Installation of the Ministry of Lector and Acolyte
St. John the Evangelist Church, Westminster
October 27, 2020
At the heart of our faith and at the heart of the priesthood are Word and Sacrament: the revealed Word of God as taught and transmitted to us by the Church, and those sacramental signs through which God sanctifies and forms his people, the pinnacle of which is the Most Blessed Eucharist.
Accordingly, those preparing for the priesthood are rightly called to exercise the ministries of lector and acolyte … ministries of Word and Sacrament. In 1972, when Pope St. Paul VI established these ministries, he wrote: “[The Church] considers it to be very opportune, both by study and by the gradual exercise of the ministry of the word and of the altar, that candidates for Holy Orders should . . . understand and reflect upon the double aspect of the priestly office.”
Tonight, I rejoice to install eight of our seminarians in these ministries – one in the Ministry of Lector, Chris Rodgers, and seven in the Ministry of Acolyte: Daniel, Ron, Luke, Felix, Nicholas, Sampson, and Cornelius. So, now, dear brothers, let us allow the Word of God, proclaimed this evening, to shed its light on the steps which you are about to take, beginning with the Ministry of Lector.
All Scripture Is Useful
Dear Chris, This evening we heard the words of St. Paul to his co-worker Timothy: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching . . . .” These are words you have heard and pondered many times before. In your seminary formation, you study Scripture as “the soul of theology” and practice the art of proclaiming God’s Word effectively. Even more importantly, you prayerfully reflect on God’s Word, allowing it, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to penetrate and illumine your life.
This evening, as you are installed as lector, you become, in a sense, an “official” bearer of God’s Word, charged by the Church to participate in the mission given her by Christ to proclaim the Gospel, even to the ends of the earth. You will fulfill this office by proclaiming God’s Word in the liturgical assembly, by instructing children and adults in the Holy Catholic faith, and by extending God’s Word to those who have not yet heard it and to those who no longer practice their faith, for whatever reason.
As you undertake this office, Chris, allow the words of St. Paul to Timothy to resonate in your heart: “Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed . . . .” Continue growing in your love of the revealed Word of God by meditating daily on the Scriptures, by continued study, and by opening your heart widely to the pastoral needs of God’s People. Thus, you will be equipped to bear witness to Jesus Christ whose words are “spirit and life”, whose words “rejoice the heart” and “enlighten the eye”.
The Ministry of Acolyte
Let me now address myself to those of you being installed as acolytes: Those who listen attentively to the Word of God and absorb the teaching of Christ, sooner or later find themselves hungering for Bread of Life, the Eucharist. Indeed, the Eucharistic liturgy is itself woven, as it were, from the threads of Scripture which you, as Lectors, study, ponder, and proclaim. God’s Word leads us to the Eucharist, “the source and summit” of the Church’s life.
As acolytes, you will assist deacons and priests in the distribution of Holy Communion. The Church also authorizes you to bring Holy Communion to the sick and housebound. From your own devotion to “the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar” and from your seminary studies on the Eucharist and the Sacraments, you are deeply aware of how great and awesome is the mystery of the Eucharist. You are deeply aware of the reverence with which you must treat the Eucharistic elements – for, truly, they are the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ – the Bread of Life and the Cup of eternal salvation – the source of eternal life for the whole world.
As you fulfill this office, allow the love of our Eucharistic Lord to conform your life more fully to the mystery of the Cross so that you may offer yourselves in loving service to the People of God, including and especially those who are poor and vulnerable and those whose Eucharistic faith has, for whatever reason, faded. Have a special love for the sick, the elderly, and the housebound, aware that your love for them can also have a powerful effect on family members who may no longer practice their faith.
As acolytes, let no opportunity pass to bear witness to your Eucharistic faith, for, as we know, many people today, even life-long Catholics, no longer fully believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. With an ardent faith but also with gentleness and love, bear witness to the depth and beauty of this great “mystery of faith”.
Prayers for These Seminarians and for Vocations
Let me conclude with a request for all you who are present in this church this evening and those of you who are taking part in this Mass through life-streaming: Please keep these men in their prayers as they make their way towards the Altar of the Lord. Pray that they will be priests after the mind and heart of Christ, the Word made Flesh and the Living Bread come down from heaven. Pray also that the Good Shepherd will raise up many new priestly vocations for service in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, so that, as the future unfolds, we will have the priestly shepherds we need to advance the Lord’s saving mission in this, the Premier See.
Through the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Word made flesh and Woman of the Eucharist, may God bless you, dear brothers, and keep you always in his love!