From the Pastor: Anders was Instituted as an Acolyte
Last Sunday you understandably might have wondered what was going on at the 10:30 Mass. Anders, our schola director, was participating in the Solemn High Mass, not as the leader of the choir in the rear of the church, but rather front and center as a subdeacon! Lest you continue in your befuddlement, let me explain what happened. Anders is a Catholic of the Latin Rite but belongs to a subset called the Personal Ordinariate of St. Peter. According to the Ordinariate webpage, it “is equivalent to a diocese, created by the Vatican in 2012 for people nurtured in the Anglican tradition who wish to become Catholic.” This includes Anglicans, Episcopalians, and Methodists, and may include members of their families, even if only one of the members was from an Anglican background. Again, quoting from their webpage, “The Ordinariate was created to provide a path for groups of Anglicans to become fully Roman Catholic, while retaining elements of their worship traditions and spiritual heritage in their union with the Catholic Church. The Ordinariate is a key ecumenical venture exemplifying the Second Vatican Council’s vision for Christian unity, in which diverse expressions of one faith are joined together in the Church. The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter was established in response to repeated and persistent inquiries from Anglicans who over time, have come to identify the Catholic Church as their home. Those joining the Ordinariate have discerned they are truly Catholic in what they believe and desire full membership in the Catholic Church.” I included this quote just in case anyone wonders if they are truly “Catholic”. The answer is, “Yes!” But why would converts from Anglican stock not just convert and become Catholic in the same way that most others do? Well, because they don’t have to! Many of these communities, though they broke away from the Church centuries ago, still held fast to quite a few ancient Catholic traditions with which they were grounded before breaking away. In recent decades, when many Catholics were abandoning all things traditional, these groups retained what Catholics discarded. Coming back to full communion with the Church would mean, for them, casting out many of those traditions which they held so dear and which Catholics throughout most of history held dear, too. Ordinariates helped them avoid having to make a strange choice, which seemed to be “Become Catholic by throwing out Catholic traditions, or remain outside of the Church while embracing Catholic traditions.” I am grossly simplifying things, of course, due to the lack of space to write a “real” history, but in order to make the choice to enter the Church more palatable, Personal Ordinariates were established to welcome them home. And, before you question why they didn’t just embrace the Tridentine Mass, look at the timeline and you will see that the 1962 Mass was not yet made widely available (it still is not available in many places to this day) as the plans for the Personal Ordinariates were being drawn up, debated, and finalized.
As it was, though, most “high” Anglicans had kept to a large degree, though embracing the Novus Ordo calendar and the use of vernacular, the older form of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. (Yes, I realize that they did not have valid Holy Orders, yet they still retained much of the liturgical ceremony which they, as a splinter group from Catholicism, had long cherished and never abandoned.) Now that they are back in the Church, they need to find ways to celebrate properly and with great solemnity, the Holy Sacrifice in it’s (although modified as mentioned) glorious form. That requires priests, deacons and subdeacons. But there are no more minor orders, so there are no subdeacons. But Pope Paul VI, when abolishing the minor orders, decreed that instituted acolytes would be able to substitute for subdeacons. (There, I finally came back around to the topic of this article!) So the bishop of the Ordinariate, Bishop Lopes, regularly institutes men primarily to fulfill this role. We, too, who embrace the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, need acolytes/subdeacons. Fortunately, since the men of the Ordinariate are in union with the Catholic Church, and are members of the same Latin Rite, acolytes of one “branch” can perform their ministerial duties in the other “branch” as well. Perhaps you remember that last year I celebrated Mass for the members of the Ordinariate according to their own Missal. I could do that because we are both Catholics of the same Rite, even though there are differences between the Forms. In fact, I dare to say that there are far fewer differences between the Ordinariate Form of the Mass and the Extraordinary Form than there are between the Ordinary Form of the Mass and the Extraordinary Form. Yet all of us can participate in all three Forms according to our state of life.
Anyway, Anders was trained and instituted as an acolyte and is now able to fulfill a liturgical role as subdeacon of the Traditional Latin Mass. We are blessed and thankful for his new ministerial role. Congratulations, Anders!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
PS If you want to have a little liturgical fun, do an online search to see the arguments as to whether an instituted acolyte more properly fulfills the role of a subdeacon as a subdeacon or as a straw subdeacon, the latter terminology being something most “normal” people have never heard of before! Liturgists and wanna-be liturgists revel in such arcane nomenclature.