Thinking about that conversation I had about prudence, I continued to think, which is sometimes dangerous, I know. For those of you who I count as friends, you REALLY know, but I digress....
The thought that I had about it was this. While we are to show prudence in how we act in the world, we should also show prudence when we are inside the Church as well. Sometimes this means that we should really evaluate why we do what we do. As laymen, should we be tramping up into the sanctuary every chance we get to do those things which are not proper to us? Is it proper for us to lector? Is it proper for us to handle the Blessed Sacrament? Is it proper for us to hand off money during the offertory, as if money were of the same importance as the venerable species which will become the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
When we look at being proper, what is our role, properly speaking? It certainly isn't to do those things which Father should be doing, no. It is to worship. Our role as laymen is to give glory, laud and honor to God the Father, through Christ the Son, which proceeds from the Holy Spirit. We can do this in any number of ways, but is acting as an extraordinary minister the proper way to do it? Current liturgical theology says that it is acceptable, but that there should be a genuine need. It is this liberal interpretation of what genuine need means which has created the conundrum. Genuine need is not so that someone can be participatory in an external way. No. Genuine need is when there is such a mass of people that the priest celebrant is not able to efficiently and honestly handle the duty of celebrant in said manner.
There are a number of ways in which we can worship properly. We can adore Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. We can meditate upon the Life of Christ. We can meditate specifically upon the Passion, Death and Resurrection of our Lord. Or we can meditate upon the Sacred Mysteries. We take our prayers, we put them at the foot of the altar so that the priest celebrant can gather them unto himself as he starts the Holy Mass and offer them on our behalf. For it is his prayer and our uniting to that prayer to that of the priest which completes the liturgical action.
Don't get me wrong, there is a genuine need for service at the altar. There simply are not enough acolytes to do the work which is necessary in every parish, so we should employ those volunteers which are properly disposed to serve in that capacity. It logically follows that if service at the altar is first proper to the deacon, then to the acolyte; the extraordinary function should come from those who can aspire to be ordained to those orders. So, it should be boys and men who serve at the altar. The same holds true for lectors. If there is an order of lectors, it should follow that the extraordinary function should come from those who can aspire to be ordained to the order of lector. It is just proper.
However, the most important role for a layman is not to be an altar server or a lector, it is to be in the pew uniting his prayers to those of the priest. Now for a shift in focus....the priest. What is proper for the priest? The priest is properly a celebrant. He truly does celebrate the Sacred Mysteries. That is his role. He does not preside over the faithful. That is a flawed view of the priestly role. The faithful cannot celebrate the Mass. They are not ordained to do so. The proper role of the priest is that of mediator. By celebrating the Mass, the priest enters into "persona Christi" whereby he offers the gifts on our behalf. It is the priest who performs the Sacred action, not the faithful. This is the greatest tragedy of the post-Conciliar age. The idea that the priesthood of the faithful has some sort of Sacramental part to play in the celebration of the Mass is a diametric shift from the proper understanding of Sacramental theology. And it doesn't take a learned theologian to figure this out! It just takes proper common sense.
In our time, we need to recapture what our roles are and we need to understand that the definition of ourselves as Catholic is not bound by service, but by worship. We most properly fulfill our liturgical role when we worship. We may be called in extraordinary times to do extraordinary things, but those things should not be considered a right or normative. But that is just what has happened. We need to define ourselves as Catholics again. We need to unite our souls to the Sacrifice of the Altar and we need to not worry so much about being of external service. Our service comes from worshiping God the Father through the Sacrifice of his Son, by the procession of the Holy Spirit. This is done in an unbloody way and in a way which is truly proper for the Catholic person.