This page is reproduced and adapted from Ordinations: A Translation and Explanation of the Rite of Ordination by A. Biskupek, S.V.D. Mission Press, 1954
The Ostiariate — the 1st of the Minor Orders
In the Old Testament Levites were appointed to keep the gates of the tabernacle and later of the temple; they also had charge of the sacred vessels (1 Paral. 9, 26). The sacredness of the house of God in the New Testament and of the vessels used for the celebration of the divine mysteries calls for at least the same care and safekeeping. The ostiarii were the doorkeepers or porters of the church. The word is derived from the Latin ostium, the door.
The office was of special importance during the times of persecution. Reliable men were needed to inform the faithful of the time and place of the divine services, to open and lock the doors, to keep out undesirables. In later times the ringing of bells sufficed for the purpose of informing the faithful of the time of the divine services, since there was no further need of informing them of the place.
Opening of the book for the preacher, mentioned as one of the duties of the porter, must also be understood in the light of earlier times. Those ancient rolls were not as handy as a modern book, but often heavy and of considerable size, and the place for reading could not be found as readily. The porter, therefore, would carry the book to the ambo and open it for the preacher. In the course of time the care of the sacred vessels was also entrusted to porters, which gave the order added importance.
It seems probable that up to the fourth century porters were not ordained, but simply appointed. In our days the duties of porters are usually performed by sacristans, ushers, and janitors.
If the ostiariate is conferred during Mass, this is done:
Saturday before Passion Sunday: after the Kyrie.
Holy Saturday: after the Gloria.
On other days, if the Mass has Gloria: after the Gloria; if the Mass has no Gloria: after the Kyrie.
The Call. The bishop, with his miter on, sits on the faldstool before the middle of the altar. The archdeacon bids the candidates come forward; the notary reads their names:
Let those come forward who are to be ordained to the order of porter: N. N. etc.
Each one answers, adsum, goes before the altar and kneels, holding the burning candle in his right hand.
The Instruction. When all are assembled, the bishop address them as follows:
Dearly beloved sons, you are about to receive the order of porter. Behold what you must do in the house of God. The duty of the porter is to ring the bells, to open the church and sacristy, and to open the book for the preacher. Take good care, therefore, lest anything in the church perish through your negligence. Open the house of God to the faithful at the appointed hours, and always shut it to unbelievers.
As you open and shut with material keys the visible church, let it also be your endeavor by your word and example to shut to the devil and open to God the invisible house of God, namely, the hearts of the faithful, that they may keep in mind the word of God which they have heard and carry it out in deed. May the Lord in His mercy accomplish this in you.
Here the candles are laid aside.
The Bestowal of the Office. The bishop presents to each one the keys of the church. They touch them with the right hand, while the bishop says:
So act, even as about to give an account to God of the things which are kept under these keys.
The archdeacon, or the one who takes his place, now conducts the candidates to the door of the church, which they lock and unlock; then to the tower, where the bell rope is handed them, and each rings the bell with one stroke. Should thee be no tower, or should the tower be too far away or too difficult of ascent, the sacristy bell, or a small bell, placed at the church door, may be used. The candidates are then conducted back to the altar.
Prayer. The porters kneel, while the bishop, with miter on, turned to the ordained, prays:
Dearly beloved brethren, let us fervently beseech God, the Father Almighty, to + bless these His servants, whom He has deigned to elect to the office of porter; may they with utmost care attend to the house of God, by day and night and announce the hours appointed for divine services, through the help of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with Him in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever. R. Amen.
The bishop, with his miter off, turns to the altar and says:
Let Us Pray
Let us bend our knees. R. Arise.
Turning again to the candidates kneeling before him, the bishop prays:
Holy Lord, almighty Father, eternal God, bless + these Thy servants for the office of porter, that among the keepers of the Church they may be devoted to Thy service and together with Thine elect have a share in Thy reward. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who lives and reigns with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever. R. Amen.