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The Minor Orders

The Order of Porter 
The Order of Reader 
The Order of Exorcist 
The Order of Acolyte 
according to the Traditional Catholic Rite of Holy Orders Return to True Catholic

by A. Biskupek, S.V.D
Mission Press, 1954
Imprimi Potest May 4, 1942 Charles Michel, S.V.D. Provincial
Imprimatur May 4, 1942 + Samuel A. Stritch, D.D.
Archbishop of Chicago 
The worthy conduct of divine worship renders necessary many distinct functions which stand in a more or less intimate relation to the central act of divine worship, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Such functions are, for instance, to take care of the place of worship and of the many things needed for the Holy Sacrifice, to instruct the people and admit them to the divine services, to keep out unworthy persons, to supervise the congregation so that due order and reverence may be observed by all, to serve at Mass, etc. In ancient times, when the faithful formed small minorities in the midst of a pagan population not well disposed toward Christianity, it was of the utmost importance that such offices should be entrusted to thoroughly reliable men. For this reason special orders were introduced by the Church, and men were ordained by a sacred rite for the worthy discharge of these offices. At what time this was done cannot be established with certainty. But we know that Pope Cornelius, in a letter written to Fabian, Bishop of Antioch, about the year 250, mentions that four minor orders as we have them today. He writes that in the Church of Rome were at the time 46 priests, 7 deacons, 7 subdeacons, 42 acolytes, 52 exorcists, lectors, and porters. 

Accordingly, the four minor orders are: 

  1. The Order of Porter (The Ostiarate)
  2. The Order of Reader (The Lectorate)
  3. The Order of Exorcist (The Exorcistate)
  4. The Order of Acolyte (The Acolytate)
The historical development of these orders was not the same throughout the Church and, moreover, their functions underwent considerable modifications according to the exigencies of the times. Gradually they lost their original importance. But, although for centuries already many of the functions of the minor orders are performed by laymen, the orders have remained. They now form a fitting preparation for the major orders, and recall the fact that, after all, the priest is the responsible guardian of the house of God and of all the functions performed therein; and that, if laymen are employed in rendering such services, the priest must see to it that worthy persons are chosed and that they perform their offices in the proper way. 

These four orders are called minor orders because of their lesser importance and dignity when compared to major orders; they are not sacraments. According to the present discipline of the Church, only candidates who have the intention of becoming priests are permitted to receive minor orders. However, if in the course of time a minorite changes his mind and decides not to become a priest, he is at liberty to choose another state of life without being under any further obligations in consequence of the orders received. 

Minor orders are conferred on Sundays and double feasts; also outside Mass, but always in the morning. Not more than two minor orders may be received on the same day; nor is it allowed that tonsure and a minor order be received by the same candidate on the same day. 

The rite of conferring these orders comprises the following features: 

  1. The Call. The candidates are called by name to come forward; they in turn answer, "Adsum," i.e. "Present." This is to show, on the one hand, that the promotion to an ecclesiastical office must come from the ecclesiastical superiors, and on the other hand, that no one is forced to accept such an office, but offers himself of his own free will.
  2. The Instruction. It contains a statement of the various duties of the order and then points out the particular obligations arising from its reception.
  3. The Bestowal of the Order. This is the essential part of the rite and consists in the so-called tradition of instruments, i.e., the handing over to the candidates of the symbols of their office and in the accompanying words of the bishop.
  4. The Prayer. It is a prayer for the ordained, that they may faithfully discharge the duties of their office.
The candidates present themselves for ordination dressed as clerics, in cassock and surplice. In their right hand they carry a burning candle. 

Holy Orders Home Page | Sacrament of Holy Orders | Tonsure
Minor Orders | Porter | Reader | Exorcist | Acolyte
Major Orders | Subdeacon | Deacon | Priest
Litany of the Saints | Veni Creator | Encyclical of Pope Pius XI

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