The Order of Porter

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 Rite

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:  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: 

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: 

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: 

The bishop, with his miter off, turns to the altar and says:  Turning again to the candidates kneeling before him, the bishop prays: