Instituted Acolyte - ...

The subject of Instituted Acolytes came up in this thread forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=188610 with the subject of “Should we even have EMHC’s”

I did not want to derail the above thread but did want to go into more detail on this subject if possible - moderators if this is not the proper forum please move it as someone suggested it could be discussed in “vocations” but since my understanding is this is one of the steps to Priesthood which is a Sacrament, Holy Orders, I thought this would be okay.

Now, I believe it was Scylla in the other thread who brought it up and if this is really a better solution to the necessity of more ministers of Holy Communion whether Ordinary (Deacon, Priest, Bishop or Pope) or Extraordinary (currently laymen and women) I am all for learning about it.

Brenda V.

I don’t think instituting a bunch of acolytes is a preferable solution. In my diocese it takes about 4 years of formation to be ordained a deacon. It’s not until their final year that aspirants are instituted as lectors and then acolytes. This seems common in other dioceses as well.

Should we should dumb-down the requirements to be instituted as acolytes to a year or two? I don’t know of many who would go through over three years of formation and then abruptly stop before being ordained. More deacons may indeed be part of the answer, but dumbing-down the requirements to become an instituted acolyte seems counter productive.

It doesn’t take that long to be formed as an acolyte. Diaconate formation takes a good long while, as you point out, but it is set up so that that acolyte institution takes place near the end of the formation. There are a few servers here at my college who will be instituted as acolytes before the semester is out; our training is due to start sometime soon.

Besides, the length of training is a moot point with regards to distributing communion and what a preferable solution is. So what if it takes a long time? Wouldn’t you rather have people who are properly trained and duly instituted? This is not to say that Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are not properly trained, but the fact is that EMHCs are too widely used; it has become a ministry in some places. It was not intended to be so. The Liturgical norms of the Church make it clear that lay people are only to be used to distribute Communion in extraordinary circumstances–i.e. if you don’t have a reasonable number of priests, deacons, or acolytes to distribute. Also, this point is made even clearer by the fact that Liturgical law provides that if there are acolytes present, they are to distribute Communion in preference to EMHCs.

So in short, instituting acolytes would be an excellent solution. The GIRM seems to think so. The other solution that comes to mind is not to allow Communion under both forms and just have the priest distribute the host; this would have both practical (i.e. lessened chance of profanation of the Sacrament, no need for EMHCs) and theological (i.e. people would recognize that the Body and Blood are both contained under each form, which is a distinction lost on a great many of the poorly-catechized nowadays) advantages.

-ACEGC

I think if you dumb-down the requirements to be instituted as an acolyte to something that can be fit into a semester’s length of time, then the result with really be nothing more than all-male EMsHC who have been “instituted” in name only.

Make it that easy and quick to be instituted as an acolyte, without the benefit of a thorough formation and in time you’ll have nothing more than a new breed of EMsHC with the same problems we have today. The only differences is that they will all be males and they will hold the cheapened title of “instituted acolyte.”

Now I agree that a worthwhile formation of 2-3 years could likely be provided to institute both acolytes and lectors, but my hunch is that most men who are willing to make that commitment would continue on and be ordained as deacons. Certainly not all, but many.

Finally, both lectors and acolytes are laymen…

Then don’t dumb down the requirements, make people have to go through a bit for the responsibility.

Shouldn’t we give the best for God, aren’t Instituted Acolytes recommended above EMHC’s? There is absolutely no reason to disagree unless you want to promote EMHC’s as the solution above Instituted Acolytes. Yet since it is limited to laymen those who have an agenda to promote women priests will object, stall and seek ways to impede the institution of Acolytes.

There is no reason not to have them, just like we should have more priests and more deacons.

Seek what is more obedient and what is recommended, not the exceptions and the allowances.

