Saturday, April 2, 2011


  • Shamar: a Hebrew word for “to tend” or “to keep;” was used in Scriptures when God commanded Adam to cultivate and keep the garden of Eden and all that was in it (Genesis chapter 2); this word supposed responsibility; is also associated with “to guard” and “to protect.” When God told Adam to shamar in the Garden of Eden, it meant that he was supposed to care for it and protect it—as well as care for and protect Eve. Adam’s job was to tend to the needs of the garden and Eve physically, and protect both of them. Eve made the garden beautiful, and was to be submissive (under the mission) of Adam. Now, this whole idea of male-female roles is awesome, and I could go on and on about it. But, a while back, this thought hit me, taking the whole shamar and gender roles to a different direction. So now I finally am getting around to writing about it. This, I want to say from the start, is not something which I have thoroughly researched for documents and the like. The forthcoming rambling is my little soapbox with a topic of which I feel quite strongly about, and have discussed at length with some close friends. (Also, it is currently after midnight as I write this, so my brain cannot take researching to find dates, documents, etc.). And I also want to point out from the start that, with my following thoughts, I am not seeking to judge people. Even if you happen to disagree with me on this topic, I still love you :D This post is simply stating my strong beliefs, and giving my reasons behind my beliefs.

  • Altar servers. I love the whole mission and purpose of altar servers. They assist the priest in tending to the altar and physical needs of the Mass. They also have a spiritual aspect, of reverence and prayerfully going about their work, assuming a deep contemplative prayer within the Mass. Originally, altar servers were boys only. Girls had a mission and purpose within Mass; they could sing, and they could unite themselves spiritually to the rest of the Church; their prayers joined with the priests and servers in glorifying and adoring God.

  • Here comes the tie-in which came to me a month ago: men and boys are called to shamar. Seen in the Old Testament, is true to this day. The tending and service that Old Testament men were called to did not just involve women like Eve. No, this also involved the sacrifices that were offered to God; the people who assisted the priests with sacrifices were men. And hey, remember Samuel? He is a good example; a boy sent to work and live at the synagogue. Shamar: tending, protecting, caring for. Hmm…just like altar servers help the priest tend to the altar, care for the physical needs of the Mass, protect the sacredness of the Liturgy…just a thought.

  • And you know how Eve was given a mission? To beautify the garden and do internal stuff and let Adam shamar? Well, traditionally, women and girls would let the boys serve and shamar, while they prayed in the pews. Women could also help beautify the church area with flowers, purify and wash altar linens, etc. Just as the Church is seen as a female that Christ died and shamared for, the Liturgy is the “woman,” so to speak. The priest offers the sacrifice of Christ during the Liturgy. The priest shamars to the altar.
But apparently these roles weren’t good enough. Now, girl altar servers are the norm in many dioceses. It is extremely common in the United States to see girl altar servers at Mass. Lots of girls consider it good stewardship. Other girls like it because it makes them feel important, it makes them feel that they are being a part of the Mass. In other parishes, the boys aren’t responsible and won’t show up—so the girls step up and serve at the altar.

  • Let me address these points. Stewardship doesn’t have to be fulfilled by being an altar server! Stewardship doesn’t even have to be fulfilled by volunteering to help in the Liturgy! There is a need for greeters, lectors, people to help in Sunday School, people to clean the church, people to help decorate the church, children to participate in youth groups. These are just a few ways that girls can take part in parish stewardship. Altar serving is only one of many, many ways to do stewardship. Heck, every person in church is called to participate and be part of the Mass! The altar servers just have a more active role in helping with the celebration of the Mass. But everyone is called to participate and be active. So what if altar serving makes you feel important? I don’t want to seem heartless; many 6th graders who begin serving (though in other parishes they start younger) just want to feel important, want to feel needed. So it is understandable that these girls want to feel important. However, Mass is not about us trying to feel important and needed. Mass is all about glorifying God, showing God’s importance over us! If people actually taught about how amazing participation at the Mass is, and if humility was taught as a virtue to strive, girls may start to understand that it’s not about them! Also, if a parish does not let girls serve, this simple restriction points to the reality that altar serving is a much more important act than just walking through the motions of Mass, putting ciboria here, cruets there.

  • So the boys don’t show up. The boys don’t shamar. So the girls feel that they have to shamar for the boys and be altar servers? When this cycles out with the girls shamaring for the guys, what good will come? Guys start to lose sight of their role as men, to shamar, to tend and protect. In fact, altar serving is a direct way of exposing boys to the priestly vocation. By having girls serve instead of boys, the boys are losing both their role to shamar, as well as good exposure to the priesthood in action. And when guys start to lose sight of their vocation, the roles of men and women big time get pulled out of the balance that God put them in. I mean, having girl altar servers is denying the physical aspect of our Faith; and the Catholic Faith is a physical faith. Physical, in the sense that all of our senses, our bodily movements, it all connects to the interior actions and reality that are taking place. Physically, guys are called to shamar, to tend and protect. Physically, girls are called to beautify creation. The imbalance that is created with girl altar servers is not good. Just look around in the world today, with radical feminist movements and men slacking off in their roles to shamar, protect, and provide for women. It’s sad. And it starts in the home, and with girls being shown that letting men and boys slack in their mission is okay.

  • These are just a few of my thoughts on the topic. Like I said, I’ve thought this issue out for a while. Heck, once upon a time, I was asked to be an altar server, and I thought it sounded kinda neat, but my parents dissuaded me. Over time, as I studied the Liturgy more, and learned more about the vocations of men and women, I really saw how having girl altar servers is so contradictory to the vocations of human beings. And then I found some amazing friends and family to discuss this issue with, and formulate my thoughts and reflections. Really, I believe that altar serving is a huge issue, and more people need to really take it to heart—seriously, altar servers are assisting at the altar! Right when JESUS COMES DOWN! How cool is that? So anyway, my thoughts have been building up, and I needed to dump them out someplace. So here they are, spilled out.

  • Take it for what its worth.


  1. I pray and look forward to the day that men again see how precious women are... and on that note, that women can in turn see how precious they are themselves.
    I altar served for a long time, but finally stopped. I'm not exactly sure why, but I no longer felt called to serve in that way. I'm signed up to start lectoring and I'm really looking forward to it, but I haven't been contacted about it... I'm gonna have to do something about that. Thanks for the post. It takes girls like you to change the men that our world has produced. If the girl keeps herself to a certain standard, then men will eventually raise themselves to that standard. Keep it up. =D

  2. You are very welcome. That's cool that you are tuned in to your call to serve-I think a lot of times, people forget about praying for their particular path to serve, which is problematic. And THANK YOU for calling other men to a higher standard, and for being a man of God who treats us with dignity, respect, and true Catholic love!