The Ministry of Acolyte
|Briefly: Following the updating of the Liturgy and reforms of some (most?) of the Church's public worship actions, which took place in the "Second Vatican Council" (Vatican II)the Pope issued a letter (a Motu Proprio) changing the manner in which laymen could be admitted to ministry in the liturgical assembly.|
the first of several stages formerly associated with progress toward Ordination
to the Priesthood were formally recognized as "ministries" suitable
for laymen, who of course, are properly disposed and trained in those functions.These
ministries are those of reader and acolyte -- which may include those functions
formerly reserved to the Minor Order of Sub-Deacon.
Apostolic Letter given Motu Proprio:
On first tonsure, minor orders, and the subdiaconate
Certain ministries were established by the Church even in the most ancient times for the purpose of suitably giving worship to God and for offering service to the people of God according to their needs. By these ministries, the offices to be carried out in the liturgy and the practice of charity, deemed suitable to varying circumstances, were entrusted to the faithful. The conferring of these functions often took place by a special rite, in which, after God's blessing had been implored, a Christian was established in a special class or rank for the fulfillment of some ecclesiastical function.
Some of these functions, which were more closely connected with the liturgical celebration, slowly came to be considered as a training in preparation for the reception of sacred orders. As a result, the offices of porter, reader, exorcist, and acolyte were called minor orders in the Latin Church in relation to the subdiaconate, diaconate, and priesthood, which were called major orders. Generally, though not every where, these minor orders were reserved to those who received them as steps toward the priesthood.
Nevertheless, since the minor orders have not always been the same and many functions connected with them, as at present, have also been exercised by the laity, it seems fitting to reexamine this practice and to adapt it to contemporary needs. What is obsolete in these offices will thus be removed and what is useful retained; also anything new that is needed will be introduced and at the same time the requirements for candidates for holy orders will be established.
While Vatican Council II was in preparation, many bishops of the Church requested that the minor orders and subdiaconate be revised. Although the Council did not decree anything concerning this for the Latin Church, it stated certain principles for resolving the issue. There is no doubt that the norms laid down by the Council regarding the general and orderly reform of the liturgy  also include those areas that concern ministries in the liturgical assembly, so that the very arrangement of the celebration itself makes the Church stand out as being formed in a structure of different orders and ministries.  Thus Vatican Council II decreed that "in liturgical celebrations each one, minister or layperson, who has an office to perform, should do all of, but only, those parts which pertain to that office by the nature of the rite and the principles of liturgy." 
With this assertion is closely connected what was written a little earlier in the same Constitution: "The Church earnestly desires that all the faithful be led to that full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations called for by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as 'a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people' (I Pt 2:9; see 2:4-5) is their right and duty by reason of their baptism. In the reform and promotion of the liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else. For it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit and therefore pastors must zealously strive in all their pastoral work to achieve such participation by means of the necessary instruction." 
Among the particular offices to be preserved and adapted to contemporary needs are those that are in a special way more closely connected with the ministries of the word and of the altar and that in the Latin Church are called the offices of reader and acolyte and the subdiaconate. It is fitting to preserve and adapt these in such a way, that from this time on there will be two offices: that of reader and that of acolyte, which will include the functions of the subdiaconate.
In addition to the offices universal in the Latin Church, the conferences of bishops may request others of the Apostolic See, if they judge the establishment of such offices in their region to be necessary or very useful because of special reasons. To these belong, for example, the ministries of porter, exorcist, catechist,  as well as others to be conferred on those who are dedicated to works of charity, where this ministry had not been assigned to deacons.
It is in accordance with the reality itself and with the contemporary outlook that the above-mentioned ministries should no longer be called minor orders; their conferral will not be called ordination, but institution. Only those who have received the diaconate, however, will be clerics in the true sense and will be so regarded. This arrangement will bring out more clearly the distinction between clergy and laity, between what is proper and reserved to the clergy and what can be entrusted to the laity. This will also bring out more clearly that mutuality by which "the universal priesthood of believers and the ministerial or hierarchic priesthood, though they differ from one another in essence and not only in degree, are nonetheless interrelated: each of these in its own special way is a sharing in the one priesthood of Christ." 
After weighing every aspect of the question, seeking the opinion of experts, consulting with the conferences of bishops and taking their views into account, and after taking counsel with our esteemed brothers who are members of the congregations competent in this matter, by our apostolic authority we enact the following norms, amending-if and in so far as is necessary-provisions of the Codex Iuris Canonici now in force, and we promulgate them through this Motu Proprio.
1. First tonsure is no longer
conferred; entrance into the clerical state is joined to the diaconate.
Aware of the office he has undertaken,
the reader is to make every effort and employ suitable means to acquire
that increasingly warm and living love  and knowledge of Scripture
that will make him a more perfect disciple of the Lord.
As one set aside in a special
way for the service of the altar, the acolyte should learn all matters
concerning public divine worship and strive to grasp their inner spiritual
meaning: in that way he will be able each day to offer himself entirely
to God, be an example to all by his gravity and reverence in church, and
have a sincere love for the Mystical Body of Christ, the people of God,
especially for the weak and the sick.
9. The ministries are conferred
by the Ordinary (the bishop and, in clerical institutes, the major superior)
through the liturgical rite De institutione lectoris and De institutione
acolythi as revised by the Apostolic See.
The effective date of these norms is 1 January 1973.
We command as established and confirmed whatever this Motu Proprio has decreed, all things to the contrary notwithstanding.
Given in Rome, at Saint Peter's, on 15 August 1972, the Solemnity of the Assumption, the tenth year of our pontification.
This Web page is intended to assist those who aspire to
the Ministry of Acolyte or Reader