Commissioning Liturgical Ministers


Last week I wrote about how those who are called to be readers at Mass take on a vital ministry. This ministry is regarded of such importance that those who proclaim the Scriptures at Mass and other liturgical services are designated in a special commissioning service:
“The reader has his own proper function in the eucharistic celebration and should exercise this even though ministers of a higher rank may be present. The reader's ministry, which is conferred through a liturgical rite, must be held in respect.” (Lectionary for Mass: Introduction 51)
The Order for the Blessing of Readers is found in the official ‘Book of Blessings’. The celebrant’s words of introduction explain clearly why this ministry is considered of such importance:
“The word of God, proclaimed in the sacred Scripture, enlightens our minds and hearts. When the Scriptures are read in the liturgical assembly, God speaks to us and calls us to respond in faith and love. The ministry of the reader, then, is important to the life of the Church, for the reader proclaims God's living word.”
The Prayer of Blessing asks that, as readers proclaim the words of life, God will strengthen their faith that they may read with conviction and boldness and put into practice what they read.

Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are also designated to their role through a special liturgical rite. “Persons authorised to distribute holy communion in special cir­cumstances should be commissioned by the local Ordinary or his delegate according to the following rite. The rite should take place in the presence of the people during Mass or outside Mass.” (Order for the Commissioning of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, Book of Blessings, 1871)
The words of the celebrant when he presents to the people those chosen to serve as communion ministers emphasise that theirs is a ministry of unity and that there needs to be consistency between their service of the liturgical assembly at Mass on Sunday and their lives during the week:
“In this ministry, you must be examples of Christian living in faith and conduct; you must strive to grow in holiness through this sacrament of unity and love. Remember that, though many, we are one body because we share the one bread and one cup. As ministers of holy communion be, therefore, especially observant of the Lord's command to love your neighbour.”
The Book of Blessings also includes an Order of Commissioning of altar servers, sacristans, musicians, and ushers. It is important that those who serve in these liturgical ministries in the parish are properly prepared and publicly commissioned for their service of the worshipping assembly. The celebrant’s words of introduction to the rite say this:
“In the body of Christ there exists a wonderful variety of ministries, which are especially evident when we gather around the altar to worship God. By virtue of our baptism in Christ some are called to serve as ministers of the liturgical assembly: altar servers assist the priest and deacon, sacristans prepare and maintain that which is necessary for divine worship, musicians help to raise our spirits in joyful praise, and ushers provide welcome and dignified order to the celebration. Today we ask God to bless abundantly these new (altar servers, sacristans, musicians, ushers) as they begin their liturgical ministry in our parish.”
Christian ministry is about service, not power or prestige. It carries on the saving work of Christ in the world and finds its source in the risen Christ. All those who minister in the Church act in Christ’s name.


Elizabeth Harrington