THE PEOPLE OF GOD
Variety of gifts, variety of service
In his First Letter to the Corinthians, St Paul writes about spiritual gifts. He says: Now there are varieties of gifts (charismata), but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone (1Cor 12: 4–6). So it is in and through the members of his Body that Christ himself is still engaged in the work of service.
The key Christian ministries are the ordained ministries (Bishop, Priest and Deacon) but, through Baptism, all the People of God share in the life of Christ and have a responsibility to take part in Christian ministry in some way. There are numerous particular ministries in which the People of God can participate.
The Bishop is a Priest especially ordained to lead the diocese. His role is to teach and care for the spiritual needs of the Priests and people of his diocese.
The Priest is ordained to preach the word and preside over the liturgy and the celebration of the Sacraments. His role is also to care for the pastoral needs of his parish community.
The Deacon is ordained to serve the Church. He assists the Bishop or the Priest in the celebration of the Eucharist. He can also preside at the Sacraments of Baptism and Marriage.
The People of God
The term ‘People of God’ is often used to describe the baptised members of the Church who are not ordained. There is an interrelationship between the ordained and non-ordained ministries because every ministry of the whole Church is a participation in the one priesthood of Christ. The People of God may serve the Church in any number of particular ministries. The Second Vatican Council encouraged their ‘full, conscious and active participation’:
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 … is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.
- Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 1963 n. 14
The baptised People of God are encouraged to participate in the liturgy by means of the responses, acclamations, songs, the postures of prayer and, at the proper times, by an attentive silence. There are some present in the assembly who undertake particular liturgical roles to assist the Priest throughout the celebration of the Mass.
The sacristans makes sure that all of the preparations are made for the celebration of the Eucharist. This includes ensuring the altar is dressed, the liturgical vessels, hosts and wine are ready, the Sacramentary and the Lectionary are in place, and any other items required for that particular Mass are ready.
The altar servers help the Priest throughout the liturgy. Anyone who has received their First Holy Communion and is trained can be an altar server. At the beginning of the Mass the altar servers process into the church with the Priest, and they bring religious symbols such as the cross or candles into the sacred space. During the Preparation of the Gifts, the altar servers stand either side of the Priest at the front of the altar to receive the gifts. They then take the gifts and the water used by the Priest to the altar table. At the conclusion of the liturgy the altar servers process out of the church with the Priest.
The liturgical musicians help the people to respond through music and song during the Mass. They lead the assembly at key points in the liturgy such as the Entrance Procession, the Psalm, the Alleluia, the Eucharistic Prayer, and Communion. The liturgical musicians could be those who sing, play instruments, and join with others in a choir. Music is used to help people to participate in the Mass and lift their hearts to God.
The readers or lectors play an important role in the Liturgy of the Word as they proclaim and share the Word of God with the people gathered. Following the Introductory Rites, the lector moves to the lectern or ambo, and reads from the Lectionary the readings for that Sunday.
Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion
Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion assist the Priest to prepare and distribute the bread and wine to the people during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. This involves bringing the hosts from the tabernacle to the altar after the Lamb of God is sung or spoken. They stand at the altar with the Priest, pray with the assembly and reverently distribute the bread or wine to the people. The extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, who are usually adults, have special instruction before they perform this ministry. They also take the Eucharist to believers who are unable to attend Mass due to illness or disability.
Ushers and Greeters
The ushers and greeters meet and greet people in a welcoming manner as they arrive at the church. Frequently they hand out hymnals and notices so that people feel welcome and prepared for Mass.
The collectors move among the people gathered to collect money for the Church and for those in need.
The gift bearers bring up the gifts of bread and wine during the Preparation of the Gifts on our behalf. At the sanctuary the Priest receives the gifts and then places them on the altar.
Research the historical foundations of the ordained ministries of Bishop, Priest and Deacon.
Discuss the meaning of the term ‘The People of God’.
In what ways does the assembly participate in the celebration of the Eucharist?
Research and write a case study on one of the non-ordained ministries.