Last Sunday Will served his first Novus Ordo Mass and I received Holy Communion from a lay person for the first time in 12 years. There are so few vocations in the diocese of Maine (only 6 current seminarians) that they have moved to a "cluster" system of staffing parishes. The 6 churches in the greater Bangor area used to be served by 12 priests, but are now covered by 2. They are very good and holy men, but worked to the bone every day, especially on weekends to say Mass at every church. Other parishes in the area are in the same boat, the Bucksport priest travels to Stonington and Castine, each town an hour away from the rectory. He literally has to run out the door after Mass to make it in time for the next one, never able to offer Confession to the outlying parishes. It is a sad state of affairs and I am fervently praying for a new bishop (our old one was transferred to Buffalo) who is orthodox and on fire for the Faith. Orthodoxy in belief and liturgy results in vocations as we can see in both religious orders such as the Nashville Dominicans and the priesthood, as evidenced by FSSP.
Will has served as an alter server in the Traditional Latin Mass for 7 years now, ever since his FHC at St. Benedict in Virginia. But there is no TLM anywhere near Bangor, and I understand that our priests just can't do one more thing, especially something involving training and taking away another Mass to squeeze it in (they can't legally say more than a certain number of Masses each day). So I made arrangements for him to begin serving, with one non-negotiable; that he not serve with girls. I don't want to go into why I believe that girls reduce the number of boys willing to serve and why this in time dries up the feeder mechanism for future priests, because these arguments are so obvious. So, last week he served with another boy and everything was lovely, both the sacristan and the priest commented positively about his professionalism on the altar. We sat up front after the previous week's debacle, so when it came time for Communion and the priest was distributing Holy Communion to the left hand side of the church, we went up and received in the hand from the lay person. I don't recall if he attempted to bless the little ones, which is not appropriate, but I had to remind myself that while I am a stickler for doing the right thing during the liturgy, others have not had my experience and knowledge. I may be a convert, but I have read and studied the history of the Church and her traditions and know that only a priest or parent is supposed to bless a child. All in all, it was a lovely Mass and I am grateful that the parish is willing to accommodate our "quirks."
This Sunday I thought Will was scheduled to serve Mass, but as I was kneeling in the pew the sacristan asked me to come to the vestibule. He explained that two servers were already scheduled for that Mass, but one of them was a girl. It was up to me if he vested or not. I hesitated for a moment, but said, "He'll just sit with us." He was very gracious about it and promised to talk to the coordinator about having Will serve next week. This has been a big transition for our family and while we knew what we were in for when we left the Auburn area and the TLM every Sunday, it is still hard emotionally. My hope is that our example, as well as the example of other faithful families, combined with the ministry of holy priests, and hopefully a very holy and orthodox new bishop, can, in time lead to a renewal of orthodoxy and more vocations to the priesthood.