Ministeria Quaedam 1: Certain Ministries

Pope Paul VI leads off his motu proprio with a spot of history:

Certain ministries were established by the Church even in the most ancient times for the purpose of suitably giving worship to God and for offering service to the people of God according to their needs. By these ministries, the offices to be carried out in the liturgy and the practice of charity, deemed suitable to varying circumstances, were entrusted to the faithful. The conferring of these functions often took place by a special rite, in which, after God’s blessing had been implored, a Christian was established in a special class or rank for the fulfillment of some ecclesiastical function.

Which came first, the ministry or the service? The witness of Acts 6 is that the community and the Twelve perceived a need and discerned the first deacons for serving those needs. It was later in Church history that deacons developed a liturgical role. To sort out the matter of minor orders and an administrative/ecclesial recognition of duty, I think one can consider “varying circumstances” even today.

Does the ordinary parish Sunday Mass need multiple roles? Yes. Lectors, musicians, Communion ministers, ushers, servers, greeters, and perhaps some others to varying degrees. For big liturgies like the Easter Vigil or Christmas, maybe some people of rank to “order” the liturgy, people who are not the liturgical presider or deacon or assistant? Often yes.

Do the people in training for the priesthood find themselves in ordinary parishes? Usually not. Never in numbers. In a place like a seminary where you do find a population of candidates, is it optimal for training for parish ministry to employ students in such roles? You call it.

My own sense is that recognizing ministries for lay people, clergy, or in between is generally a good thing, and probably needs to expand. But places like monasteries and seminaries might have needs different from mainstream parishes.

There is no English translation of this document, but I did find an English rendering here on the Adoremus site.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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