In Christ
Scylla

Perhaps the solution lies in an expansion of the minor orders. A lector could, then, be much more than just a reader at Mass. He could be the person in charge of religious education or RCIA. He might lead catechetical classes at the parish. An acolytle could be an altar server who also attends to the sacrament. Perhaps he ought to share sacristan duties. Offer a more extended formation program (which doesn’t have to be three years, but could perhaps take place in the context of prayer, education, and discernment over several months). In other words, play up what these ministries are and make something of them rather than watering them down. Shoot, in this context, even the ministry of porter could be more highly valued. He may be the person who not only attends to opening the doors, but the front man who makes a personal connection with people and gets to know them on a level that the priest isn’t able to. But he can then direct both priest and parishioners to one another, knowing and understanding the persons and concerns at play.

In our diocese it is high recommended that the person in charge of Redligious education in a parish have an MA in theology or Religious Education or are at least working towards it. I do not think an instituted acolyte who has a short period of formation woud qualify. Besides, that is not the function of an acolyte. My husband was in two years of diaconate formation following two previous years of lay ministiry training before he was instituted as an acolyte. That is four years of training. Even with that he is not qualified inour diocese to be a DRE becasue he does not have a masters degree in the requried area, even though he is ordained.

I think it would be a wonderful idea to formally define and perhaps extend the duties of both lectors and acolytes as you suggest. Along with that it would be good to have a formal definition of the formation for both. A formal formation that I could in no way see lasting less than 2+ years.

Institute men after a quick and dirty formation of “several months” and you’ll likely do nothing but create more problems and at the very least, fail to solve the existing ones.

I agree that the formation should not be dumbed-down. That would strongly suggest it would take 2-3 years of formation which is well and good. My point however is that most men willing to go through that formal of a formation would likely continue on to ordination as deacons.

I think it would be a poor move to institute men after a semester’s worth of formation. To me that sounds like the right amount of time to train a EMHC before commissioning them.

Some men like me would likely be attracted to this ministry – I feel called to be a deacon, but I am scheduled to get married fairly soon and I cannot enter the diaconate formation until we have been married for at least 5 years. For me this ministry might be of great interest – particularly if I could possibly one day apply the time to the formation required of a deacon, but my case is not all that common.

Well, I was recommending that particalar sort of service be tied to lector, actually. (As I am placing my intervention within the larger context of a potential expansion and enrichment of meaning of the minor orders, as opposed to simply “watering them down” for common use to formally annoint that service which can essentially be accomplished on an “extraodinary” level in a more limited way.)

But, aside from the question as to whether this person really needs an MA in such in all parishes (shoot, they could be a priest with that level of education), it might simply be suggested that this person ought to be made a lector.

I think what I had in mind was more of the nature of those who are lectors or acolytes (for example) having something which more clearly defined them other than just reading of offering communion at Mass. It would be a larger ministry of service, in and of itself. It doesn’t necessarily have to be tied to the person who heads up a program (let’s say the principal of the parish school, for example) which requires all kinds of associated accreditadation of its own. Rather, it is more like the other way around where someone who is instituted into these orders ought to have some identifiable ministry in the life of the Church which is more expansive, such as being a catechist or the person in charge of a program (many of which are presently held by lay people who don’t have advanced degrees, anyway.)

Besides, that is not the function of an acolyte. My husband was in two years of diaconate formation following two previous years of lay ministiry training before he was instituted as an acolyte. That is four years of training. Even with that he is not qualified inour diocese to be a DRE becasue he does not have a masters degree in the requried area, even though he is ordained.

I find it odd that despite his pastoral training, he can not head up such a program. A priest/pastor, afterall, is ultimately responsible for such matters in his parish (even if not directly in day to day oversight) and he might not hold a masters degree in the required area, either.

I just have two points I’d like to add.

  1. More acolytes isn’t a fix for the problem of distribution because even they are only extraordinary ministers. I would perhaps add some greater structure and formation to what currently happens, but the fact remains that even acolytes are only supposed to distributing communion in extraordinary circumstances.

  2. I don’t think requiring less time to become an acolyte than what deacon candidates currently put in before reaching that goal is at all a danger of dumbing down the formation because I suspect much of what deacons are learning during that time period is not required for the ministry of an acolyte. An acolyte is instituted to ministry at the altar. He has no pastoral duties like teaching the faith or counseling parishioners. As long as he has a good liturgical formation, then, he’s good to go.

