Sunday, 26th May 2024

Institution of Acolytes 22 May 2011

Posted on 23. May, 2011 in Carousel

Two Irish College seminarians, Ryamond Donnelly, Diocese of Clogher and Paul Murphy, Archdiocese of Armagh were instituted as acolytes during Sunday Mass in the College chapel on 22 May 2011. Bishop Donal Murray, retired Bishop of Limerick, presided at the liturgy.

The ministry of acolyte is a step towards ordination to the diaconate and priesthood. It is closely linked to the Eucharist and involves assisting the priest and deacon during the celebration of Mass. The new acolytes were presented with a paten containing the bread to be used in the celebration of Mass while the Bishop said “Take this vessel with bread for the celebration of the eucharist. Make your life worthy of your service at the table of the Lord and his Church.”



Bishop Murray preached the following homily:

The first reading is about the call of the first deacons.  In fact all of today’s readings are about the call that every Christian receives in Baptism: the call to follow Christ.  It is a call that is constantly present at every moment and in every situation – in the family, at work, on holidays, in all our social responsibilities. Thomas asks a very sensible question.  We cannot see clearly what the journey is going to ask of us in any of these moments.  Life brings all sorts of surprises, some pleasant, some unpleasant, some utterly unexpected, even shocking.  How can we know the way when we don’t even know the next step on the road?

The answer of Jesus – that he is the Way – gives us a sense of direction and a hope that is strong enough to face anything that comes. He is our road and our destination.  But Thomas is right – the immediate next step may always be different from what we have imagined.  We can sometimes find ourselves lost as to what we should do next. So we need two things – a vision that tells us it is worthwhile to keep going, and a willingness to take the steps that seem to be required at any given moment, however awkward, however demanding, however unfair they may seem.

A story told in the book, Compass Points, by Margaret Silf illustrates this. A university rector, to add a personal touch to the task of presenting hundreds of degrees on Graduation Day, used to ask a question of each student who had climbed the steps of the stage to receive a degree. One of the questions was ‘what do you intend to do next?’  A young man answered, ‘I hope to continue my studies and become a great brain surgeon’.  A short time later a woman graduate beautifully dressed, with elegant high heeled shoes, came up. He asked her the same question, ‘what do you intend to do next?’ She said, “I’m going to turn left, and walk back down those steps very carefully.”  The point is that we all need bo

th the vision and the practical steps.  Without the vision there would be no point in taking the steps; if you don’t take the practical next steps you will never arrive at the fulfilment of the vision. 

In fact we cannot separate these two aspects.  In Jesus we have seen the Father, the origin and the destiny of our lives.  Jesus now sits at the Father’s right hand.  But he has also told us that he is always with us. He is with us, we might say, “every step of the way”.  They are two aspects of the same journey.  The meaning of each step, even the smallest everyday ones, is to be found in walking with him on his journey.  Either a step brings us closer to him, or it is a wasted, misdirected step.

Paul and Raymond, in receiving the ministry of acolyte you are taking an important step on the way, a step, please God, towards the priesthood.  It is also a step in the journey that all Christians travel, walking with Christ.

The second reading calls us to become living stones in Christ who is a living stone chosen and precious in the sight of God. We are to let ourselves be built into a spiritual house with and in him; and we do that by offering spiritual sacrifices.  That means offering ourselves and everything we do, everything we suffer, every joy, every sorrow, all the various steps of our life’s journey to the Father with Christ.  That is our baptismal call; that is what being a Christian is about: our lives are to be a series of steps united with Christ’s sacrifice so as to be one with his risen life. We are a royal priesthood and the sacrifice we offer is ourselves, through, with and in him.

That is what we celebrate in the Eucharist.  In every Mass the celebrant prays, “Lord God, we ask you to receive us and be pleased with the sacrifice we offer you”.  We spend a lot of our time rushing around without much reflection. But every time we celebrate the Eucharist we are being asked to become aware of what all those individual steps really mean, what is the vision that makes sense of them.  In everything that happens we are to walk both with care for each next step and with awareness of our destination.

Raymond and Paul, the ministry you receive today is closely linked to the Eucharist. That is why you are handed the bread for the sacrifice as a sign of your ministry. It is a call to you to try to live your lives as spiritual sacrifices.  Like the bread and wine; you are to offer yourselves, and all the steps of your journey, to God through Christ. 

That offering of yourselves is made with the offerings of all God’s people: his chosen race, his royal priesthood, offering their journey and all the steps that make up that journey to him. The ministry of acolyte, like the priesthood towards which it leads, is directed also to unfolding the baptismal grace of the people you will serve, so that they may offer spiritual sacrifices to God. Your ministry will help people to see the vision and to take the next steps on their road. Together we try to live in the light of the Eucharist so that our lives announce the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light.