Sunday, 19 April 2015

Latin Mass Sub-topic: The "Straw" Subdeacon

Hello everyone,

It seems that a curious topic of minutiae has been finally answered with regards to Latin Mass enthusiasts: The "Straw" Sub-deacon.

For those of you wondering "What?" the Sub-deacon role in the Solemn Latin Mass is the lowest of the three clergy member roles in terms of "rank." It was part of the "major orders" back when the minor order/major order system was a regular part of priestly formation (now mainly part of Extraordinary Form seminaries only). When you are at a Solemn Latin Mass, the "clergy" member on the lowest step is the sub-deacon. You can also identify them a good portion of the time by the dalmatic with one horizontal band on the back, making a "H."

Usually, a priest or a deacon fills the role of the deacon and/or the Sub-deacon. However, Sub-deacon isn't apparently restricted to what we now consider modern Holy Orders (deacon and higher). Apparently, laity can be a sub-deacon in certain conditions in what is called the "straw" sub-deacon. WHAT?????

To answer this question fully, I have no choice but to use an article on what I classify as a Radical Misrepresenting Traditionalist website, Rorate Caeli. Since they are anal about their citing of their works, the article used is titled ""Straw" subdeacon PCED letter." Though I will not hyperlink to them to give them blog hits. Go find the article yourself.

Basically, there are some instances where a suitable person of the old major orders was not able to be a sub-deacon. Under the old rubrics and rules surrounding the 1962/Tridentine/Mass of St. John XXIII, a person in minor orders who has reached the order of acolyte (the highest of the minor orders) was allowed to act as a "straw" sub-deacon in the Latin Mass for these emergency cases.
The acolyte, however, would have a number of his functions as sub-deacon not performed during the Mass, due to not being in the major orders:

  • The sub-deacon would NOT wear the maniple
  • The sub-deacon does not pour water into the chalice at the offertory, but must let the deacon do so
  • SD does not touch the chalice infra actionem, nor cover it with the pall, nor uncover it
  • After communion, SD does not purify the chalice, and the priest must do it instead
  • After the priest purifies the chalice, then SD covers the chalice with veil and burse and transfers it to the credence table. 

With the advent of Summorum Pontificum bringing the Latin Mass back into the life of the Catholic Church on a public scale, questions have arisen as to what qualifies a layman or a seminarian in training in regards to this "Straw" subdeacon? Thanks to a ``Michael`` of the St. Bede liturgical studios early in 1992, the questioning of another individual, and a Rorate Caeli author (New Catholic?) in 2012 and 2013 respectively, this matter has been answered.

Source: in response to the question: Do the decree of Sacred Congregation of Rites (no. 4184) and the decision of Pontifical Comission ‘Ecclesia Dei’ (no. 24/92), concerning the possibility of serving as a subdeacon during the Mass in forma extraordinaria, apply also to diocesean seminarians (who are not seminarians of the institutes erected by Pontifcial Commision 'Ecclesia Dei') who wear clerical clothing?

Source: Rorate Caeli article "Straw" subdeacon PCED letter." The role of the sub-deacon, according to PCED can also "... be legitimately assumed by an acolyte suitably instituted by a bishop, but with the particular ritual differences."

With these two letters from the PCED, this does leave a good swath of room for the sub-deacon position to be open for certain lay members to do it. Basically, I can forsee two types of laymen being able to do the sub-deacon role where no ordained deacon or priest is available:

1) The lay member is a seminarian in formation (as per the 2012 letter) who has progressed to a suitable point in their studies (e.g. 2nd or 3rd year) whereby they would have received equivalent to what would be those ranks in the old minor/major orders system pre-Ministeria Quaedam of August 15, 1972. UPDATE AS OF 22/05/2015: This could likely, also be the “Rite of Admission to Candidacy for Holy Orders” done during Mass while in formation. 

2) A lay member who has been formally instituted by a bishop, with suitable training and formal installation from a bishop (such as per this protocol from the Archdiocese of Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States of America. click on "Ministry of Acolyte" for a long Word document.)

So essentially, that leaves us with some options for the application of Summorum Pontificum/the Latin Mass in modern day, post-Vatican II legislation, to fill the role of the sub-deacon. 

Personal Commentary on the Subject
In the Archdiocese of Toronto, there is currently NO formal institution of lectors and acolytes. I would say this is likely, as per the majority of dioceses world wide, due to a lack of education and knowledge about current Church law and legislation of minor orders and the 1972 document on such, Ministeria Quaedam, by Paul VI. Seriously, every diocese should have institution for adult lectors and acolytes. Not to mention rigorous training programs for both!

In terms of my personal Latin Mass experience, I have witnessed the usage of the straw sub-deacon in the Latin Mass, according to current, existing legislation. In the example of the December 2014 Solemn Latin Mass I served alongside St. Patrick's Gregorian Choir, the "Straw" Sub-deacon option was used to allow for the position to be filled. The layman in the position of Sub-deacon had fulfilled the requirements of the position under the PCED, having undertaken time and studies at St. Augustine's seminary (with possibly some form of "liturgical promotion") equivalent to what an acolyte of the pre-Vatican II minor orders would have had. He was properly trained in his role, including the restrictions in being the ``straw`` Sub-deacon, and carried out his role according to the EF guidelines. 

Pax Tibi Christi, Julian Barkin. 

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