Rite of Acolyte – A Visual Change

I hate to start off boring, but this will make no sense if you don’t know what an acolyte is, or what an acolyte does. As such, let me give you a quick run down.

The Rite of Institution to Acolyte is usually held in the cathedral with the bishop. This is not to be confused with altar servers, the local youth in your parish who help if you do not have an acolyte, or who assist the acolyte if you do. Acolyte is an ancient minor order, altar servers were created about 1000 years ago for parishes that didn’t have acolytes. (That’s most parishes now!)

These are altar servers, not acolytes. They are awesome too, just different.
These are altar servers, not acolytes. They are awesome too, just different.

The acolytes main function is to assist with the Mass by way of assisting the priest at the altar with the liturgical vessels, generally trying making his service easier, and in an incomplete way, stepping in for a deacon if there is none present. For example, an acolyte does not proclaim the Gospel, but can dress the altar if there is no deacon. His primary duty is ordered towards the eucharist and the care of the sacred vessels.

As such, he is not an ordinary minister of Holy Communion like a bishop, priest or deacon is, but he is the first extraordinary minister. If more ministers are needed than you have clergy for, then he should be the first to step forward, as he has a special duty to do so. Usually, this Rite is celebrated by those preparing for ordination, but that is not required. In our diocese for example, we have a good number of acolytes who serve without desire for ordination.

rite-of-acolyte

When we celebrated the Rite, I felt the same kind of gravity that I felt when we received the  Institution to the Ministry of Reader, that of being given a great responsibility, and of duty. As the bishop handed me the sacred chalice which holds within it God Himself, I was again struck by the seriousness of the moment. However, I was prepared for that. There was something else I was not prepared for.

I’m not sure anyone noticed when we received our first Rite. I didn’t look any different, I wore the same suit and tie I always have worn. I had read at Mass often before, so it was no surprise to see me there now. Yes, I felt very different, and thanks to my pastor, I did read much more often than I had in the past, but this hardly constituted a real change from the eyes of the average parishioner.

Many in the parish did not even realize I had been going through formation to become a deacon. It’s not that it was some secret, but it had never been announced at Mass or anything like that, and so a lot of people simply had no idea. They saw me very involved in parish life, but I had always been involved, so that was no great eye opener.

Me and my brother acolytes.
Me and my brother acolytes.

After the Rite of Institution of Acolyte, I suddenly everyone knew, and wanted to know more. Why did this Rite have such a huge effect on the parish, when the other went unnoticed? Very simply, I had to wear an alb, (a long white robe-like garment), and assist at the altar. Suddenly, I was a new guy on parade in front of everyone, and it was so obvious no one could miss it. I would get a million questions, my favorite comment was, “Why would a man of your age want to be an altar boy?”

Every mistake I made was done in full view. Every time Father looked my way, waiting for me to do something I had forgotten, the whole parish chuckled. It was like a comedy. And I was used to training altar servers! This is not exactly the beautiful, reverent, prayerful experience one hopes for in Mass, but the feeling of a thousand eyes watching your every move. It makes even simple things like carrying water very challenging. I got it all eventually, but at first, I won’t lie, I felt silly and sacred at the same time. Exalted and humbled. It was a good combo.

a-moment-of-waiting-for-the-rite

What I really learned though is this: when I’m doing my job well, I’m an arrow pointing to what is really happening. This was true then, and it’s true now as a deacon. When I become a living chalice, when my eyes, heart and body point to the Lord in the the Sacrament of the Altar, that is when I am truly fulfilling my vocation. In the beginning I was a distraction, but the better I became at my new task, the more invisible I became.

I learned this best later, after my ordination, as I held up the chalice full of His Most Sacred Blood, and realized that he was holding me, I was not holding him. But I’ll tell that story another day.

 

 

Rite of Reader (Lector)

I realize I need to go about this from where I left off in my journey. I want very badly to talk about other things, but that seems somehow improper until I complete the story of my pilgrimage here.

In my last post so many years ago, I explained that my formation director suggested I not post any more in this blog. This was not a censure of any kind, but an act of prudence. His concern was that I might accidentally say something something I didn’t mean, or might in some way share something that shouldn’t be shared. The fear was that this might in some way have an effect on whether or not I was actually ordained when the time came.

This seemed wise and thoughtful to me, and I resolved to stop writing until such a time as I was free to do so, and went on with my formation process.

another-lecture

Most of formation was endless classes, every other weekend. The Divine Office, Theology, Church History, Psychology, Homiletics, all in all very useful, but also very tiring. I teach theology, so that meant for me, the only real difference on weekends was: I was sitting be talked to instead of standing and doing the talking. My instructors were fantastic and extremely knowledgeable, but for me it was a lot like having to go to professional development classes every weekend!

