The Fulton Sheen House of Formation welcomed His Excellency, Bishop Barry Knestout, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington D.C., for the institution of the ministries of Acolyte and Lector. Five seminarians received the ministry of Lector and eight seminarians received the ministry of Acolyte. These ministries come from the ancient tradition of the Church, in which the various offices of the liturgy were entrusted to the faithful by means of special delegation, or "orders." The original four minor orders (Porter, Lector, Exorcist, and Acolyte), along with the major order of Subdeacon, were renamed "ministries" in 1973, and their various responsibilities combined into the two ministries of Lector and Acolyte and the major order of Deacon. All these ministries are received by those preparing for the priesthood.
For the thirteen seminarians who received ministries, it marks another, large step along their formation to the priesthood. While these ministries can also be instituted for men who are not in the priesthood (some parishes require their Eucharistic Ministers to be instituted Acolytes, for example), they are mandated by canon law to be received prior to diaconal ordination. Through these ministries, seminarians are entrusted with greater liturgical responsibility and participation.
Pope Paul VI formulated these ministries in his motu proprio, Ministeria Quaedam on August 15, 1972. He wrote:
"The ministry of reader [lector] is appointed for the reading of the word of God in the liturgical assembly... In order to more perfectly fulfill these functions, the reader is to meditate assiduously on Sacred Scripture. Aware of the office he has undertaken, the reader is to make every effort and employ suitable means to acquire that increasingly warm and living love and knowledge of Scripture that will make him a more perfect disciple of the Lord.
The ministry of 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 celebration, especially in the celebration of Mass; he is also to distribute communion as a special minister... 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."
We ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother, to assist these seminarians in carrying out their ministries and to guide us all to a deeper devotion and participation in the liturgy.
Our Lady of the Eucharist, pray for us!
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