Choosing altar servers

Should boys and girls serve together? What about phasing out kids altogether and just using adults?

Question: I am in charge of training and scheduling altar servers in our parish. I find often that boys and girls do not want to serve with each other. How can I solve this problem? Also, our pastor said he would prefer that we start using adult servers and phase out children completely. What is your opinion on this? May adult women be servers at Mass? 

— Name and address withheld 

Answer: As to the first question, my experience as a pastor is the same as yours: Boys and girls often prefer to serve Mass with their own gender. The simple solution is to have some Masses at which all boys serve, and other Masses at which all girls serve. However, there is something to be said for having both genders serve together (a mixed group of servers is more representative of the congregation at large). 

Regarding the phasing out of children as servers, I would caution against this. While it is true that adult servers are easier to train, it is important that there be a recognized role for children in the liturgy. Serving at Mass means a great deal to many young people, and they should not be deprived of the opportunity to serve. 

There is nothing to prevent adult women from acting as servers. However, it seems important that there not be a gender imbalance among adult Mass servers, and that there be as a general rule an appropriate mixture of women and men. 

Altar vessels 

Question: What are the rules for the vessels used on the altar for Mass? Is it permissible to use a brass ciborium? 

— Sister M. Gabriel, Omaha, Neb. 

Answer: The General Instruction of the Roman Missal states: “Sacred vessels are to be made from precious metal. If they are made from metal that rusts or from a metal less precious than gold, then ordinarily they should be gilded on the inside” (No. 328). 

It continues: “In the dioceses of the United States of America, sacred vessels may also be made from other solid materials that, according to the common estimation of each region, are precious, for example, ebony or other hard woods, provided that such materials are suited to sacred use and do not easily break or deteriorate” (No. 329). As regards chalices and other vessels intended to hold the Blood of Christ, “they are to have bowls of nonabsorbent material. The base, on the other hand, may be made of other solid and worthy materials” (No. 330). 

According to these criteria, it seems brass vessels may be used. However, brass objects are generally heavy and clumsy. The use of brass would be unusual, but the idea seems legitimate enough. 

Receiving twice 

Question: As a music director I attend Mass three times on Sunday. Am I allowed to receive Communion more than once? 

— Name withheld, Racine, Wis. 

Answer: According to official norms, a Catholic may receive Communion a second time on a given day if he or she participates in two Masses that are not celebrated in immediate succession and that are truly distinct celebrations of the Eucharist. One of the purposes of this norm is to assist in avoiding the impression that the more times one attends Mass and receives Communion on the same day the better. It is the quality of one’s attendance at the liturgy, rather than the quantity, that matters most. 

Msgr. M. Francis Mannion is a priest and theologian of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Send your questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.