My friends in Christ,
This weekend is particularly joyous for our Parish as diaconate candidate Brian Hansen will receive the institution of lector and I will receive the institution of acolyte. These ministries hold for us a profound meaning as they are the steps taken toward ordination into the Permanent Diaconate for the Diocese. In the Vatican II Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, St. Pope Paul VI re-instituted the permanent diaconate setting the necessary parameters for formation. In his motu propio, Ministeria Quaedam, he suppresses the original four minor orders of sub-deacon and institutes the ministries of lector and acolyte.
The ministry of acolyte beckons the man in his vocational discernment closer to the altar, the focus of the Sacrifice of the Mass. “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…” (MQ). We read in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), “The acolyte is instituted for service at the altar and to assist the Priest and Deacon.” During the Mass it is the acolyte who would properly hold the Roman Missal for the Collect and the Prayer after Communion. The acolyte acts as the Master of Celebrations during the Mass directing the altar servers in their duties at the altar. In the case where a deacon is not present for Mass the acolyte performs some of those particular duties. He can prepare the altar for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. If incense is used during Mass he can assist the priest with the thurible during the preparation of the altar, incensing the priest then the people. After distribution of Holy Communion, the acolyte can carry the sacred vessels to the credence table and purify them there or in the sacristy after Mass. The duties an acolyte cannot perform are those proper to the deacon: co-mingle the wine and water, elevate the chalice, invite the congregation for the Sign of Peace, and dismiss the faithful.
This weekend, my fellow classmates and I will present ourselves to Bishop Jacques Fabre-Jeune taking solemn promises for the ministry of acolyte. When called we will kneel before His Excellency and place our hands on a paten, the sacred vessel for the bread. He will say, “Take this vessel for the celebration of the Eucharist. Make your life worthy of your service at the table of the Lord and His Church.” After this we are instituted as acolytes for life until ordination to the Permanent Diaconate which will occur on February 1, 2025, God willing.
I ask you to continue to pray for us who are in formation for the Permanent Diaconate, and for vocations to the priesthood and religious life in the Diocese of Charleston. Also, I ask you to pray for the wives who support their husbands on their discernment and journey through the diaconate formation. This is not a process the man does alone, but hand in hand and step by step with this wife. According to St. Paul, God says, “My grace is sufficient.” His grace is manifest through the love and encouragement of our wives. Our journey began in 2019 which seems like a distant memory, but I can attest to the sweet blessings God has bestowed on us along the way. Please be assured of my prayers for all of you in our Church Family. May God continue to bless you and keep you.