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The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

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Institution of Acolytes

Tuesday, November 25, 2008
On Friday 21st November, the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, two of our brothers, fr Robert Verrill OP and fr Daniel Mary Jeffries OP were instituted as acolytes by the Prior Provincial, fr John Farrell OP during the Conventual Mass.

The ministry of acolyte was created by Pope Paul VI in 1972 along with the ministry of lector to replace the minor orders that existed up to that point in the Latin Church. The idea of ministries as opposed to orders was that the then Holy Father wished to open up what had previously been clerical orders to a wider group so that any layman could be instituted in them. 

The acolyte's function is to assist the priest and deacon. "It is his duty therefore to attend to the service of the altar and to assist the deacon and the priest in liturgical celebrations, especially in the celebration of Mass" (Ministeria Quaedam). The acolyte is instituted to assist in the distribution of Holy Communion when there are not enough priests and deacons, to take communion to the sick, and to expose the Blessed Sacrament for the adoration of the faithful. However, the acolyte may not give Benediction. 

For clerical brothers of religious institutes and seminarians, being instituted as an acolyte is seen as a step towards ordination, God willing, that enables the brother or seminarian to take a more active role in the sacramental and pastoral service of his community. As he passes from lector to acolyte, the increased intimacy with the Sacrament of the Altar that his being instituted brings, requires of him a greater love for the Lord and his Mystical Body, the Church, so that that which is symbolised in the Sacred Liturgy might truly represent the reality of the community. So the acolyte not only assists at the Eucharist but also brings Holy Communion to the sick and housebound helping them to maintain their link with the sacramental life of the community.

Below are photos from the Mass in which our brothers were instituted as acolytes:

Acolytes1
The provincial addresses the brothers who are to become acolytes, reminding them that their closeness to the altar is to be marked by a growth in charity: "In performing your ministry, bear in mind that as you share one bread with your brothers and sisters, so you form one body with them. Show a sincere love for Christ’s Mystical Body, God’s holy people, and especially for the weak and the sick…"

Acolytes2
A prayer of blessing is said over the acolytes, and the provincial prays God to "make them assiduous in the service of the altar, faithfully distributing the bread of life to their brothers and sisters, growing always in faith and charity."

Acolytes3
As the paten with bread and chalice with wine is handed over to the acolytes as a sign of their ministry, the provincial says: "Take this vessel... for the celebration of the Eucharist. Make your life worthy of your service at the table of the Lord and of his Church."

Above, fr Robert Verrill OP receives the bread and wine, and below, fr Daniel Mary Jeffries OP.

Acolytes4

Acolytes5
The newly-instituted acolytes assist at the preparation of the gifts, because they have been called to "assist priests and deacons in carrying out their ministry."

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