Acolyte: At the service of the altar

On Oct. 6, 2018, Brs. Brenden, Leland and I were instituted into the ministry of acolyte.  An acolyte had been one of the minor orders that a seminarian would have taken to prepare for diaconate and priestly ordination.  The liturgical reforms after Vatican II removed most of the minor orders and kept two as ministries: lector and acolyte.

In preparation for acolyte, the three of us reread Ministeria Quaedam, the Church document on the ministry of acolyte.  The acolyte has four tasks:

  1. Assists the deacon and the priest in the liturgy.
  2. Distributes Communion as an extraordinary minister.
  3. Exposes the Blessed Sacrament for adoration and reposes without a blessing
  4. Teaches volunteers helping at Mass.

But this is more than a job description.  Paragraph 6 of the document ends with the spiritual aims for the acolyte.

“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 the weak and sick.”

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During the institution Mass, Fr. Jim Walther, the provincial, told the three of us in his homily that the Virgin Mary could be considered the first acolyte bringing Jesus when she visited Elizabeth.  So touching!  I, so devoted to Mary, can imitate her in loving service for others.  Days later, I realized that I could prepare for Mass by asking God to help me bring the love Mary had for me into the liturgy.

I had wanted to be first one to set up the altar for Fr. Jim.  But the way we had lined up before Mass, I thought that it wouldn’t happen.  But when I was called up, I received the paten and the corporal, which is the sign that I would set up the altar.  (God listens to the desires of the heart after all!)

My first week as acolyte went well.  It was an honor to repose the Blessed Sacrament before the weekday morning Mass.  I made a few small mistakes, but the Mass went as usual.  My turn for acolyte ended today.  I don’t feel much different than I was before being instituted.  But the grace of the ministry has effects I won’t notice until time will have elapsed.

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