Thursday, 17 June 2010

Minor or Major?

Fr Blake put up a post earlier about the upcoming Latin Mass Society training conference. I can't say I like what he said about the LMS ''pressuring'' him into advertising it (although since I have no sense of humour maybe I am a bit slow in the uptake?). I personally would just go ahead and organise Liturgy without their knowledge - since when did the LMS have the monopoly over ''traditional'' Liturgy? I personally think that their promotion of just the middle-stage in a well-planned and intelligent reform of the Liturgy as the ''Traditional Latin Mass'' is very dishonest.

High Mass in the Old Rite is rarer than it ought to be. This is probably because of the issue of Sacred Ministers - for a High Mass, practically (these days) you need to procure three priests. The Celebrant has to be a priest, the same as the Deacon has to be a Deacon, but what of the Subdeacon? For some obscure reason, in recent centuries, the Subdiaconate was treated as a Major Order in the Latin Rite, but why? It has not been treated consistently so - and in the East it is seen as the highest of the Minor Orders. Plus, if the Subdeacon is indeed a Major Order (well was, it was one of the many abolishments under Paul VI...) then why does the Bishop not lay hands upon the candidate, as is common to the ordination rites of other Major Orders? It would make more sense to me to treat the (hopefully, resurrected) Subdeacon as a Minor Order, just like the ministries of Acolyte, Porter, Lector and Exorcist. This way, a layman can (in extreme circumstances) act as Subdeacon. There is no use complaining about it though, for ''purist'' reasons - if a layman can act as Master of Ceremonies, or Acolyte, then why can not a layman act as Subdeacon? The rubrics of the Missal suppose all ministers of the Altar to be at least tonsured clerics.

Naturally also the Deacon should actually be a Deacon and not a Priest, since the ministry of the diaconate is more apposite to the Deacon than the Priest (although I appreciate that a Priest is a Deacon). There should be some encouragement from on high of vocations to the permanent Diaconate. Since Paul VI issued his motu proprio Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem in 1967, the permanent diaconate has been revived in the West - but not really. Most seminarians are still training to be priests. I think that the Diaconate is very important - so important that every parish should have one. How most people view the parish priest is really how the deacon of the parish should be seen - the one in charge of the pastoral ministry, apostolic care of the poor, making visits to the sick with the Holy Viaticum etc, and most importantly ministering to the Celebrant at High Mass (but also the mediator between priest and people, leading the holy litanies, censing the liturgical choir, the holy images and lay people individually instead of three simple swings...). This way the parish priest can focus on his own spiritual life and prepare adequately for the weekly (rather than daily) celebration of High Mass.

In churches where the entire Office is not chanted in choir there should really only be one High Mass a week, and on Holydays. Sunday should have at least some Office (Mattins, Lauds and Vespers - perhaps Compline also), with High Mass. Mass should never be separated from the Divine Office.


  1. I don't the LMS have ever said they have the monopoly over the old rite at all. They just advertise the traditional mass, wherever it may happen to be celebrated.

    I think as the older members go to their reward and newer ones come in, they will come to their senses and promote the pre-56 liturgy as will the SSPX.

  2. Sorry that should say, "I don't think...". Mea culpa...

  3. Patricius, I'm very pleased to have found your new blog. Thank you for your very kind remarks in another place.

    Shawn - are you Shawn Tribe (NLM)? We met on in the 90's on "vocational retreat" at the old FSSP seminary in Scranton.

  4. Moretben, welcome to my new blog. I looked up the Old Testament pericope you recommended on another post but didn't quite see the significance.

    My post about Ultramontanism is still in preparation but will be complete (Lord willing) in a few days. I just need to get my act together.

  5. As historically the three degrees of Order have been recognised as bishops, priests and deacons it seems more appropriate for the sub-diaconate to be considered the highest rank of the 'minor' orders.

    As such I personally would like to see parishes not only having a deacon but also subdeacons, acolytes and readers just as the Byzantines have.

  6. Patricius - I was thinking about this passage (1 Kingdoms 8) in another connection a few months ago, and it suddenly struck me that it is also a very apt "typos" of the Ultramontanist tragedy. Israel demands a king so as to be like other peoples. God reminds them that they're not like other peoples - He is their King - that's the whole point of Israel! Nevertheless, He tells Samuel, accede to their demand if that is what they want, only make very clear to them what the inevitable consequences of this choice: and make it equally clear that when they find themselves crying out in complaint against the tyranny and rapacity of the king they have chosen for themselves, "in that day I will not hear them!"

    I think there is much for the Trads to contemplate here - a more profound and fruitful narrative than the monomaniacal obsession with Modernism.

  7. Think of Samuel as St Gregory the Great, perhaps...

  8. I agree with Rubricarius that parishes should have all the minor orders whenever possible.

    If these orders are not seen as transitional stages to major orders, then they could legitimately be held by men who are otherwise in the 'lay' state (with day jobs, etc.), including married men. This would provide a much more formalised and liturgically focussed alternative to the rather woolly concept of 'lay ministries' which emerged post V-II.

    From a practical point of view, I wonder if minor orders could also be conferred for fixed term periods, rather like the novitiates of Religious Orders (perhaps 3 years initially?). I suspect this would prove attractive to young men seeking a deeper involvement in the Church, with a number of possible effects. For example, I could envisage those who are active ministers in their 'student' days, perhaps leaving for a number of years to marry, have a family and then return in later life, possibly as minor clerics, or seeking ordination to the permanent diaconate. I also imagine that being active in minor orders would have a positive effect on vocations to the priesthood, both by encouraging those with a true vocation to pursue it, and also by 'weeding out' the wrong candidates, rather than having them 'drop out' as seminarians. Fixed-term orders might also be of interest to retired men, who may wish to pursue a ministry while still fit, but could have the option of returning to the laity should their health or strength deteriorate.

    A increase the use of minor orders would, of course allow for the pursual of vocations within the Church, other than the Priesthood or Religious Life.

  9. Moretben, no doubt the ''stepping-stone'' attitude to the Minor Orders and the Diaconate for centuries in the West was an indirect result of the Low Mass mentality and Ultramontanism - if the Deacon is superfluous for Liturgy, what need is there of a Diaconate? Also, if the Pope is a monarch-super-bishop, then naturally ordinary bishops have more of the Sacrament of Orders than their ''underlings'' the priests. Such a mentality has now been written in the constitutions of Vatican II now...

    Of course that is all utter nonsense. I shall have to think about your idea of ''temporary'' Minor Orders. I could well be ordained Acolyte if the circumstances were different (in the Latin Rite and in my own life), which would suit me better than serving the Liturgy as a layman...

    I shall give more consideration to your recommended Old Testament pericope. I may even translate it from my Vulgate since my Latin has largely fell into abeyance since I started this blog...

  10. Patrici, do you support ordaining (or whatever verb I should use) married men to the minor orders?