It started when the priest decided that he needed to train some boys to be altar servers. Our school was in a rural area and there weren’t many boys to choose from. My brother, who was only seven, was selected. He was too young to learn the Latin responses to the Mass at the same time as the older boys, so the priest decided I could learn the responses and then teach my brother.
I was not impressed. Firstly, having to line up with the boys caused a lot of teasing and at that time girls/females were not even allowed on the altar.
Our church was what was known as a Chapel of Ease. The clergy came out from town to say Mass and for other religious ceremonies. The children of the Clerk of the Church went to school with us and they unlocked the church each morning on the way to school and then hid the key.
One afternoon, coming home from school, I decided now that I knew Latin prayers, I would like to take the part of a priest and say Mass and especially have Benediction. I thought the Monstrance a beautiful object with its golden rays and glowing coloured gem stones and wanted to hold it. In fact I felt I was entitled to do it although the children whose Mother looked after the church said only an ordained priest was allowed to touch the Monstrance.
All the girls, except my best friend Philomena, thought it was a great idea and so all were delegated roles. Some wanted to swing the Incense Burner although there was no incense in it, some to ring the altar bells and so forth. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, someone decided to ring the outside bell to let the parish know that a service was happening in the church.
In the Vestry was a chest of drawers with all the vestments, white, green, red, purple and black. I chose one and robed up. Then I took the magnificent Monstrance from its case and with my accolytes formed a procession onto the alter.
Then, knowing only the Latin responses to the Mass, I proceeded to say Mass and have Benediction. But it came to an abrupt end when the Clerk of the Church arrived in answer to the pealing of the outside bell. She gave us a tongue lashing at the time, but we never heard another word about it. We were sure the priest would have lots to say, however there seemed to be an unreal silence about the whole episode.
Now 66 years later I am still glad I got to put my Latin learning to use and don’t regret or apologise for my rebellion against anti-feminism.