2nd year theology – Mt. Angel Seminary
Thanks be to God I was installed to the ministry of acolyte by the Most Rev. Liam Cary, Bishop of Baker, on March 10 at Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon. This is the next step for us who are discerning the priesthood, sandwiched between last year’s installation as a lector and in two years petitioning the bishop for his acceptance into Holy Orders for the Diaconate.
While reflecting on “Who is an acolyte?” I want to draw upon some of the words from Bishop Cary’s homily on that day. He talked about how this is a wonderful year to be able to be installed into the ministry of acolyte because it shares so much with the ministry of St. Joseph.
St. Joseph lived his life taking care of Mary and Jesus, providing for them, feeding them, protecting them, etc. all while not being the focus in the Scriptures. Put another way, he never tried to steal the spotlight from the story of Jesus. And this is what an acolyte is to do. The acolyte serves near the altar to assist the priest in his duties of the altar. However, the acolyte should be able to move to the altar and away from the altar while being of little distraction to the faithful because everyone’s attention should be directed to the sacrifice of the Mass that is taking place.
Thinking about how Bishop Cary describes the ministry of acolyte is very poetic and true. While anyone can serve at the altar, and I have served since I first received Communion in the second grade, by being installed I now take a more intentional approach to serving the altar. Whereas like after being installed in the ministry of lector I focused on living the Gospel in a more direct way, I now live in addition with focusing on the sacrifice of the Mass. With this being focused even more on the sacrifice of the Mass I am given additional responsibilities, which include serving at the altar, exposing and reposing of the Blessed Sacrament, and purifying the sacred vessels, just to name a few. These help me to live more oriented to, if God wills it, the priesthood that I will be a part of.
Living more oriented toward the priesthood through the ministry of acolyte I think about our baptisms and life through the Church. When we begin our lives in the Church at baptism we are welcomed from the back of the church; when we receive the Eucharist we move toward the altar and work to conform our lives ever more like Christ. So, too, as a lector we take the first step closer to the altar, and then the acolyte another step closer to the altar, and finally the eventual end is the priest who presides from the altar itself. This beautiful imagery of the life of the Church represents to me the awesome participation that I as an acolyte get to be a part of. I was before focused on Jesus and his sacrifice for us, but now I like St. Joseph who takes an intentional step back to promote Jesus to others, and to keep him in the stagelight like he should be.
Thank you everyone for your continued prayers. I pray for you all every day.