53 men from all over the United States and Canada have already arrived in Houston for the Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham, secondary patron of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter. These men are candidates for the Ministry of Acolyte in the Ordinariate. They are in Houston for a weekend of prayer, study and reflection from 23rd to 25th September. Their Institution as Acolytes will take place on Sunday at the 11.15 am Solemn Mass in the Cathedral.
Following the Second Vatican Council the Major Order of Subdeacon and the Minor Orders were abolished. Instead the lay Ministries of Acolyte and Reader (or Lector) were introduced, and in his Motu Proprio Ministeria Quaedam of 15th August 1972 Blessed Pope Paul VI decreed that:
4. Two ministries, adapted to present-day needs, are to be preserved in the whole Latin Church, namely, those of reader and acolyte. The functions heretofore assigned to the subdeacon are entrusted to the reader and the acolyte; consequently, the major order of subdiaconate no longer exists in the Latin Church. There is, however, no reason why the acolyte cannot be called a subdeacon in some places, at the discretion of the conference of bishops. …
6. The acolyte is appointed in order to aid the deacon and to minister to the priest. It is his duty therefore to attend to the service of the altar and to assist the deacon and the priest in liturgical celebrations, especially in the celebration of Mass; he is also to distribute communion as a special minister when the ministers spoken of in the Codex Iuris Canonici can. 845 are not available or are prevented by ill health, age, or another pastoral ministry from performing this function, or when the number of communicants is so great that the celebration of Mass would be unduly prolonged. In the same extraordinary circumstances an acolyte may be entrusted with publicly exposing the blessed sacrament for adoration by the faithful and afterward replacing it, but not with blessing the people. He may also, to the extent needed, take care of instructing other faithful who on a temporary basis are appointed to assist the priest or deacon in liturgical celebrations by carrying the missal, cross, candles, etc., or by performing other such duties. He will perform these functions more worthily if he participates in the holy eucharist with increasingly fervent devotion, receives nourishment from it, and deepens his knowledge about it.
As one set aside in a special way for the service of the altar, the acolyte should learn all matters concerning public divine worship and strive to grasp their inner spiritual meaning: in that way he will be able each day to offer himself entirely to God, be an example to all by his gravity and reverence in church, and have a sincere love for the Mystical Body of Christ, the people of God, especially for the weak and the sick.
Since one of the ways of celebrating the Divine Worship Mass foresees the office previously reserved to the Subdeacon, Bishop Lopes has decided to institute these new Acolytes to fulfil this role in the communities and parishes of the Ordinariate.
Let us pray for the new Acolytes and commend them to the intercession of Our Lady of Walsingham.