ASK FATHER: Can Lectors still bless bread and fruit?

13_01_06_minor_ordersFrom a reader…

QUAERITUR:

Recently I have just read regarding the minor order of Lector (I know it has been abolished). It is said that the lector can bless bread and fruit. My questions are:

  1. Is the blessings reserved only to bread and fruit or can it be extended to food in general?
  2. In traditional orders where they still confer minor orders, can their lector still perform these blessings?

My apologies for any gramatical error as English is not my first language.

Sadly, those provisions formerly given to men ordained to the minor orders of acolyte and lector (done away with by Paul VI with Ministeria quaedam) do not seem to apply to those currently installed in the ministries of acolyte and lector.

Of course, installed acolytes and lectors, like just about anybody else, can probably use the “blessings” contained in the dreadful Book of Blessings, over bread, fruits, etc., but since those blessings don’t actually bless anything…. That’s another bento box and I’m being snarky.

Regarding those who are in traditional groups who receive the lectorate and blessings, I’m afraid the jury is out, that is, I don’t think it is easy to make a decision about them.

Keep in mind that Ministeria quaedam was superseded by the 1983 Code of Canon Law.  It is helpful, but in a limited way.

There was a wonderful spirituality connected to the minor orders.  It was a mistake to sweep them aside in the way they were.

Before, I said that it is hard to make a decision about traditional Lectors.  While we know that they are not clerics now, as they were before, we also have to admit that when bishops bestow this office on men they aren’t just pretending.  I have to conclude that they are being ordained to the lectorate and the Rite of ordination describes what they do.   The things that are described are not out of keeping with the needs of the Church today.

Here is the the Rite for the bestowing of the minor order of Lector and its office:

The Call. The bishop, with his miter on, sits on the faldstool before the middle of the altar. The archdeacon bids the candidates come forward; the notary reads their names:

Let those come forward who are to be ordained to the office of reader: N.N., etc.

Each one answers, adsum, goes before the altar and kneels, holding the burning candle in his right hand.

The Instruction. When all are assembled, the bishop address them as follows:

Dearly beloved sons, chose to be readers in the house of our God, know your office and fulfill it; for God is powerful to give you in increasing measure the grace of everlasting perfection.

The reader’s duty is to read what he preaches (or: to read the Scripture text for the preacher), to sing the lessons, to bless bread and all new fruits. Endeavor, therefore, to read the word of God, that is, the sacred lessons, distinctly and intelligibly, without any mistake or falsification, so that the faithful may understand and be edified, and that the truth of the divine lessons be not through your carelessness lost for the instruction of the hearers.

But what you read with your lips, you must believe in your hearts and practice in your works; so that you may be able to teach your hearers by word and example.

Therefore, when you read, stand in a high place of the church, so that you may be heard and seen by all. This your bodily position is to signify that your life ought to move on a high plane of virtue, so that you may give the example of a heavenly life to all those by whom you are heard and seen. May God by His grace accomplish this in you.

Here the candles are laid aside.

The Bestowal of the Office. The bishop now presents to the candidates the book containing the lessons, that is, a missal, breviary, or bible. The ordinands touch it with the right hand, while he says:

Receive, and be readers of the word of God. If you fulfill your office faithfully and profitably, yours will be the reward of those who have duly administered the word of God from the beginning.

Prayer. The bishop rises and prays:

Let us beseech, beloved brethren, God, the Father Almighty, graciously to bless these servants whom He deigns to assume into the order of reader. May they intelligibly read what is to be read in the Church of God, and carry it out in works. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, His Son, who lives and reigns with Him in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever. R. Amen.

The bishop, with miter off, turns to the altar and says:

Let Us Pray
Let us bend our knees. R. Amen.

Turning again to the candidates kneeling before him, the bishop prays:

Holy Lord, Father Almighty, eternal God, vouchsafe to + bless these Thy servants for the office of reader. May they by constant application to reading acquire knowledge and proficiency, read aloud what must be done and practice what thy have read, so that by the example of their virtue in both respects they may give support to holy Church. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who lives and reigns with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever. R. Amen.

I would add that, more important that blessing bread and fruit, the Lector or aspiring Lector should pay more attention to the ritual words:

…your life ought to move on a high plane of virtue, so that you may give the example of a heavenly life to all those by whom you are heard and seen…

Please share this post!
Share

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, Seminarians and Seminaries and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to ASK FATHER: Can Lectors still bless bread and fruit?

  1. ldunne says:

    Of course, installed acolytes and lectors, like just about anybody else, can probably use the “blessings” contained in the dreadful Book of Blessings, over bread, fruits, etc., but since those blessings don’t actually bless anything…. That’s another bento box and I’m being snarky.

