stories and passion here! Thank you for being you, JoAnna! Thanks for sharing this story from your early years of being feisty you.

    • Thank you Laura! Sometimes you have to remind yourself what’s inside – and what always has been. We falter from time to time. It’s part of the journey. But remembering this story gave me courage to continue on my advocacy journey!

  2. Just lovely JoAnna! Even at a young age, you had “grit.” It has and continues to serve you well! As many others say, “You go, girl,” but you do not need to tell you. Have a lovely weekend.

    I look forward to another of your beautifully expressed articles.

    • Thank you Darlene. And I look to hear a good “you go, girl” every now and again! Who doesn’t?

  3. Joanna, well said as coming from the heart and mind of an 8 year old. I see an inner part that goes beyond that, and that is to just serve HIM who has given of Himself in the most humbelist way. The church I attend has only male altar servers, as the tradition of the Holy Mass goes way back, although many parishes have female altar servers. You are a sweet soul, I don’t know you well, but I see beyond. God Bless

    • Thank you Lynn! I appreciate your comment. The 8 year-old me was a force to be reckoned with. And who knows what my old parish would have continued to do if I didn’t take the stand.

  4. What a sweet article dear JoAnna! A tender smile was drawn on my face when reading your words! It felt really good to visualize the tiny servant you 🙂

    Courage! Oh gosh, I’m still unable of deciding which virtue I prefer! But I can surely say that without this bravery one, I would have still been the miserable old perfectionist me!

    That’s actually where most of people who start the real transformational journey fail unfortunately… We can be honest enough to admit how distorted we are, how many ego’s constructs we’ve been building, how much hard work we need to do if we want to give ourselves a chance the unbecome the filter.

    We can also be open enough to challenge our ingrained limiting beliefs, so that we can re-write our program in alignment with the principles. But when it comes to staying with the pain of meeting those beliefs and demons, we can do it once, twice, maybe 3 times; and we then give our power to our unhealthy ego hardwired to avoid hardship…

    So yes, courage and the highest level ever is what makes it possible for us to transform! I made my mind: It is my favorite virtue 🙂

    • What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything? -Vincent Van Gogh

      Thank goodness we always have the ability to transform and heal. And thank you for sharing a part of your journey with me. I love the notion of “a chance to unbecome the filter.” That’s exactly what it is!