A Doorkeeper, or porter, is an extinct office within the minor orders of clergy in the Church. The doorkeeper’s duty in the Early Church consisted of the opening and closing of church doors, guarding the church building proper, and ensuring that no unbaptized persons entered during the Liturgy of the Faithful.
Porters, during the time of the Romans, were men, usually slaves, who held the duty of guarding the entrances of homes. Most Roman homes of the upper class had an ‘ostiarius,’ or doorkeeper, whose duties were usually considered inferior to that of the other house slaves.
During the times of Roman persecution of the Church when liturgies were held in the homes of the faithful, it became necessary to mimic this secular tradition. This was to guard the faithful and the Sacred Mysteries. Doorkeepers are first referred to in the letter of Pope Cornelius to Bishop Fabius of Antioch written in 251, where it is said that in Rome there were 46 priests, 7 deacons, 7 subdeacons, 42 acolytes, and 52 exorcists, readers, and doorkeepers1. According to the statement in the Liber Pontificalis, a porter named Romanus suffered martyrdom in 258 around the same time as St. Lawrence of Rome 2.
References of the doorkeeper’s duties still exist within the life of the Church. For example, before the recitation of the Creed, the deacon or priest says, “The Doors! The Doors! In wisdom let us attend.” Traditionally, at that point in the service, any unbelievers or remaining catechumens were ushered out. This was the order given by the clergy to the doorkeeper to seal the church.