Female role in the mass

Several years ago I left the Catholic church for a variety of reasons. I have since come back to the Church but I still struggle to understand some of the Church’s teachings and practices which led me to leave the church. One of those is, for lack of a better way of explaining it, the lack of uniquely female role in the mass. The assumptions/beliefs I’m basing this on are as follows.

  1. I believe that the mass and Eucharist are the focal point of the faith.  It forms the foundation.
  2. Men and women have different, unique, but complementary gifts.  They bring different things to the table, so to speak. I used to question women not being able to be priests.   I do understand now why that is not an appropriate role for women and that is a role men should have.
  3. That still leaves me with the question of what is a unique or special role that women can have?

Growing up there were literally no opportunities for me to serve at mass and I felt hurt by that. Few, if any churches, had female altar servers and the reason I was given when I asked why was that I was female. While not intended, the message I got was that the males were valued more and had more to offer than females. There was no alternative given to me.

Women are having a greater role in the mass with being extraordinary ministers, lectors, and cantors, but these are all ways of serving that are open to males.

I raised this question at a conference recently and the answer I received was that the church is female and the priest is male and that creates the balance and is where the unique gifts of each gender come in, but the “female” church includes male members.

What do others think? Is there reason to identify a uniquely female role in the mass? How can a feminine perspective be included in the mass?

I will just quote my wife…“people who think that roles in mass are important are missing the point and have issues with pride. I am perfectly happy to have he role of the laity in the pews.”

My wife ( a woman said that)

I guess there are two issues - one is the role of women in the mass and I think more opportunities have been available. The other is incorporating a female perspective, for lack of a better word, into the mass.

A lot of this was triggered by learning more about theology of the body and the reasoning for only male priests and against homosexual unions is that separately men and women are incomplete and it’s by joining men and women that they are complete. I’m wondering how, in practice, that plays out with the mass. You have the priest who brings what is uniquely male to the community. How is what is uniquely female brought to the community?

As a side note, I agree that being part of the laity is important (and more instruction and teaching on the role of the laity in mass would help) but I think it sends a message allowing some members of the community the opportunity to serve while excluding other members from that opportunity. Serving the community as a lector or eucharistic minister can help your faith grow. There were trainings available to me as an EM and lector that helped my faith grow that were not made available to the laity as a whole. I would imagine the same could be said for altar servers. By serving and having a particular role in something is often a learning experience and helps you understand something in a deeper way.

I think you mean at mass, right? Otherwise I could say that the wife/mother in a family has her unique position. She just isn’t the same as the father or the daughter or the son.

I see our unique types as being part of how man/woman were made during creation. The complementarity was made that way so that the love in a family/marriage would be a certain way. I don’t think our types were made particularly with mass in mind. I mean, and I know this is a speculation, what if there had been no Fall, and we stayed how we were created at the start? Well, there was no mass back then. Our differentiation is not with respect to mass.

At mass you and I are the children for whom Christ died. It doesn’t really matter which sex we are in that sense. He is our Savior either way, equally. Both the men who are in the pews, the women who are in the pews, and the man at the altar have the same Savior.

Your unique and special role in the Mass is that only you, and nobody else on Earth, can make it so that jenelrose attends and participates in the Mass. Just like only I can bring it about that peetergee atends and participates in it. Anything a lay Catholic man can do in the Mass, a lay Catholic woman can also do.

You say you understand why women can’t be priests. The priest is in the person of Christ who is the male, the Church is the female. No doubt lay women find it easier to accept that they are part of a female Church than lay men do.

No there is not and can never be any special role for an individual woman in the Mass that is analagous to the special role of the celebrating priest. That is the nature of humanity, of Christ and His Church. It is not “anti-woman” that this is the case. The priest’s role is to serve the Church, to die for her. Ordaining a man a priest is not a statement that he’s a better person because he’s a man. He’s ordained to serve and to suffer as Christ did.


You might want to ask yourself what role the Blessed Ever Virgin Mother of God demanded for herself in the Upper Room and in the Divine Liturgies of St. John the Apostle - I think you’ll find that our Blessed Mother demanded nothing more than to be next her Son when He started His public ministry and when He was dying on the cross.

