In a previous post, I commented on the difference between Acolytes and Lectors, and altar servers and readers. This post is an attempt to show that difference, and offer a proposal. Also, so that no-one could possibly claim I'm trying to "turn back the clock," I'm going to be using sources primarily written by Paul VI or that of the reformer, Annibale Bugnini (insert your sarcastic witticism here; or if you prefer, ring the bells in celebration).
I have intentionally limited my citations, where possible, to this time of the beginning of the reformed Liturgy, for the sake of discerning what the intentions of those reformers were. No doubt, there has been much to say since then, but I believe my proposals fall in line with what is currently in force.
I have done this, hopefully, to offer an alternative to the notion that a "reform of the reform" is necessary, owing to the fact that the first one failed. I contend that, rather, the reform as intended never truly happened, so what is needed is an actual implementation of what was called for during the reform, and in the many years since the Concilium. This seems (to me) to be consonant with what Pope Benedict is calling for. (NOTE: I'm not saying a reform of the reform isn't necessary, let's just start with what is given.)
On a personal note, out of a desire to see truly beautiful liturgy that elevates the soul to contemplate the Mysteries (and if my proposals are valid ones), I think that this is an avenue worth pursuing in every parish, hence my writing about it.
Formerly, the ministries of Acolyte and Lector were a part of the "minor orders," steps on the way to becoming an ordained cleric in to the "major orders". These ministries, in varying degrees, are seen all the way back to the early Church.
Although these ministries are not traced back to apostolic times, they have a recorded history dating back to at least 255a.d.. I'd also note, especially since this is a primary reason for their reconfiguration, and for the sake of discussion, that the Second Eucharistic Prayer allegedly dates back to the same time period, even though it is doubtful if it was ever used in the tradition of the Church, and was "revived" (or came in to use for the first time) during the same time that these ministries were reconfigured in to something else.
For more information on the Minor Orders, see ye olde Catholic Encyclopedia.
In 1972, Paul VI issued a Motu Proprio, Ministeria Quadeam (On certain kinds of Ministries), which changed the way these venerable ministries would be carried out in the service of the Church.
The reason for this, as referenced in the document, were meant to be in accord with the desire of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, when they wrote in the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, for the "full, conscious, and active participation" of all the faithful. Moreover, that the faithful in exercising their lay priesthood, exercise a true ministry, in collaboration with those in the ministerial priesthood.
IT SHOULD BE NOTED at this point, that, contrary to popular myth, the minor orders were not suppressed by this document. Rather, the minor orders were "re-ordered" in an effort to include the lay faithful among their ranks in exercising these ministries.
The new norms laid out in the document for what were formerly called the minor orders are summarized as follows (for full text, see the document):
-What were called minor orders are now called "ministries"
-"ministries" may be assigned to lay Christians; hence they are no longer to be considered as reserved to candidates for the sacrament of orders
- two ministries, adapted to "present day needs," are to be reserved universally-- those of lector and acolyte. The functions of the subdeacon are to be assumed between the two ministries... the acolyte can be called a subdeacon in some places at the discretion of the bishop's conference.
(note the word "universally"-- it makes allowances for those who would want to continue to use all of the minor orders)
-Those who can be instituted into these ministries, in accord with ancient tradition, are to be reserved to men only.
- these are ministries conferred by the Ordinary.
-candidates for ordination must be instituted into these ministries prior to ordination.
First, the minor orders were never suppressed, even though earlier in the document, Paul VI talks about his intention that "what was obsolete in these offices be removed," he doesn't actually suppress them in the action items.
Second, these are ministries exercised at the behest of the Bishop. In fact, the rites for installation actually use the same symbols as the conferral of minor orders. It makes an allowance for using other offices formerly known as minor orders, as we see with the various fraternities and communities (FSSP, Oratorians, etc)
Third, they are now open to lay men.
MY TWO CENTS
Paul VI in this document, and other documents, doesn't seem to be opening a floodgate of the laity taking over the liturgies; but rather, he continually calls for "formation, formation, formation". The men instituted in to these ministries truly need to have the education to carry out their duties permanently. They need to have a desire to learn more and pray for growth in their area of ministry. How many permanent diaconal candidates, prior to institution in these ministries, truly get the necessary formation in these areas? For that matter, how many seminarians?
