The conversation regarding priests being a vocation that is suffering seems to echo the ancient ruins of Christianity in Ireland today, but somehow forgotten is the increasing loss of appetite for parents to offer their children to be altar boys.
We won’t discuss the entire history behind what role altar boys play in the Catholic and Eastern Church traditions, but suffice it to say that they’re not only there to serve the priest. Such a role is supposed to inspire them to a vocation later in life of becoming a priest.
Then in recent years, altar girls made an appearance and although permitted and no canonical obstacles to having them were there, never did it make any kind of sense simply because the role was always there for boys to be led to the priesthood via their eyes on the priest as someone to emulate. Women cannot become priests so the move was obviously one made by those wishing to have a female priesthood (something banned by the universal magisterium, meaning the Church has no power to change what Christ has instituted such as the male only priesthood).
Even though they opened up the altar servers to females, still there isn’t any female altar servers either. This is because no matter what the Church does in order to appease the liberal culture, the liberal culture really doesn’t want to believe in God. They’re like children who demand a new toy and once in their possession, throw it under the bus and walk away.
The Church of England is a prime example of someone who has tried to tick every liberal demand, even to the point of having a genuine fun fair rides and mini golf course built in their church, only for people still not to show up and show any interest. RIP the Church of England, and sadly the liberal wing of the Catholic Church is following them into the abyss by trying to appease the liberals by assimilating popular culture into the liturgy and their youth retreats.
What is the root cause of the death of the altar boy? Same as it is the priesthood, which is to say a family that doesn’t put God at the heart of all they do. The success of everything depends upon Gods blessing as Psalm 126 says, ”If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labour;”. The moral decay of the family home has contributed to the vocational crisis the Church faces with a lot of parents opting to see weekly Mass as an unappealing prospect, is it any wonder, then, such numbness of spirit towards God passes onto our children?
There is a light and I saw it today at Mass because my 6 year old boy Joseph took me by surprise when the priest made his way down the aisle at the end of Mass by reaching out of the pew and grabbing Fr.Jones by the arm and in front of everyone, made his desire to be an altar boy known to the priest. His prayer was granted and he begins next week. I don’t know where the desire comes from (well…I suppose we all know the answer to that one) because we’ve never ever suggested it to him, but because he sees other boys on the altar this has inspired him to do the same.
How can our children ever be inspired by seeing nobody on the altar? When the visual is gone. . . so is the vocation. We need more vocations and bringing back the altar boys proper role on the altar may not be the complete answer yet a contribution towards the resolve of the vocational crisis to the priesthood. It’s the little things that we overlook such as this that matter the most.