    Although I don’t necessarily agree with your comment above, Fr. Z,[You would necessarily agree after reading more about it elsewhere on the blog!] I would be interested: Is there – or, would there ever be – a revision of the Liber Benedictionum in the works? [It’s De Benedictionibus, and I sure hope so. Meanwhile, priests can use the older, Rituale Romanum.]

  2. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Thank you for this, Father (and reader)!

    It makes me realize all I do not know in other respects, as well…

    Is there, by any chance, something available online giving an overview of the state minor orders in the various Eastern Churches in communion with the Holy Father?

    And, anything addressing the office of Lay Reader with respect to the patrimonium and the Ordinariate?

  3. WmHesch says:

    I would argue that an instituted lector is CONSTRUCTIVELY equivalent to the former minor order.

    Canon 1035 requires installation as a lector before ordination to the diaconate. Thus in Ecclesia Dei communities, ordination as minor-order-lector is treated constructively equivalent to installation as a neo-lector to satisfy Canon 1035. Shouldn’t the converse be true then as well?

    While what the bishop says in the instruction is expository, it’s not EXCLUSIVE with respect to what a lector can do. The lector’s authority to bless bread and first fruits derives from norms in the Rituale Romanum (XI.I.1).

  4. Geoffrey says:

    As an instituted acolyte, I have studied this topic for quite some time. Granted, there are not many resources out there and I wish the Church would officially address the “theology” of the instituted ministries. Nevertheless, I would like to opine.

    As we have seen with the current debate regarding the ordination of deaconesses, this is only being discussed because in the ancient church, the word “ordain” was used for everything, including non-sacraments. It would seem that Blessed Paul VI wanted to avoid any and all confusion by restricting the terms “ordain”, “ordination”, etc. to the Sacrament of Holy Orders and its three degrees. Prior to this, not only was a priest “ordained”, but so was the lowly porter or doorkeeper! The western Church now clearly has the ordained ministries (sacrament) and the instituted ministries (sacramental).

    It also seems that Blessed Paul VI wanted to restore the minor orders / instituted ministries as permanent roles in the Church, in keeping with the ancient practice, as opposed to existing only as stepping stones to the Sacrament of Holy Orders. One need only read the old Roman Martyrology to find a number of saints described as subdeacons and lectors (sadly, there is only one acolyte mentioned, St Tarcisius).

    In regards to the Book of Blessings, while I agree that is a bit of a mess, it does have the authority of Holy Mother Church behind it. It is that authority that empowers the words of consecration at Mass, transforming bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. It is that same authority that empowers the feeble prayers found in the Book of Blessings to indeed bless. I do wish that there was some differentiation between the blessings of instituted ministers and non-instituted, as opposed to its somewhat loose hierarchy.

    Blessed Paul VI did a great thing in reforming the minor orders into the instituted ministries. Sadly, like most of what he did, it has been largely ignored. Imagine how the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite would look with a full complement of instituted lectors and acolytes (subdeacons), with the deacon and priest chanting their parts in Latin, and with the congregation singing the chants of the forgotten Iubilate Deo booklet.

  5. Lavrans says:

    We have a few instituted acolytes in our diocese and they were told by that they still could bless fruits and nuts.

  6. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Geoffrey says, “Blessed Paul VI did a great thing in reforming the minor orders into the instituted ministries.” Not having managed to discover the relevant “resources out there” in my own (feeble?) attempts so far, I am grateful for his observations! It does strike me, in comparison with early Church history, as problematical that such a distinction has now been made between sorts of ‘deacons’, for I have a sense (always subject to correction!) that sometimes ‘deacons’ and people indefinitely going on in minor orders would receive a call of “Amice, ascende superius” and would do so.

  7. robtbrown says:

    Geoffrey says,

    As we have seen with the current debate regarding the ordination of deaconesses, this is only being discussed because in the ancient church, the word “ordain” was used for everything, including non-sacraments. It would seem that Blessed Paul VI wanted to avoid any and all confusion by restricting the terms “ordain”, “ordination”, etc. to the Sacrament of Holy Orders and its three degrees. Prior to this, not only was a priest “ordained”, but so was the lowly porter or doorkeeper! The western Church now clearly has the ordained ministries (sacrament) and the instituted ministries (sacramental).

    Trent is explicit in saying that there are seven orders–major and minor– in the Sacrament of Order (De Septem Ordinibus). Thus, the use of the word “ordination”.

    In Ministeria Quaedam Paul VI wrote that the subdiaconate no longer exists in the Western Church. Of course, the FSSP ordains using all seven orders.

    So much for Paul VI and clarity.