There are moments that stand out brightly though, those moments when we would come together in prayer to celebrate the changes that were happening, as well accept new responsibilities. The first of these was the Rite of Reader.

riteofreader

In this beautiful Rite, celebrated in the cathedral, is focused on the Word of God, on Sacred Scripture. We are called to love scripture, to become living examples of the words we read. We are called forth to be the very mouth of God, as he proclaims his sacred words to his sons and daughters, and to those who who have not yet come home to him.

The central moment of this Rite, is the handing of scripture from the bishop to the reader. In all solemnity, the reader comes to kneel before the bishop, and the bishop hands him the book of scripture with these words, looking you straight in the eye:

“Take this book of holy Scripture
and be faithful in handing on the word of God,
so that it may grow strong in the hearts of his people.”

rite-of-lector

I teach from the bible every day. I have one in my hand all the time. This book given to me by my bishop is different. I keep it in a special box, and every time I pull it out, I remember this moment. This bible feels heavier than any other I have ever owned, not because it is, but because every time I hold it, I feel the weight of this responsibility. Now, almost two years later, this book feels heavier than ever, but it is a weight that I hold with great joy, and a great sense of duty.

In this Rite we were officially designated to be those who had a duty to proclaim scripture  to the sacred assembly.

Think about that for a moment. We were given the Duty, to Proclaim Scripture, to the Sacred Assembly.

For the first time in this whole process, we were called to actually DO something, and something really important.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been a lector at my parish for years. I try to do a good job, I read the scriptures the night before, I use inflection and make sure I know how to pronounce all the strange names. If fact, I have always loved reading at Mass.

proclaiming-the-word

The first time I read as a duly instituted reader, appointed by the bishop for that sacred task, it felt different. This was my place, and I had a responsibility to make sure it was done well and right. I knew it was my job to be the most reverent, best reader possible, that I was called to be the example that lectors should follow.

But it was deeper than that. I knew that I had a ministry, a calling. Even if I were not to become a deacon, I was this, and this was no small matter.

My bishop told us a story before we celebrated this Rite, of a man to whom he had given this Rite to before. He talked about how this man felt changed by the charism of the Rite, and how as he neared death, he asked him, his bishop, if he could be buried with the bible on his chest as a sign of his sacred office.

man-with-bible

The Rite had marked this man, had given him sacred purpose. It did the same for me. As I stood up to read scripture again for the first time, I knew that I had been changed, and I could never be the same again.

A New Format for a New Life

For years, this blog has had the title, “Not a Deacon Yet”.

That is no longer accurate.

I intend to begin posting again soon, and I will of course begin with a run down of what has happened in the last few years leading to my ordination. Before I do, it seems a good time for an update to this site, new visuals, new format, new style.

I will soon be updating my menu pages, and afterwords, I will begin to post again. It’s a new day, and I now have a new mission.

I look forward to meeting you all once again!

You are cordially invited.

I hesitated to post this, I was planning on waiting until ordination was over before I posted again.

However, many of you have been kind enough to take this journey with me. I have greatly enjoyed your emails, comments and camaraderie. God willing, I will be ordained this Saturday at 10:00 am PST.

I would like to invite you to my ordination. Sadly, there in only one seat left in the house, and it’s at your desk or couch. I invite you to watch live on YouTube as God in his goodness confers on me through my bishop, the sacred sacrament of Holy Orders.

These last few weeks have been an emotional roller coaster for me as I spend one moment frightened at what I’ve gotten myself into, and the next praising God for the opportunity he has given me. Please keep me in your prayers.

May God have mercy on me, and may my life be lived for His glory. Amen.

Ordination Date Been Set!

Years have gone by. Five and a half of them. Children and grandchildren have been born, parents and grandparents have passed on. This formation process has been full of up and downs, and classes that will never end.

Except that the classes HAVE ended. I have reached the end of this road, and beyond it I can see a new life, a life lived not for myself, but for God’s most precious possession, his Holy Church.

This September, God willing, my bishop will lay hands on me, and through this most ancient prayer I will be changed forever. I haven’t been this excited since I was married to the most beautiful woman I have ever met.

If anyone is still out there after these years of silence, I would ask your prayers. I look forward to writing again very soon.

May God fill you with His endless blessings!

Institution of Acolyte
Instituted as a Acolyte – one of the final steps before Ordination as a Deacon.

The Ramblings, Teachings and Archive of a Catholic High School Theology Teacher, and Deacon in the Roman Catholic Church.