Roles of the Sacristan: Preparing for Liturgy

Carmel Bulletin, 9 August 2015

The role of the sacristan, or of the group of volunteers who attend to the work of the sacristy, is an important ministry in any parish.  These ministers not only assist the priest, but support the entire assembly to participate fully, consciously and actively in liturgical celebrations.

One responsibility sacristans have is to prepare for specific liturgical times and celebrations.  While music ministers will organise and rehearse music for different seasons and special occasions, the priest will prepare a homily, and other ministers will hang banners and arrange flowers, sacristans are reviewing previous practices and the requirements outlined in the liturgical books for each season and major feast.

Candles prepared for the assembly’s use at the Easter Vigil Mass

It will mean, for example, that sacristans are attentive to the fact that the sanctuary cannot be decorated with flowers during Lent.  They will often prepare a checklist for a major occasion such as the Easter Vigil Mass, remembering that it has additional requirements such as firewood, candles for the entire assembly, incense nails, and all the items for the baptismal liturgy.  They will be prepared for the fact that additional seating is required in the sanctuary when the Mass will be concelebrated by several priests.

Attention to these details is essential to ensuring that there isn’t a frantic rush to organise something minutes before Mass begins, or an awkward, embarrassing “break in the program” once it is realised that something crucial is still out the back in a cupboard.  With all aspects of the celebration well prepared, the entire assembly, as well as those leading them, can focus their minds and hearts more deeply on prayer and an encounter with Christ himself.

Sundays and Feast Days

Carmel Bulletin, 26 October 2014

calendarThere have been several feast days this year that have fallen on Sunday, and have taken the place of a Sunday in Ordinary Time.  These feasts have been determined by the universal Church to be of such importance that they should be observed even when they fall on a Sunday.

This usually cannot occur during the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter.  For example, even though the feast days of St Patrick and St Joseph are of great significance in the Australian liturgical calendar, they fall during Lent, meaning they cannot replace the Sunday feast.  Instead, they are celebrated on the next possible day.  This happened last year, when St Patrick’s Day was observed on Monday 18 March.

Certain feasts, however, do take the place of Sundays in Ordinary Time.  This has happened more often than usual this year, with the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul (29 June) and the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (14 September) falling on Sundays.  It will continue for the next two Sundays, when we will observe the Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed (All Souls, 2 November) and the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (9 November).

It is not typical for us to put aside the prescribed Sunday celebration because of the centrality of the Lord’s Day to our lives as Christians; the day of the resurrection.  Thus the Vatican document, General Norms of the Liturgical Year and the Calendar (1969) says that “Sunday must be ranked as the first holyday of all” (article 4).

The Church, however, also provides for the celebration of feast days that it believes to be of great importance and benefit to the people.

Because of its special importance, the Sunday celebration gives way only to solemnities or feasts of the Lord. The Sundays of the seasons of Advent, Lent, and Easter, however, take precedence over all solemnities and feasts of the Lord

General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, article 5.

Image credit: By Itzuvit (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons