ASK FATHER: Can a deacon serve as acolyte in the Extraordinary Form Mass?

From a reader…

QUAERITUR:

Can a deacon serve as acolyte in the Extraordinary Form Mass?

Sure.  If there are not enough servers for the sake of a Solemn Mass, and for some reason you have a plethora of deacons and a paucity of non-clerics, sure.  It’s a little hard to imagine the scenario, but, sure.  A gathering of priests and deacons somewhere?   Perhaps some of the boys couldn’t show up so you have to fill in?

Why not?

While it is better for a deacon to be deacon or subdeacon, he can serve if need be.

As a matter of fact, it is a good thing for priests and deacons – let’s not exclude bishops – to serve Mass once in a while.  I once had a cardinal serve Mass for me.  That’s humbling.  I have served Mass for visiting priest friends.  It’s great!

It’s okay for a priest not to concelebrate, but to sit in choir in proper choir dress.  It’s okay for a priest or a deacon to take a serving role.  I will often act as a deacon on Sundays so we can have a Solemn Mass, which should be the target for Sunday worship.

It’s okay for us to get down off our high horses and pick up the curry comb.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000 and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to ASK FATHER: Can a deacon serve as acolyte in the Extraordinary Form Mass?

  1. A Transitional Deacon says:

    A part of me wonders if I spurred on this question! I sat in choir at an EF High Mass for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart yesterday because we couldn’t find a subdeacon so we could have a Solemn High Mass.

    [If by “High Mass” you mean the Missa Cantata, sung but with only the priest celebrant, then perhaps you ought to have offered to help out so that there could have been a Solemn Mass.]

  2. A Transitional Deacon says:

    Re: your comment Father – I do mean a Missa Cantata. I was intending to serve as deacon so there could be a Solemn Mass, but neither Father nor I could find anyone eligible to serve as subdeacon who was available.

  3. oklip955 says:

    Several years ago attended a mass at St. Peter’s in Rome, Cardinal Burke said the mass with an Archbishop as his server.

  4. oklip955 says:

    Several years ago attended a mass at St. Peter’s in Rome, Cardinal Burke said the mass with an Archbishop as his server.

  5. If I recall correctly, Popes have served Mass for their priest secretaries.

  6. APX says:

    perhaps you ought to have offered to help out so that there could have been a Solemn Mass.]
    Unless the Powers that Be forbid such a thing. Diocesan priests (and I presume deacons be they transitional or permanent) are not allowed to assist with EF Masses in our parish, but are only allowed to sit in choir according to the Pastor (Diocesan, the FSSP share a Parish) and Bishop (though the rule was implemented by the former bishop). Apparently the pastor got too many complaints from brides not having three priests celebrate their wedding.

    [That seems to be beyond the powers of the powers that be and in the realm of bullying.]

  7. Eoin OBolguidhir says:

    I was listening to the excellent Dr. Bergsma’s lectures on the Song of Songs the other day, and had the thought that the fundamental failure of understanding I have had about our all male priesthood is not that we have an all male priesthood, but that, in as much as we are all assembled and collectively to be the Bride of Christ, we have an all female Ecclesia. Having priests serve as acolytes suggests that it is the priest confecting the Blessed Sacrament, who supremely represents our Saviour in the Divine Liturgy, emphasizes this metaphysical reality, for not even those men sacramentally configured unto our Saviour are cut off from their primary and most Ontologically distinguishing Christian mark, being incorporated into Body of the Bride. In a supremely excellent way the Priest acting in persona Christe, and not as himself, is in that moment of Eternity extended by Grace to the masculine role in the Great Wedding Banquet of the Lamb.

    It as obvious as the white skin of the sister of Moses how this Mystery would confound those who speak against the Church, the Mass, the Priesthood, and masculinity itself.

  8. hwriggles4 says:

    Fr. Z:

    Thanks for your comment about priests serving at Mass once in a while.

    My mother’s parish has a retired priest who helps out. This retired priest (Fr. Jim) due to a stroke uses a wheelchair. I recall one Christmas Day Mass where Fr. Jim was the celebrant, and the pastor (who I know had very little sleep since Midnight Mass) took the time to assist Fr. Jim with holding and picking up the apparatus used for the consecration. It was touching to see, it was a good example, and it was obvious that each priest wanted to be there.

    When I visit and Fr. Jim preaches, due to his stroke his speech is a little slurred, but if you take the time to listen his homilies are solid, on target, and he really wants to be in the sanctuary. I also know that this pastor inherited a mess when he was assigned to the parish, and IMHO this pastor worked hard to do some housecleaning. My mother has been active there for a few decades and told me it is not uncommon for the pastor to work in his office until 10 PM. This pastor is in his mid sixties, and was a religious order priest prior to being incardinated into the diocese several years ago. And I am sure this pastor rises early for prayer and daily Mass.

  9. Hugh says:

    Fr, you mentioned “a gathering of deacons”. This has my mind turning … what would be the collective noun? Tomorrow, walking down the street, I want to appear learned and say to my friends “Oh, look up! There’s a servery of deacons!” … or whatever the term is. Suggestions welcome.

  10. Bthompson says:

    I think you hit it on the nose with the service focus, but a collective noun ought to sound linguistically elegant.

    Ideas:
    Ministry of deacons
    Assistance…
    Administration… (I’m partial to this one)
    Order… (generic vis a vis grades of orders, but functional)

  11. Fr Richard Duncan CO says:

    Blessed (soon to be saint) John Henry Newman used to act as acolyte at Vespers in the Oratory if no one else is available.

  12. Dan says:

    It is a beautiful thing to watch a priest take the roll of a deacon or subdeacon to celebrate Mass, or to choose to sit in the confessional for the duration of Mass. I think it can help to curb pride, with some priests believing that they MUST be a celebrant at every Mass they are at and don’t like the idea of humbling themselves to vest in a dalmatic when they are priests and belong front and center.
    The extraordinary form much better conveys the concept of the servant priest. The EF promotes humility in a wonderful way.

  13. quo vado says:

    Servant of God Archbishop Sheen, after making his Holy Hour early in the morning, would be served at Mass by his priest-secretary. His secretary would then offer the Mass while Bishop Sheen would serve. These were in the days prior to concelebration.

  14. quo vado says:

    Servant of God Archbishop Sheen, after making his Holy Hour early in the morning, would be served at Mass by his priest-secretary. His secretary would then offer the Mass while Bishop Sheen would serve. These were in the days prior to concelebration.