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Doctrines & Morals
 
 
Civic Rights …

ALTAR MOTHERS

This is a delicate piece for me to write about, because I love mothers and would not say anything that could be misconstrued as an attack, but I also love the Church and wish that we could reason this together.  Services in the Church are expected to be given freely, because it is a token of our love for God. Opportunities for religious services are not made available to honour anyone, other than God. However, this seems not to be the case, we are beginning to create a religious niche and an exemption for mothers in our bid to honour them, yet we can honour them without displacing others or usurping other people's legitimate roles.

Recently as it was the case in recent years, the sanctuary in many parishes were vacated by Altar servers to allow mothers to serve and take charge of things, as they say "for a day". This looks innocuous and praise-worthy. But then what are we entrenching? What do we by implication proclaim? It seems this fledging practice has not been subjected to critical reflection by most people, hence, many parishes simply copy because it looks good and "it is fun" or "a cool thing to do!"

Among the matters arising is 'would it also be cool to vacate the altar and allow workers to take charge completely on May Day? Would it be cool to vacate the altar on February 2nd, Day for Consecrated Life, and allow religious alone to take charge of things on the altar? Would it be appropriate to allow lawyers and judges to take over on their Legal day? A question begging to be asked is "whose role is it to serve on the altar? Since nothing forbids the laity from serving as members of the choir, Church warden etc., Women and mothers can legitimately perform those functions any day and also on days set aside to honour them. The situation is, however different when we have functions reserved for some people, which is the case, with serving on the altar. By tradition, serving on the altar was reserved for boys and young men and recently, young girls have been embraced. But it wasn't to honour them, or because it is cool.

I thought, the recommendation is that "what a minor can do, a superior should not do." And that if a function is the preserve of a person or group of persons and they are available, that others who have not been so designated by the Church should not assume those roles? This is the reason we must think through the growing practice of vacating all religious services for women on Mothers' day or even for fathers only to mark Fathers' day. The Liturgy is not about being cool, but about directing all your attentions to the praise of God. Altar mothers and the likes, on duty may be geared towards the praise of God, but it borders on the comic, and the scene and postures and movement often elicit laughter, confining those gestures to the realm of the cool and funny and not the sacred. Even, when they are polished gestures and movements, appropriate functionaries should be allowed to perform their functions.

On special days, there are lots of things that mothers and others wishing to celebrate their days could do: Let them come together to clean and decorate the Church. Let them join the choir and sing at that liturgical event or render a special song. Let them feast the children of the parish etc. If the day is about honouring mothers and those so designated, then let them sit and let the rest of the Church carry out their functions. It is true, some would point out that the liturgy is composed of changing and unchanging elements. Yes, but functions and services are not seasonal. If women will serve only on their day and not on other days, then it shows that something is amiss. It is important that we accord every practice a rational reflection before execution and not allow ourselves to be influenced by the practices of the world. If we allow this practice to grow, what is the rationale for some of our disdain for Governor Okorocha anointing people at a service in the Governors chapel? The transition to anarchy begins through steps like this.  This is my own candid opinion, it will be good to know how liturgists see this practice. But then we can also ask: "What would Rome do?”

 


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