Skip to main content

A Youthful Culture of Faith

I am one happy Catholic Mom! Both my college boys are home so we have a full house again. They each attend school some 1500 miles away from home so having them return is a treat. Today my husband and I had all of our children in the pew with us. My heart just sings when they are all in the pew or all at the dinner table.

Every Friday evening, my parish holds a Eucharistic Holy Hour. Confessions begin thirty minutes prior to the Holy Hour and continue until the lines are done. Usually we have one or two priests hearing confessions. This past Friday we had three priests and their lines were long. It took over an hour for the priests to finish.

My youngest son was one of the altar servers for this Holy Hour. My college boys came along since they had not yet been to confession during Advent. As I observed the lines, I noticed that my boys were not the only young men waiting to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. There were probably at least fifteen young men ranging from late high school age to college age. How uplifting it is to see young men choosing to spend a Friday evening adoring Our Lord and receiving the sacramental grace of Confession. No doubt some of this was the result of a little parental prodding. But I still think we are very blessed that the parish provides the environment that such behavior is not extraordinary. It is very normal.

How did our parish cultivate this culture of faith among our young men? I don’t think there is a simple answer to this question. There are many factors that have come into play. Strong faith filled families and a supportive youth ministry are certainly significant influences. I wonder if having only male altar servers also contributes to the strengthening of the Catholic identity in these young men. We have two servers at each of two daily Masses and six altar servers at each of five weekend Masses. We also have two servers at the weekly Holy Hour. We have a corps of at least 125 servers. They vie for the privilege of serving at the Altar of Our Lord. Our priests provide catechesis to the altar servers at every opportunity and even hear their confessions after they have served at Mass. It creates a strong Catholic bond among our young men. They may be foes on the soccer field on Saturday afternoon, but on Sunday morning they are serving at the altar together.

I know that an all male altar server corps is not the norm around the country. Before I moved the Diocese of Arlington, I would have argued hard that it is only fair that girls get to be altar servers too. However, now that I have seen chivalrous, faithful culture that is created by having only young men serve at the altar, I have become a strong supporter of the all-male altar server policy. The Arlington Diocese recently relaxed its rules and allowed each pastor the discretion to allow girls to serve. I am very grateful that neither our past pastor nor our present pastor has changed our parish policy to allow female altar servers.

Lest you worry that the young ladies of our parish are ignored, we have created an organization known as Fiat for the girls. You can read a little about both our altar server program and Fiat here. We are so blessed to have such energetic priests who support these youth formation programs. I believe we will see the fruits of these efforts in the form of vocations for several generations. Certainly these programs foster the consideration of religious vocations by the current participants, but I also think such strong faith formation will greatly benefit the marital vocations as well. Strong faith filled marriages build strong faith filled families. From these families will come our future priests and consecrated religious.


Anonymous said…
i agree about the male altar servers..mind you we don't have as many as that..God bless
Anonymous said…
Merry Christmas to all the Hunnells! And a special thanks to you, Dr. Hunnell, for creating this blog. I can't even begin to tell you just how much I have learned about our Catholic faith from this blog site alone. You are truly doing the work of the angels. God bless.
Anonymous said…
As one who converted to Catholicism as an adult, I thank God that the parishes that I encountered early on did not discriminate against girls by barring them from the privelege of serving at the altar. One of my misconceptions about the Catholic Church early on was that woman and girls were not valued by the Church. It was seeing girls serving at the altar and women participating in Mass as readers and Communion servers that made me realize that the Church does value women and girls. I'm afraid that if I hadn't seen that, I might not have been able to get past my own misconceptions and never would have had the joy of becoming Catholic.

You mentioned seeing a number of college-age boys ready to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation in part because of the experiences they'd had as altar servers. Where were the college-age girls? Too bad they didn't get to have that experience.


Popular posts from this blog

Parent Letter from a Catechist

I am going to be teaching seventh grade CCD this year. We do most of the preparation for confirmation during this year since Confirmation is usually scheduled for the fall of the eighth grade year.I have composed a letter to the parents to try and keep them active in their children's religious education. I thought I would post it here and get your feedback before I send it out in a couple of weeks.

I am privileged to be your child’s seventh grade CCD teacher for the 2006-2007 school year. This is a very important year. We will focus on your child’s preparation for confirmation. Of course, you have already been preparing your child for this sacrament for many years. You are the primary catechist for your child. You show how important your Faith is by making Mass attendance a top priority and by family prayer.

Confirmation is one of the Sacraments of Initiation. It is a beginning. It is not a graduation. This year we will work to solidify the foundation of your child’s Catholic Faith.…

Dispelling the Myth of the Travel Dispensation

One of the fun things about having a site meter on my blog is I can see which posts garner the most attention. I can also see how people find my blog. One of the most read posts from my two years of blogging is this one that discusses finding Mass while traveling. I would like to think this post is so popular because it is so well written. The truth of the matter is that it generates so much traffic because I use the words “travel dispensation for Mass”—as in “There is no such thing as a travel dispensation for Mass.” I would guess that nearly a dozen times every week, someone googles “travel dispensation for Mass” and finds my blog. I wonder how many of these folks are poor souls trying to assuage their Catholic guilt with evidence of a justification for missing Mass while on the road.

I know that when I tell my seventh grade CCD students that attending Mass every Sunday is a commandment (one of the top ten!) and not just a pretty good idea they are amazed. Missing Mass has become so …

United Breaks Guitars

This guy is really talented and what a creative way to get your message across. I think he captured the "indifferent employee" perfectly. They don't just work for airlines. I think I ran into them at Walmart on Friday!