You might try reading St. Catherine of Siena, St.Teresa of Avila and St. Therese of Lisieux and see what their roles in the Church were.

Please understand, the Mass is far less a gathering of the community as it is a recapitulation of all that our Lord Jesus did for us from His last Sedar when He instituted the Eucharist to His Sacrifice on the cross at Golgatha where He died to save us from our sins and from certain and eternal death. The Mass is far less about the members of the body of Christ gathered together than than the worship of Christ by those who are to receive the Body and Blood of Christ while giving themselves over to the embrace of Christ. The same Presence that comes over the alter during the Consecration of our LORD’s Body and Blood is the same Presence that inhabited the Holy of Holies when the first Temple was inaugurated by Solomon and when Isaiah received his charge.

Because of that, the only point of view that really counts is the one God provides and has provided through nearly 2,000 years of the Church’s history. Our point of view, and what we bring to the Table, really doesn’t matter all that much, because God is doing the “Heavy Lifting”, so long as we obey Him.

I’m sure you’ve heard almost all of this before…If you want your faith to grow and…

You’re not going to Daily Mass, go;

You’re not going to Confession at least once/month, go;

You’re not working with a Spiritual Director, get one and start working with him or her:

You’re not praying the Rosary, Pray the Mysteries 25-39 min./day;

You’re not Tithing, Give 1/10 of your net income to you parish or to Catholic Organizations such as Catholic Answers, EWTN or Priests for Life.

You’re not praying for others daily, ask others if you can pray for them and post their needs at the Catholic Answers Prayer Intentions Forum on top of praying for them.

You’re not helping others in your parish, ask your Rector who in the parish needs help around the home (cooking, arrends, homework, etc.)

You’re not reading the Scriptures daily, read the scriptures for 30 minutes/day - My Daily Catholic Bible by The Sunday Visitor splits the Bible into reading 365 daily readings. The Visitor uses the RSV-CE, but any good modern translation (e.g., Jerusalem Bible, New American Bible, Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition) will work.


Try volunteering to help around the parish - teach a catechism, CCD or RCIA Class - take on yourself - Or, take care of a couple of little children during Mass (You’ll need to attend another Mass on your own) so their mothers can attend Mass without being interrupted.

You’ll be far more of service (unless you’re a very good public reader), and grow far more, doing these things than trying to find a role for yourself in the Divine Liturgy.

Your Brother in Christ, Michael

this is a common response, and I believe its root is in misunderstanding about both the nature and role of the sacrificial priesthood, and about the baptismal priesthood and calling of the laity. this in turn leads to misunderstanding about liturgy and the distinct roles of the priest, other ministers assisting the priest, and the congregation. The concern about “taking a part in the Mass” betrays a lack of appreciation for the essential active participation of the congregation, and diminishes its importance.

the solution I think to finding answers to your good questions is to spend time studying the nature of the ordained priesthood and most of all in studying the Mass and the Eucharist.

Growing up there were literally no opportunities for me to serve at mass and I felt hurt by that.

Me too, but as I grew older I realized that the Mass is not about me, it’s not a performance and I am there to worship God. I don’t need to do anything except love Him.

My question to you is why do you think you need one?


Why does there need to be a “feminine perspective” included in the Mass? I do not see that there is currently a “male perspective” in the Mass.

There is no difference in the function between laymen and laywomen at Mass. The Mass is not an affirmative-action, equal-opportunity jobs program.

The joint “role” of both men and women is simply to pray and to worship God.

I don’t mean this to sound harsh, jenelrose, but only in our modern Western society would the question of roles even come up.

I too spent time thinking that as a girl/woman I wasn’t appreciated by the church and didn’t have a special enough role to fill. I spent a year in graduate studies in Religion and made sure everyone knew I was studying Religion and not Religious Ed, which was the girl’s ghetto. Sounds awful and prideful, doesn’t it?

