Sunday, 14th July 2024

Ministry of Acolyte 2014

Posted on 19. Jan, 2014 in Carousel


Two seminarians of the Pontifical Irish College, Rome, were instituted in the Ministry of Acolyte by Cardinal Walter Kasper, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, on Sunday, 19th January 2014. The new Acolytes are: Francis Hand (Archdiocese of Armagh) and Daniel Gallagher (Diocese of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora).

The photograph taken after the Mass shows: (Left to right) Fr Tom Norris (Spiritual Director), Fr Hugh Clifford (Director of Formation), Mr Daniel Gallagher (new Acolyte), Cardinal Walter Kasper (President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity), Mr Francis Hand (new Acolyte), Mr Stephen Duffy (Master of Ceremonies), Fr George Hayes (Vice Rector), Monsignor Ciarán O’Carroll (Rector).

To see more photographs of the occasion, click here.


Homily of Cardinal Walter Kasper,

President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity

at the Institution of Acolytes,

Pontifical Irish College, Rome,

Sunday, 19th January 2014

 Dear friends!

The wonderful Gospel passage of this second Sunday of Ordinary Time within the liturgical year is exactly the best you could find for this celebration of installation to the ministry of acolytes. It is a passage which played an important role also in my personal biography and in my vocation to become a priest. As the first disciples of Christ remembered the exact hour, it was about four o’clock in the afternoon, I remember the sermon I heard on this passage when I was about sixteen years old.

The first disciples heard the words of John the Baptizer, “There is the Lamb of God!” But they were still unsure. Timidly they followed Jesus, and when Jesus turned to them and asked them, “What are you looking for?” they answered, a little perplexed: “Rabbi, where are you staying?” Jesus told them only: “Come and see!”

“Come and see!” That’s also the invitation to you, who will be installed in this celebration as acolytes. Though the term acolyte doesn’t occur directly in the Bible, indirectly it occurs very often. Jesus called all his first disciples: Akolouthei moi! This means: “Follow me!” And they, as the Gospel of today tells us, when they heard the call of Jesus, without any further questions and dispute, stood up, left everything and followed Jesus wherever he went. So an acolyte is a follower of Jesus.

My dear friends, you have heard this call already in your Baptism and in your Confirmation. Now the call is repeated: Jesus says to you: “I want you.” Now the call becomes more intensive, more urgent, more concrete. Jesus invites you to stay with him. He wants you as his housemates and his friends. Friendship is not only a matter of sentiments, not only a matter of nice comradeship. To be a friend means to share the same interest, and more: the same values, the same ideals, the same life.

So you have a decision, where you want to stay in your life. It is the decision St Ignatius describes in his Spiritual Exercises, as the decision between two banners: the glory of this world – wealth, career, success. Or, on the other side: apostolic life, what it means to go out and go beyond our own interests, to leave our own home and to live where he is at home, to give up the many beauties of human life and to walk together with him on the narrow and steep way, which finally is the way toward the cross, because the servant cannot be greater than his master. But as we believe, the way of the cross is the way to the new life and joy of Easter.

Pope Francis makes it very clear, when he speaks against fashionable spirituality. He is convinced: Today the Church in the West is in crisis, but our world is in an even deeper crisis and cannot find a way out. Post-modernity is dissolving and dismantling modernity. In this situation it does not help to assimilate to the world. We cannot make an impression when we do and behave as everybody does and behaves; that’s known and boring. We must indicate the Christian alternative as a way out of the crisis, a way towards the future. He, Jesus Christ, is this future. He is the way, the truth and the life. Therefore be followers of Him. Be good acolytes.

There is still a second meaning of acolyte. The Greek term akolouthein means “to accompany”. An acolyte is a good companion. A companion is the contrary of an individualist or an egoist. A companion is not a single, as many are today. A companion does not think and behave in terms of the I but of the We, and this makes a big difference. To be closed within ourselves makes us sick and pathological. It is like a room, where the windows are never opened up; then the room smells grubby and musty.

As acolytes you are companions and helpers of the priest and deacon during the liturgy. Acolytes light the candles, prepare the altar, present bread and wine for the Eucharist. These seem to be mere simple external things. Yes they are, and as altar boys you already did it many times. But there is a deeper meaning. As officially instituted acolytes you become companions of the priest in order to grow and mature to be a member of the community of those who are called to serve and to assist the people of God.

We call them the clergy. This term clergy can easily be misunderstood and indeed it is often misunderstood as a caste of privileged men in a highly respected position above the others. These times of clericalism are definitely over. Thanks be to God. Clergy in the Biblical sense means another thing. Clergy is the portion of the communion of believers called to be in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, servants of the community. Christ did not come to be served but to serve. He, though being divine in nature emptied himself, taking the nature of a slave and did the work of a slave when he served at table and washed the feet of his disciples. The feet, not the head!

An acolyte is one who learns to grow and to mature, to accompany people, to be a good friend of them and to serve them. This starts now with small and simple things, small and simple services. So, do not think too haughtily of yourself and do not think to be too elevated in order to do small and simple services. The whole everyday life and the everyday happiness of people consist in small and simple things. Hic Rhodos hic salta!

We as clergy have to accompany and share the joy and hope, the grief and the anguish of the men of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way. We have to share the preferential option, renewed and reinforced by Pope Francis, to be a poor Church for the poor, poor in its greatest meaning as physical, cultural, social and spiritual poverty. In this sense, your installation as acolytes means and sends you out to initiate a common walk with the whole people of God, who expect you and need you as helpers and companions of their joy to be Christians.

I wish you a good stay in Jesus’ home and a journey with him, a journey blessed by our Lord, accompanied by the prayers of the whole people of God, a journey of growth and maturation in the footsteps of Our Lord. God bless you all. Amen.