On Tuesday 28th August, during the British Province of Carmelites pilgrimage to Lourdes, Brother Gerard Walsh, O.Carm., received the ministry of acolyte.
Brother Ged (35) has been in formation as a Carmelite friar for a number of
years, and in October hopes to make his Solemn Profession of Vows. He
is also training to be a priest, and being made an acolyte is a stage in this process
The Prior Provincial of the British Province of Carmelites, Fr. Wilfrid
McGreal, O.Carm., presided at the Mass and preached about the
centrality of the Eucharist in the Christian life. He explained that the
ministry of acolyte is an invitation for Ged to share more fully in the
ministry of the Church, serving the Body of Christ both at the altar
during worship and in Christ's Mystical Body, God's holy people.
Brother Ged has been serving the sick and disabled in Lourdes for many
years, and was delighted that his institution as an acolyte could happen
there. Words addressed to the acolyte in the Rite of Institution make a
strong link between the sick and the Eucharist: "In performing your
ministry bear in mind that, as you share the one bread with your
brothers and sisters, so you form one body with them. Show a sincere
love for Christ's Mystical Body, God's holy people, and especially for
the weak and the sick."
The word acolyte
is derived from the Greek acolytos
meaning companion, attendant,
or helper. Today the term is often used to refer to an altar server, but a
formally ‘instituted acolyte’ is someone who has been specially called to serve
at the altar.
ministry has its roots in the Old Testament, where the prophet Samuel is seen
assisting the Levite priest Eli, and Elisha is seen assisting the prophet
Elijah. Elijah is specially important in Carmelite spirituality, and the first
reading at the Mass in Lourdes told how Elijah received care from an angelic acolyte.
medieval Church the role of acolyte was the last of various ‘minor orders’ or
roles within the Christian community which included porter, reader, and exorcist.
Over time these functions came to be considered as preparatory stages for those
receiving the ‘major orders’ of subdiaconate, diaconate and presbyterate.
Second Vatican Council, in 1972 Pope Paul VI revised this system, retaining
only two offices which are connected to the ministries of God’s word (reader or
‘lector’) and God’s altar (acolyte). By these ministries duties of a liturgical
and charitable nature are entrusted to the candidate. These ministries can be
committed by the Church to any male lay Christian. They are not a form of
ordination, but are stages required by the Church for those men proceeding to
ordination as deacons and priests, to better dispose them for the future
service of God’s word and altar. These ancient ministries have been established
by the Church for the purpose of suitably giving worship to God and for
offering service to God’s people.
Some years ago
Ged was formally instituted as a reader, whose task is to proclaim the word of
God in the liturgical assembly, to lead prayers and music, and instruct the
faithful for the reception of the sacraments. Today Ged was instituted as
an acolyte. It is the acolyte’s particular duty to attend to the service of the
altar, aiding deacon and priests especially in the celebration of Mass, aiding
with the distribution of Holy Communion where appropriate, and exposing the
Blessed Sacrament for adoration. The acolyte continues to instruct the people
in the faith, and is called upon to serve the weak and the sick.
To read more about the Province pilgrimage to Lourdes, click here