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The Ministry of the Word: A Compilation of Sources

30 November, 1999

The recent Synod of Bishops in Rome on the Word of God (October 2008) highlighted ways of more effective proclaiming the Word of God in today’s world and having it inspire the lives of Christians. In anticipation of this, the Cloyne Commission for Liturgical Formation last year produced two beautiful companion booklets, of which this is the first. To purchase this book – it cannot be sold without its companion volume (see next), “The Ministry of the Word: A Compilation of Sources”, write to [email protected]

To purchase this book – it cannot be sold without its companion volume (see above), The Word of the Lord: How to Proclaim the Word of the Lord, write to [email protected]



The Word of the Lord – Fr. John Keating OCarm 

  1. A Glossary of terms which feature in The Word of the Lord 
  2. Extracts from the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 2002 
  3. Extracts from the General Introduction to the Lectionary, 1981 
  4. In The Word of the Lord, what does it mean to say….? 
  5. Why? 
  6. Miscellaneous:
    • A Parish Co-ordinator of Lectors asks 
    • Sample Intentions for the Prayer of the Faithful 
    • Favourable Sundays for the Blessing of Lectors 





An acolyte is a man, who assists the liturgical assembly in its worship; who assists, in particular, the ordained ministers of the assembly in their service at the altar. An acolyte is empowered to carry out his ministry for life.

Such stability of ministry parallels with the ministry of ‘instituted’ or ‘installed’ lector in that the ministry of ‘instituted’ or ‘installed’ lector is also, a male-only ministry for life.

The Church in Ireland is more familiar with the ministry of ‘temporary’ acolytes however, much in the way it is more familiar with the ministry of ‘temporary’ lectors than that of ‘instituted’ or ‘installed’ lectors. The temporary acolyte is, of course, the indispensable altarserver.

The ministry of altarserver is exercised by boys and girls and by adults of both sexes, subject to the decision of the diocesan bishop.

See: ‘installed/ Instituted Lectors’ in this chapter.

The term ‘acoustic’ relates to the science of sound; to the quality and control of sound.

The place for the Church’s public worship, the church building, has acoustical requirements which differ, for example, from a concert hall.

All church buildings do not meet these requirements with equal success.

A minister of the word must be aware, therefore, of what enhances or debilitates the quality of sound in the church building where he/she ministers. In churches that have good acoustics, there is, for example: a minimum of sound-absorbing material like carpet, a sufficient reverberation time to enhance the unison voice and song of the assembly, and the least possible noise from external sources or installations such as heat distributors and speakers. In addition, there is a modern amplification system, which is professionally installed and calibrated. When, however, circumstances in church buildings militate against good acoustics, ministers of the word should be formed to proclaim as slowly, as distinctly, and as powerfully as the particular circumstances require.

See: The Word of the Lord, page 8.

Alleluia & the Lenten Acclamation
For Christians, Alleluia is the most joyful word there is for praising God. It means: “Praise Yahweh” or “Praise the Lord”. Alleluia is a measure of joy which can only be captured through song.

In Roman Catholic Liturgy, this measure of joy is used, primarily, to greet the proclamation of the Gospel, though in Lent, Alleluia is replaced with a text of lesser intensity. See: ‘Gospel Acclamation’ in this chapter. See also: The Word of the Lord, pages 16-17, 22.

The altar is the most important table within the Roman Catholic place of worship. Specifically, the altar is the table of meal and sacrifice, where the elements of bread and wine are placed to become the Body and Blood of the Lord.

The altar is not, therefore, the space where the altar table, the ambo, and the presider’s chair are situated. That space is named the ‘sanctuary’.

Secondly, it is the altar, and not the tabernacle, which is the focal point of every Roman Catholic church i.e. it is the altar and not the tabernacle where the sacrifice of the cross is perpetuated – from which the meal of the Lord’s Supper is shared. In a true sense, the altar is an icon of Jesus Christ; before it the Church humbly bows.
See: ‘Profound Bow’ in this chapter. In chapter 2 of this publication, see: ‘Bow’ and ‘Sanctuary’. See also: The Word of the Lord, pages 29-30.

The ambo is a large, stationary, reading desk within a church. Its design allows the ready access required by both ministers of the word and acolytes/altarservers, unlike the closed-in, elevated space of a pulpit.

The ambo is where the word of God, set out in the Lectionary and the Book of the Gospels, is proclaimed.

It can also be used for the Homily, for announcing the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful and for the Easter Proclamation (the Exsultet).

The ambo may not be used, however, by a commentator, by a hospitality minister or by a bereaved person delivering a personal message.

See: ‘Exsultet‘ and ‘Lectionary‘ in this chapter. In chapters 2 and 3 of this publication see: ‘Ambo’. In chapter 3, see: ‘Book of the Gospels’. In addition, see: The Word of the Lord, pages 29-30.

Appropriate Minister
It is neither the priest-presider’s role nor the lay presider’s role to proclaim the First and Second Readings in celebrations of the Liturgy with a congregation, when lectors or persons who can be formed as lectors are available to the assembly. Here, in point of fact, it is the lector who is the ‘appropriate minister’. Ideally, there is a different lector for each reading.

See, ‘Lector’ in this chapter. See also: ‘Ministerial not presidential’, ‘Two Lectors’ in chapter 3 of this publication. In addition, see: The Word of the Lord, pages 22, 24.

Defined as: ‘To make ones own of’.
See: ‘Silence/Speak Slowly’ in chapter 2 and ‘Gathering of the Assembly’ and ‘Silence’ in chapter 3 of this publication. See also: The Word of the Lord, pages 14, 21.

