Built of Living Stones 36-37: A Variety of Ministries

Today, a nod to other ministries: deacon, installed, and others:

§ 36 § A variety of ministries serve the assembly at the liturgy. First among the ministers is the deacon.(GIRM 94) Some faithful have been installed in the ministries of lector or acolyte. Others serve as readers, altar servers, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, cantors, musicians, and sacristans.(SC 26, 28-29) As members of the Church, each person forms an essential and distinct part of the assembly that is gathered by God in an “organic and hierarchical” way.(GIRM 294; Cf. GIRM 5) Each minister, ordained or lay, is called upon to fulfill his or her role and only that role in the celebration of the liturgy.(SC 28)

§ 37 § By its design and its furnishings, the church reflects this diversity of roles. The one who presides, those who proclaim God’s word, the ministers of music, those who assist at the altar, and members of the congregation all play an integral part in the public prayer of the Church. The design of the church should reflect the unity of the entire assembly and at the same time insure that each person is able to exercise his or her ministry in a space that fully accommodates the ritual action called for by that ministry. Careful attention to the placement of the individuals and groups who comprise the liturgical assembly can manifest and enhance their relationship with one another and with the entire body.

One design factor that has gained some traction in the past generation or two is to permit lay ministers to emerge from the assembly, rather than sit in “ministerial seats” like the clergy. Even assigned seats within pews can suggest a minimalization of the role of the lay person at Mass in favor of a quasi-priestly function. Which lectors, communion ministers, servers, and others do not exemplify. At least in theory.

Altar servers are one last piece of resistance in many parishes. When I returned to one of my old parishes, I noticed that six chairs were arranged behind the presider’s chair. It used to be that altar servers sat against the wall at the edge of the raised platform near the ambo about twenty feet away from the priest. They had been moved very close. I don’t think that arrangement reflected a good relationship, as many young people attend Mass with their families, and this is a good value to enforce as far as possible: that the Domestic Church be recognized and honored in the Sunday assembly.

One example is enought. Anyone think of others?

All texts from Built of Living Stones are copyright © 2000, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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2 Responses to Built of Living Stones 36-37: A Variety of Ministries

  1. Liam says:

    The pragmatic exceptions for placement outside the sanctuary would be:

    1. Where access from outside into the sanctuary is too belabored for a given lay minister;

    2. For the person who holds the Missal for the presider (which is a role, IIRC, that used to be performed by subdeacons) to be close at hand so that there is not undue delay (haste is not a virtue, but the time involve should not call attention to itself, let’s say).

  2. Todd says:

    Agreed on #1, certainly.

    As for #2, there is a value in training acolytes to anticipate the need, which I did when they were twenty feet away. If the server and his/her family are sitting in the front row, no problem with that minister approaching the chair toward the end of the Gloria, or just after the priest sits down after Communion. Special provisions for special rituals, though, can be made.

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