29/4/12 – Liturgical Responsibilities of the Acolyte

Bishop Anthony receiving the gifts, with acolyte assisting
Bishop Anthony receiving the gifts, with acolyte assisting

Last week, we looked at the liturgical ministries of altar server and acolyte.  Altar service is a ministry that is open to all, whilst adult men can choose to serve as instituted acolytes.

Acolytes have some exclusive responsibilities.  On the other hand, other duties can be carried out by altar servers if acolytes are not present, or if the number of acolytes at the Mass is so few that it is not possible for them to carry out all their duties effectively; especially given that they may need to attend to several matters at once.

For example, the acolyte may take responsibility for carrying the cross in processions.  It is their role to be the first point of assistance to the priest and deacon during Mass, particularly by ensuring that the liturgical books such as the Missal are presented to the priest or deacon for them to follow.  He also assists the priest with the incense at the preparation of the gifts, should it be used.

It is typically the role of the acolyte to prepare the altar for the Liturgy of the Eucharist if a deacon is not present.  Furthermore, if a deacon is not present, the acolyte can assist the priest with the purification of the sacred vessels after communion.  This is one duty of the acolyte that cannot be delegated to other lay ministers.

Often during Mass, you will see the altar servers assist with several of the duties I have outlined above.  Again, this is to be expected as at Wentworthville we have only one active acolyte.  It becomes necessary, then, for altar servers to take on these additional duties to assist the priest and the assembly and ensure the Mass is celebrated in a fitting manner.

Reference: General Instruction of the Roman Missal, articles 187-193

18/7/10 – Unity, Hierarchy, Order and Ministry

At present, we are exploring the liturgical principles which underpin our work in the Church Renewal Process.  Having considered active participation, we now consider the third principle, namely:

Unity, hierarchy, order and ministry

This principle is a reminder to us that every person has a role; a part to play in the life of the parish community, especially in its liturgical celebrations.

The Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (see article 28) insisted that in the liturgy, each of us should do all, but only those things that our role requires us to do.  In other words, there should not be one or a few people doing everything.  Furthermore, as we’ve emphasised recent weeks, the celebration of the Mass is not task of the priest, but is an action of Christ and his Church (AKA: us!)

This means that our parish needs to have a full range of ordained and lay ministers who are properly formed and prepared to carry out their duties.  To celebrate the Mass, we require a large number of people – sacristans, art and environment ministers, altar servers, acolytes, music ministers and projector/computer operators, ministers of the word, collectors and ushers, people to present the gifts, extraordinary ministers of communion and the like.  These are a very significant way in which lay people can participate in the life of our community.

It also means that when someone is engaging in one of these ministries during Mass, they should not be doing any other ministry.  In our parish, for example, a number of Ministers of the Word are also Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.  It is fine for these people to carry out these ministries on different occasions.  Yet, when they are required to read or commentate at Mass, they cannot minister communion during that same celebration.

The various liturgical ministries of our parish are necessary for the effective celebration of the Mass.  They reflect our belief that we, the entire assembly gathered to worship, celebrate the Mass in unity with Christ and with each other.  We all have particular ways in which we participate in the celebration of Mass, and we need to encourage others to find ways in which they can serve the community through liturgical ministry.