Thankfully, I didn’t stay in that mindset. The love of Christ, his mercy and grace, helped my to understand more and more that my unique role as a woman wasn’t in conflict or opposed to a man’s role, but that they were complimentary.

I second the suggestion of reading the lives and writings of our great women Saints, especially St Teresa of Avila, St Catherine of Siena, and St Terese of Lisieux. They are all Doctors of the Church and were all understanding of and happy in their roles.

Mass is not about our particiaption. It is about God’s infinate mercy to us all as sinners. Not having a role at Mass is very freeing, because it allows us to concentrate fully on God’s mercy and not be worried about our own actions.

I was going to throw this out for the OP’s consideration as well: From Eve Tushnet: Under November 7, 2007
The Man-Mary

And this is precisely what priests are to the faithful. I’m getting this from a thing by Fr. Richard Neuhaus, I think in The Public Square vol. 1, where he defends priestly celibacy by saying that priests are “radically disposible.” Like Kleenex. Or… like David’s self-as-libation, poured out for God.

I think a feminist Catholic could legitimately say that women are already treated as available, as disposible, even as Kleenex. A woman priest, therefore, would just be a cliche. ***Of course ***a chick is here to serve you! That’s not radical at all. A male priest is new and different and needed–a radically disposible male, not a female. A man-Mary, whose only word can be, “Fiat voluntas tua.”

And she adds*: Again, I don’t know that this is the defense I’d* *make. * I’ve thought something along those lines only not in so many words, except the bolded part, that’s pretty close.

Do not forget that a woman served as the Apostle to the Apostles in order to inform them that Jesus had truly risen. St. Mary Magdalene was chosen by our Lord to tell his Apostles that he was, in fact, alive. That is why the Church honors her with the title, Apostle to the Apostles.

The only role any of us really have during the Mass is to partake in the liturgy completely. We need to interiorly prepare and dispose ourselves to the sacred mysteries that unfold before us. The priest, by virtue of his ministry, has a distinct and special role that is radically different from the common priesthood of the faithful.

This does not, in any way, detract from the faithful, whether male or female. The fact that I am a woman does not make me feel less disfranchised in the Faith than the Holy Father. As a previous poster indicated, the Blessed Mother represents the quintessential role of Woman in the Church. She neither requested, much less, demanded, a starring role in Jesus’ public life. But, when it mattered, she was there, whether it was Cana to urge him on to start his ministry, at Calvary, to see Him complete His sacrifice to the Father (and, to offer her Son to the Father, as well) or in the Upper Room at Pentecost (to be with and support the Apostles, who were now her children).

Blessed Teresa was content to simply be praying at Mass. Ditto for Mother Angelica.

Now, as a previous poster indicated, you can take an active role in your parish by perhaps serving as a CCD teacher, lector, EMHC (at Mass or the homebound) or even something as simple as decorating the church for the liturgical seasons. That’s how I started. The whole idea is to not just be a bump on the log. Just because, as women, we are not called to the ordained state (nor is it appropriate for us to assume a role that Christ never gave us to begin with), that does not make us any less members of His Church.

*Anything that tends to make religion
more feminine is the last
thing that Christianity in America needs. * [LEFT] [/LEFT]
God Has No Daughters:
Masculine Imagery
in the Liturgy

…The use of feminist language and imagery in Christian worship is especially dangerous because it places a further obstacle in the way of an appreciation of the theological meaning of gender. Such appreciation is necessary if we are to begin to overcome the feminization of Western Christianity. Masculinity plays a central role in Judaism and Christianity, and men can be shown that Christianity does not want to convert them into pseudo-women, but help to fulfill the deepest meaning of masculinity. In Christ men should be able to see what it is to be a man. Ecce homo, et ecce vir. The powerful currents of masculinity, especially the admiration that verges on eros that men feel for the exemplars of masculinity, the athlete and the soldier, can be directed away from crime, violence, and quasi-fascist nationalism into a relationship with God in Christ. The Church will benefit, men will benefit, and society as a whole will benefit. A key to beginning this work is to use the language of Scripture rather than a language constructed by feminists, because in the religion of the Word made flesh words can be both creative and destructive.

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