What about if we invited men to assist in some expanded form of the ministry “extraordinarily”? First ask them to serve at Mass. Then, if they are so inclined, they could be asked to help bring the Eucharist to those who are sick. They might eventually distribute communion at Mass when called for. Over time, and education, and with spiritual discernent they could come to be formally installed in the ministry of “acolyte” as a confirmation of and dedication to this particular way of service in the life of the Church. The timeframe on something like this could vary from place to place, but the general process would ideally ensure that it is being taken seriously and be something special of genuine call.

Technically, they are auxiliary ministers. They are appropriately ministering in a service to which they have been called by Christ and the Church. They excercise what is ordinary to them, but (at Mass) only when the ordinary minister is unable. As such, they are at an intermediate step. That said, this is probably why they ought not be appointed willy-nilly, just to kind of formalize what really are extraordinary ministers into a quasi-clerical role.

  1. I don’t think requiring less time to become an acolyte than what deacon candidates currently put in before reaching that goal is at all a danger of dumbing down the formation because I suspect much of what deacons are learning during that time period is not required for the ministry of an acolyte. An acolyte is instituted to ministry at the altar. He has no pastoral duties like teaching the faith or counseling parishioners. As long as he has a good liturgical formation, then, he’s good to go.

Agreed. Deaconal candidates could probably be instituted at a much earlier stage, in fact, and perhaps ought to be, ideally.

I think he was talking about the Lector working in Religious Ed, not the acolyte. :slight_smile: Our diocese has the same recommendation. I know lots of DREs and only one of them has an MA. Most of them are still in the process of completing the diocisan CCE leadership certification and most, if not all have extensive cathechitical training. It is recommended but not required.

The diaconate formation is long because it involves extensive discernment something that isn’t as important (not unimportant, just less important) for acolytes since it isn’t Holy Orders. Deacons also have to study in many areas that an acolyte would not need such as theology, moral teachings, counseling, ministry. The acolytes training should be specifically on the Mass itself.

I don’t think priests even spend 2-3 years learning about the mechanics of Mass! What would you expect them to be studying during all that time?

In our diocese, the Archbishop brought up the idea of formally training and instituting acolytes when the directive was clarified about purification of the vessels. I don’t think it would have much effect on the EMHC issue. The idea was that this would enable large parishes to continue to offer Communion under both species even when the number of chalices needed was very large.

The training is that long because they are being trained to be DEACONS, to give homilies and spiritually direct.

I’m in formation myself, here in Detroit a man in Instiuted as a Reader after their first year. They are institued as Acolytes just prior to their final year so they can assist their Mentor Deacon at his Masses.

If they were installed earlier, they would be obligated to EMHC at Mass, and the additional obligation would interfere with their other service ministries.

I find it odd that despite his pastoral training, he can not head up such a program. A priest/pastor, afterall, is ultimately responsible for such matters in his parish (even if not directly in day to day oversight) and he might not hold a masters degree in the required area, either.

All our priests have M.Div. degrees at the very least. Many also have MA’s or greater.

+1

For the past few decades the Minor Orders have been pretty much overlooked.

I agree and what I would really like to know is what are they and what is the definition of each one.

I have so far gleaned from my various studies and spending time on sites such as CAF and EWTN that there are: Lectors, Deacons, sub-Deacons, Acolytes and Porters. I can guess what each is from the modern usage, or more accurately, the wrong usage of each one. I have also gathered that these are the “old” steps of becoming a Priest. I have yet to see anything that gives a good definition of each - even on newadvent.com I had a hard time understanding what it was saying in the Catholic Dictionary they have.

Can anyone here help me figure this out?

Brenda V.

Actually, there are 4 minor orders (in order of institution):

  1. Porter (usher, according to modern usage)
  2. Lector (self-explanatory)
  3. Exorcist (again, you could guess the function here)
  4. Acolyte (I’d consider the Acolyte just to be a “special” altar boy on the way to ordination)

The minor orders fell from usage after VII (I do not know if VII actually abolished them or if they just aren’t used anymore).