There are many of the "Am-church" persuasion who would not see this episcopally appointed ministry as an obligation upon the person instituted, or the parish in which they serve to use them. That, if we had an instituted lector, they would just take their spot in the weekly rotation of readers.
I beg to differ. As the ministries are conferred permanently by the Bishop, it seems that it is their responsibility to, when able, exercise this ministry. If a Lector intentionally "sat it out," while some other random person carried out the function and butchered the readings of the day, to me, it seems it could be a grave matter-- especially if the substitute reader caused the faithful in attendance at Mass to be distracted or pulled out of prayer as a result of the poor reading.
Canon 230 seems to be stating that there is a hierarchy-- a difference between those permanently installed by the Ordinary, and those who are deputed for a short time by the pastor of a parish.
The GIRM also seems to prefer those instituted ministers to other lay folks in these areas (cf. GIRM 100, 101).
Further, we can see this paralleled in an explicit hierarchy presented in the General Introduction to the new book of blessings-- that, after a person in orders, "an acolyte or reader who by formal institution in the Church is rightly preferred over another lay person as the minister designated... to impart certain blessings." (18)
Finally, drawing another parallel, in Immensae Caritatis, there is a hierarchy laid out for those distributing communion in the absence of a clergy or acolyte: Lector, major seminarian, man religious, woman religious, catechist, [finally] one of the faithful-- a man or a woman. Though this is relating to EMHCs, it seems reasonable to presume a similar hierarchy would be in place in the absence of Acolytes and Lectors.
IF this was the desire of reforming the ministries, to include lay men in these ministries, and even for those instituted as a progression toward Orders, I can think of very few places in the world that I am aware of that use them in this manner. In America, the average parish has lost this concept entirely, if the concept ever even existed.
My proposal is that, if these instituted ministries were utilized in the manner in which the documents seem to state, we would be cutting out a lot of excess fat in our liturgies. The liturgy would flow a bit better, without the pauses of tons of people walking around. Further, there would be an increased reverence-- the better quality of the formation of the ministers would allow for more emphasis on the ars celebrandi as it applies to the various ministries. In essence, the Mass would become more "Roman" Catholic, rather than generic, beige catholicism. Of course, this is just one aspect of the Mass-- along with music, the singing of prayers by the celebrant, the "orien"-tation of prayer, etc-- but I think it is a major component.
If there were two or three Acolytes and Lectors at every parish (with a proper amount of formation), and they were embraced by the pastor, we would see them doing the readings, assisting the deacons, and even if need be, an acolyte could purify the vessels. They would be vested, and process in with the other ministers (which was the intention in the GIRM when talking about this issue. Not for lay folks in plain clothes to process in carrying books-- how tacky).
They would take on responsibilities in educating those who would be temporarily deputized in the functions of reader and altar server. These men could be a major asset in the cultivation of vocations among the young.
In all of this, there is the confusion of lanuage. The more recent document, Ecclesiae de Mysterio, is very clear about the need for a consistent terminology and distinction here. Lectors and Acolytes, by virtue of their institution by the Bishop, take on an ordinary ministry; whereas readers and altar servers take on an extraordinary one (albeit, imho, a more "real" ministry than that of EMHCs, but that's another post entirely).
To conclude, in practical terms, the "instituted ministries," as they are now called, have largely only been used as they were prior to the Reform-- for minor orders along the path to ordination. It seems that, if the reality is that these ministries are truly minor orders, not instituted ministries, and reserved only to those on the path to ordination, then all of these documents from a very confused period in the Church really have no bearing. HOWEVER, if it is not the case, and these ministries can be exercised legitimately by the lay faithful, it seems that these documents hold a key to an authentic reform of the Liturgy, and add clarity to what Sacrosanctum Concilium called for in this regard.
Any comments you have would be most welcome. Or, if you think it makes sense, feel free to send this along to your Pastor or Bishop. God bless you!