"Un Ti Morceau"

"A Little Something," mini-lessons and reflections by our pastor, Father Paul Counce

Lay Ministries

Published July 08, 2012 by Fr. Paul Counce

At a typical celebration of the ordinary form of Mass two lay ministers really are re­quired: one person to read the preliminary Bible readings and another to serve by bringing books and vessels to the celebrant when needed. Sometimes people are surprised to discover that there are rules against having priests and deacons do these things, but when you stop to think about it this makes sense: if Mass is supposed to be a co­operative effort of the whole com­munity, it’s wrong for just one or a few persons to usurp all the action!

Ideally, a sepa­rate reader should proclaim each Bible passage; only the Gospel is reserved to a deacon (or, if there is no dea­con, to any assisting priest who is concelebrating). One who reads the Scriptures at Mass, of course, should not only read well but also be a person who treasures the Bible as cen­tral in his or her per­sonal spirituality. At Mass a reader also can do some of an ab­sent dea­con’s tasks, like leading the litany in the penitential rite, noting the intentions of the “Prayer of the Faithful” after the hom­ily, and making announcements or commentary to the congregation.

Altar servers have many auxiliary roles at Mass: carrying cen­ser, cross, and candles in procession; holding the Missal for the presider when he prays at his chair; help­ing the dea­con or priest “set the table” when the gifts are collected and prepared; etc. Although for centuries it’s been permissible and customary for youth to help in this way, this doesn’t mean the role is not important. Not only what a server does but the reverent way which he or she carries out those duties add a great deal to the whole experience of the Mass.

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