From a reader…
I am an instituted acolyte in formation for Holy Orders.
Based on my reading of the GIRM, an instituted acolyte is an extraordinary minister of holy communion and would be expected to serve in that role should they be called up to assist during Mass. Am I right?
If I read the GIRM correctly, then an instituted acolyte would be the first EMHC, and people from the pews would fill in as needed.
However, a lay liturgy director seems to be saying “spread the fun around” by telling us [instituted acolytes] not to serve as EHMC at a daily Mass.
It seems to me the liturgy guy is further muddling the concept of active participation by encouraging a proliferation of lay ministers in a spirit of inclusiveness.
Am I being insufficiently pastoral here? I will of course obey, but I would like to know what is the “right” thing to do given the context.
Instituted Acolytes are extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. They have no “right” to exercise ministry. There seems to be something of a preference in the rubrics for acolytes over other extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, but, in the end, they are all extraordinary. If an acolyte shows up at a place where he is not known, he ought not insist on his priority over other extraordinary ministers.
Yet, the stubborn fact remains, there is a certain preference for an acolyte over and above other extraordinary ministers. Other people who serve are substituting for the instituted acolytes and lectors who aren’t there.
Moreover, it is a general principle of liturgy that roles should be distributed, all things being equal. If there are five bishops, ten priests, and eighteen deacons at Mass it would be foolish to have one priest doing everything – reading the readings, chanting the Gospel, preaching, reading the universal prayers, setting up the altar, and so forth.
Yet, the fact remains that, instituted acolytes are extraordinary. Therefore, the liturgy director’s comment, that “opportunities be readily available to all those who have been trained and wish to serve” runs contrary to this fact that extraordinary ministers being extraordinary. That’s like saying the Vice President, who is there to step in should something happen to the President, should be given a regular opportunity to step into his extraordinary role as presidential successor because he’s trained for it. No, his role is extraordinary. If it’s not needed, great. It is also his role not to be needed to step into the not-vacant office of President.
Next, someone in formation for Holy Orders should also exhibit a docility compatible with the Orders to which he aspires. Making a stink and insisting on that priority is contrary to the docility and humility that should mark the character of someone in formation. Unless one is being asked to violate one’s conscience or commit some liturgical or canonical crime, one should smile, nod, and say “Yes, Father,” “Yes, Rev. Mr. X,” or “Yes, Liturgy Czar.”