A reader asked: Is it possible for a Latin Catholic to become a subdeacon according the Eastern rite to serve the liturgy in a monastery?
By: Protodeacon David Kennedy
- There is no one Eastern rite Catholic Church but some twenty Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris, each having its own canon law. Among the canonical Orthodox there are many more than twenty Churches or canonical jurisdictions, each having its own canon law in regards to the subdiaconate.
- In order to navigate your way about the Eastern Churches, a good place to begin is with Ron Roberson, The Eastern Christian Churches: A Brief Survey. The 7th edition is on line. http://www.cnewa.us/default.aspx?ID=182&pagetypeID=1&sitecode=US&pageno=1
- A Latin Catholic who desires to become a subdeacon in a Eastern Catholic Church would need to be given a ‘change of rite’.
- According to Ministeria quaedam the subdiaconate in the Latin rite no longer exists. http://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/p6minors.htm
- While there is no strict uniformity in the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches in regards to minor orders, the subdiaconate exists as a minor order.
- In the Byzantine rite, the subdiaconate is conferred usually during the Pontifical Divine Liturgy, after the vesting of the bishop but before he washes his hands, as the hand washing will be the first liturgical duty of the newly ordained subdeacon.
- Byzantine Catholic bishops usually require laymen who desire to be ordained subdeacons to successfully complete a training program. In the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Toronto a candidate must be recommend by his pastor and take a part-time one-year training course.
- Yet, there is no canonical reason that as a Roman Catholic layman you could not serve at Divine Liturgy, Vespers, and Matins, etc. The pastor of the parish, or hegumen of the monastery that you attend could give you such permission (a blessing) and you would be an altar server. The altar server’s functions while not identical are very similar to the liturgical functions of the subdeacon. The exceptions are listed on this blog. http://diaconateinchrist.typepad.com/diaconate-in-christ/2010/12/liturgical-duties-of-the-subdeacon-in-the-byzantine-liturgy.html
- If you were to act an an altar server regularly, the pastor/hegumen should inform the bishop and ask for his blessing.