This is the ancient name for the People of God who have answered God’s call ai have gathered to do communal worship (i.e. to celebrate the Liturgy). It is the congregation with the presider which constitutes the liturgical assembl It is the entire assembly which celebrates the Liturgy; it is, for example, the enti assembly which celebrates the Eucharist on Sundays.
See: ‘Acolyte’, ‘Congregation’ and ‘Prayer after Communion’, in this chapter. In chapter 2 of this publication see: ‘Assembly’, and ‘Posture’.
In chapter 3, see: ‘Gathering of the Assembly’.
In addition, see: The Word of the Lord, page 4.

Bible Lands
The Bible lands are the land masses, the territorial divisions and the individual places that, according to the Old and New Testaments, figure in the history of Israel, in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and in the life of the ear Church.
See: The Word of the Lord, pages 7-8.

A ‘Booklet’, as referred to in: The Word of the Lord, is a ‘home produced’ publication containing texts for a particular celebration of the Liturgy, such as; celebration of the Rite of Marriage or a celebration of a rite from the Order of Funerals.
The principal texts for inclusion in this ‘booklet’ relate to liturgical music, as these assist the assembly in carrying out its indispensable task of liturgical song Care should be taken to secure copyright use, as applies; to acknowledge the composer(s) and publisher(s), and to make a faithful reproduction of both word and music.
Contrary to common practice, therefore, the following texts should not to be included in a ‘home produced’ booklet: the Presidential Prayers, the Eucharistic, Prayer, the Liturgy of the Word and, for example, the Rite of Marriage. Heading outlining the sequence of these rites, readings and presidential prayers, may, however, be beneficially retained.
See: ‘Leaflet /Missalette/ Pastoral Publication/Booklet’ in chapter 3 of this publication. In chapter 5, see: ‘Why should the congregation no longer use commercial leaflets/missalettes?’ and ‘Why should the minister of the word no longer proclaim from leaflets/ missalettes/ pastoral publications or booklets?’ See also: The Word of the Lord, pages 11, 21.

Caesarius of Arles
In modern day France, Arles is located in the South East. Caesarius was an Abbot at Arles in the sixth century AD. He was a gifted homilist.
See: The Word of the Lord, page IV.

‘The cantor’ is the name the Church gives to the minister who, after being appropriately formed for the task, leads and sustains the singing of the liturgical assembly.

In addition, when a psalmist is not available, the cantor assumes the role minister of the word, to lead the singing of the responsorial Psalm and the singi of the acclamation before the Gospel.

See: ‘Appropriate Music Texts’ and ‘Singing’ in chapter 2 of this publication. chapter 3, see ‘Gospel Acclamation’, ‘Psalmist’ and ‘Responsorial Psalm’. See also: The Word of the Lord, pages 11 -19, 21-22, 24.

A catechist is a qualified person, who assists a parish community in the formation and/or ongoing formation of Christians.

His/her ministry flows out of and centres on effective celebration of the Liturgy on Sunday and, in great part, on effective celebration of the Liturgy of the Word. See: ‘Why should the Congregation no longer use Commercial Leaflet / Missalettes, in chapter 5 of this publication.

In The Word of the Lord, the reference to ‘chair’ relates to where the presbyter-celebrant presides in the celebration of the Liturgy.

In the mother church of a diocese, i.e. the cathedral church, the diocesan bishop presides from a chair called the cathedra. In addition, a secondary chair is provided from which a presbyter-celebrant presides in the absence of the diocesan bishop.

It is the permanent installation of a cathedra in a particular church of a diocese which results in that church’s exclusive designation as the mother church/the cathedral church of that diocese.

See: ‘Deacon’ in this chapter. In chapter 2 of this publication, see: ‘Prayer of the Faithful’. In addition, see: The Word of the Lord, pages 18, 19, 30.

The Church’ (with a capital ‘C’) refers to those members of the People of God wh are responding to God’s love by participating in the lifelong process of conversio to Christ that is Christian initiation.

In other words, the Church is: those members of the People of God who are officially preparing for or who have received the Sacrament of Baptism, who subsequently, are or will be sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation and, who in turn, have had or will have their place a the table of the Eucharist opened up to them for their lifetime nourishment and development in Christian discipleship.

The church (with a small ‘c’) refers to a building that has been raised and dedicated for the purposes of the communal worship of the Church. In other words, the church is a special building in a community, in which the Church’s Liturgy is celebrated and from which the Church is sent to witness to Christ daily.

See: ‘Altar’ in this chapter. In chapter 2 of this publication, see: ‘Church’. in addition, see: The Word of the Lord, pages 2-4, 30.

Cloyne Commission for Liturgical Formation
This is the name given to the Liturgy Commission of the Diocese of Cloyne.

The purpose of this commission is the Liturgical Formation of the worshipping assembly and its ministers, and by implication, the extent of evangelisation, witness and sustenance arising from that worship.

The heart of this Commission is a discernment, study and policy group called the Theology Forum.

In turn, this Forum is supported by various implementation committees, which are, namely,: the Committee for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, the Committee for Sacred Music, the Joint Committee for Pastoral Liturgical Research, the Committee for Liturgical Architecture and Art, the committee for Commission Events and Hospitality and the Committee for Diocesan Celebrations of the Liturgy.

A diocesan Commission for the Liturgy acts in an advisory capacity to the Diocesan Bishop.

The Word of the Lord is published by the Cloyne Commission for Liturgical Formation. 

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