The Major orders (3, 4 if you count Bishop):

  1. Subdeacon
  2. Deacon
  3. Priest
    (4. Bishop)

The division of major and minor orders, from what I can tell is that the major orders were “past the point of no return” so to speak. A young seminarian could change his mind about receiving Holy Orders up until he is to be ordained a Subdeacon. After that point, he could no longer licitly quit the seminary and, say, get married.

Hope that helps clear up some of your confusion on minor orders.

Before a man can be ordained as a deacon and priest he must be instituted as an acolyte (Code of Canon Law, canon 1035).

But becoming an instituted acolyte is not just a step to the priesthood. A bishop can institute a man as an acolyte who has not intention of becoming a priest. A man can intend to become a priest, be instituted and then change his mind about ordination. He remains an instituted acolyte and is free to marry.

An important document on instituted acolytes is the 1972 Motu Proprio “Ministeria Quaedam”. It is at romanrite.com/Churchdoc.html and includes:
“2. What up to now were called minor orders are henceforth to be called ministries.
3. Ministries may be assigned to lay Christians; hence they are no longer to be considered as reserved to candidates for the sacrament of order. …
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.
7. In accordance with the ancient tradition of the Church, institution to the ministries of reader and acolyte is reserved to men.”

Another important document is the 2002 General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM). From the USA editon, which can be accessed at romanrite.com/girm.html (without the footnotes):
“The Ministry of the Instituted Acolyte and Lector
98. The acolyte is instituted to serve at the altar and to assist the priest and deacon. In particular, it is his responsibility to prepare the altar and the sacred vessels and, if it is necessary, as an extraordinary minister, to distribute the Eucharist to the faithful. 84 In the ministry of the altar, the acolyte has his own functions (cf. below, nos. 187-193), which he must perform personally.”
“C. THE DUTIES OF THE ACOLYTE
187. The duties that the acolyte may carry out are of various kinds and several may coincide. Hence, it is desirable that these duties be suitably distributed among several acolytes. If, however, only one acolyte is present, he should perform the more important duties while the rest are to be distributed among several ministers.
The Introductory Rites
188. In the procession to the altar, the acolyte may carry the cross, walking between two ministers with lighted candles. Upon reaching the altar, the acolyte places the cross upright near the altar so that it may serve as the altar cross; otherwise, he puts it in a worthy place. Then he takes his place in the sanctuary.
189. Through the entire celebration, the acolyte is to approach the priest or the deacon, whenever necessary, in order to present the book to them and to assist them in any other way required. Thus it is appropriate, insofar as possible, that the acolyte occupy a place from which he can conveniently carry out his ministry either at the chair or at the altar. The Liturgy of the Eucharist
190. If no deacon is present, after the Prayer of the Faithful is concluded and while the priest remains at the chair, the acolyte places the corporal, the purificator, the chalice, the pall, and the Missal on the altar. Then, if necessary, the acolyte assists the priest in receiving the gifts of the people and, if appropriate, brings the bread and wine to the altar and hands them to the priest. If incense is used, the acolyte presents the thurible to the priest and assists him while he incenses the gifts, the cross, and the altar. Then the acolyte incenses the priest and the people.
191. A duly instituted acolyte, as an extraordinary minister, may, if necessary, assist the priest in giving Communion to the people. 100 If Communion is given under both kinds, when no deacon is present, the acolyte administers the chalice to the communicants or holds the chalice if Communion is given by intinction.
192. Likewise, when the distribution of Communion is completed, a duly instituted acolyte helps the priest or deacon to purify and arrange the sacred vessels. When no deacon is present, a duly instituted acolyte carries the sacred vessels to the credence table and there purifies, wipes, and arranges them in the usual way.
193. After the celebration of Mass, the acolyte and other ministers return in procession to the sacristy, together with the deacon and the priest in the same way and order in which they entered.”

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