Women on the Altar at Mass

I recently attended a Mass in Madrid, Spain where I´m living and there was a woman helping on the altar at Mass. After reading the bidding prayers she presented the gifts (bread and wine) to the priest and then helped whilst he washed his hands by pouring the water etc. she then left the altar for the rest of the Mass.

Is this acceptable?

I thought it was strange because I´ve never seen it before.

It sounds like she was the altar server. It is preferred if people serving in the sanctuary do not do more than one service, so it would have been preferable if she did not read the bidding prayers if she was to be the altar server. Perhaps no one else was available to do both services.

I might be wrong, but it’s probably acceptable. As far as I am aware, it’s preferable for altar servers to be male for various prudent reasons but there’s nothing inherently wrong with a woman being permitted to take on this role.

It is permissable for women to act as altar servers, most of the servers in my parish are women/girls. The permission was given in the 1990’s or early 2000’s by the Vatican. Also, I think a previous poster was correct in indicating that ideally, someone should only do one job at Mass - a server shouldn’t also act as lector, an EMHC shouldn’t also act as a server, etc. But sometimes this may be unavoidable, especially at a weekday Mass when somebody doesn’t turn up for some reason. Maybe the the woman in question was due to read, and the designated server didn’t turn up, so she was asked to help at the Offertory as well.

In Spain and Portugal, it is quite common.
Actually, there are more girls ( say girls for they are of school age) than boys, who are harder (!!!) to catch into the Church. Boys have allergy to the incense…or the smell of the candles…

I have my own personal thoughts about Woman serving or assisting priest at the Altar.

IMHO for most men who say they dislike women serving at the altar; why is it they don’t come forward and request to serve the priests on the Sanctuary? Saying to oneself well I don’t feel like serving because a bunch a woman are on the Sanctuary is really not a valid defence. I dare say if increasing numbers of lay men and altar boys requested to serve at the altar you’d likely see more men and boys serving on the Sanctuary.

Did the advent of woman serving on the Sanctuary cause more Altar boys and men to loose interests serving with the priest? Debatable in some minds. But I’m sure in Jesus time many woman outside the synagogue or temples helped Jesus with certain tasks. And according to cultural customs of that time, women knew there was a certain etiquette to be followed in knowing their place, but not as a demeanor, but out of respect.

The female drives out the male. There was a boy whose mother was an airline pilot. Asked if he wanted to be and airline pilot when he grew up, he replied, “No, that’s women’s work.”

Then the problem is proper catechesis, not eliminating female pilots.

:rolleyes: Ahhhhh…the maturity of adolescent boys! I’m sorry, but it’s immaturity that drives out a male from doing something they want just because a female (ewwww gross! They have cooties!) might be doing the job, too. Besides, someone with an attitude like the one you quoted has no business going into a job like that anyway!

BTW, just HOW many threads can we get going about female altar servers at one time? Or as soon as one is closed by the moderators, do more pop up in its place?

Not arguing with this point you make. However; too much of the world today with our secular, relativistic society is likely too a big reason that has driven our men and boys away from the Sanctuary.

What you mean is proper brainwashing. That’s why it will take more than the law to convince me that men and women are not different.

To those “macho men” who dislike women in a liturgical ministry…your true colors are shining through! You most likely believe that men are superior in everything. It’s distasteful and sinful. As the saying goes…Jesus weeps.

That was my first thought as well.

I’ve been to Masses where the server didn’t show. Someone who knew what to do stepped up and did just the bare minimum - he didn’t hold the Sacramentary, for example - and then sat back down since he wasn’t wearing an alb. I was very grateful he did so; I was about ready to go do it but he was a lot closer to the Sanctuary.

Let’s not be so harsh. I don’t think anybody was saying or thinking that. There is a difference of roles between men and women, and the question was whether this practice is respectful of that difference. I think the answer clearly is “yes,” and there is nothing wrong with women being altar servers, but for prudent reasons, it might be preferred that men take on that role if possible, because perhaps it might give an inaccurate impression of what the job entails.

Once, when I attended a prayer group at church dominated by women, I constantly felt out of place and unable to relate because the discussions tended far too much towards feelings and the like and before long, I was too uncomfortable and no longer able to make myself attend. It might be that women wouldn’t feel out of place in a men’s group, but with men, it’s different, and it’s not a question of ego or needing to feel “macho” but simply an innate difference in how we see the world and the fact that our minds work a little differently. Men need to be respected just as much as women need to be respected.

That doesn’t make me a sexist or make me think that men are better than women, but is simply a reflection of the differences between men and women and similar to why men might prefer action movies to chick flicks or why boys prefer to play with trucks and girls with dolls.

Heeeeeere we go again…



Its called misogyny. Although I am not quite sure I spelled it correctly. Jesus must have been one of those macho men because he only personally chose men to be his apostles.

Then again God must be a macho man too as he chose to become incarnate in the form of a man.

Or we could look at things maturely and realize that men and women are equal yet different and that liturgical ministry is not a symbol of power or superiority.

Jeepers I am glad I don’t se things that way. Seems sad to me to view mother church as a power structure. Which it is not.

And what about the women who dislike women in a liturgical ministry?

Nor does it exist to provide occupational opportunities for any group or groups.


I am soooo tired of the “Me-Attitude” that is permeating the altar these days. A woman bragged to me the other day that she had been an EMHC for 30 years. I smiled and said, “that’s nice” but what I really wanted to say was “so what?” You have to be at Mass anyway and where is the big sacrifice to get out of your seat for 10 minutes? Besides, there’s a certain amount of prestige with being on the altar alongside the priest. If you really want to serve community, try cleaning the church toilets with no one but the Lord watching you.

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