My musings have led me down the following path; there is a lay equivalent to minor orders which are necessary progressive steps towards fulfilling our commandments to love God and neighbour, this lay equivalent has no relationship to lay ministries within the Church, and indeed should make all such "ministries" dubious. Let me explain:
Tonsure the first minor order, an outward non-permanent sign of commitment to God and detachment from the world. Lay equivalent:an outward visible sign of commitment to the Church (like wearing a crucifix meaningfully).
Porter , the custodian of the House of God. Lay equivalent: making our own homes and ourselves welcoming to our neighbours and making homes where God is welcome with space for prayer, holy pictures, holy water and such like.
Reader. Self explanatory really. Lay equivalent: making time for study of the scriptures and an openness to finding God within the scriptures NOT reading at Mass.
Exorcist now we all know this doesn't mean Exorcist as in a priest with the sanctity to cast out demons, but what it does mean is an acknowlgement of the reality of Satan's power and the determination to fight it by loathing sin and taming our concupiscence. This really ought to be much the same for adult laity.
Acolyte, developing the purity to serve at the altar. Lay equivalent: growing in love for our Eucharistic Lord and a desire for purity and worthy reception of Communion. A growing sense of the reality of the sacrificial nature of our love of God and neighbour. It is NOT about serving at the altar for the laity.
Is it just possible to see the steps present in the non-sacramental, non-liturgically instituted minor orders as necessary steps in the holiness of all God's people? But that there are two distinct routes, one for those men called to the priesthood and who have to go even higher to be an alter Christus, and one for the lay faithfull, who can never be readers and acolytes in the priesthood route. Any serving or reading the lay are allowed to do is given them by a priest in recognition of their commitment to God, but it is not a "ministry" or a calling, the calling lies in following the "minor orders" in the state in which God desires of you.
Onwards and upwards, whatever step you're on, don't fall off.
Thanks to Andrew, I now have a translation of Paul VI's Motu Proprio. At first glance it is a depressing doucment, however, I do think that 40 years down the line, his envisaged reforms and institution of "lay ministries" simply hasn't happened. These are the guidelines for the opening up of Acolyte and Reader to the lay faithful:
7. In accordance with the ancient tradition of the Church, institution to the ministries of reader and acolyte is reserved to men.
8. The following are requirements for admission to the ministries:
(a) the presentation of a petition that has been freely made out and signed by the aspirant to the Ordinary (the bishop and, in clerical institutes, the major superior) who has the right to accept the petition;
(b) a suitable age and special qualities to be determined by the conference of bishops;
(c) a firm will to give faithful service to God and the Christian people.
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.
Has this happened anywhere? Certainly in not in the West, but possibly in mission territory where it no doubt has produced fruit.
All those who think they are lay ministers of the word, involved in the lay ministry of flower arranging, lay minsitry of greeting and handing out hymn books, lay ministry of choosing inappropriate hymns...etc etc...are simply mistaken. None of that is contained within this MP. Is there some other Motu Proprio that legitimises these lay ministries?