Who is a Deacon? A deacon receives the Sacrament of Holy Orders from the bishop. We find this ministry in the Acts of the Apostles. (Acts 6:1-6)
“At that time, as the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said: It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word. The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them. The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.”
Deacons are ordained as a sacramental sign to the Church and to the world of Christ, who came "to serve and not to be served." The entire Church is called by Christ to serve, and the deacon, in virtue of his sacramental ordination and through his various ministries, is to be a servant. The Greek word in Scripture for deacon means “one who serves.”
What are these "various ministries" of the Deacon? Deacons under the direction of the bishop and his delegates, and under the authority of the parish pastor, are allowed to proclaim the Gospel at Mass, preach, and teach in the name of the Church. Deacons may baptize, they can witness marriages, and conduct wakes and funeral services. Most important, it is not only what a deacon does, but who a deacon is – a servant.
Why do some deacons become priests? For many years ordained ministers "ascended" from one office to another, culminating in ordination to the presbyterate, or priesthood. The Second Vatican Council (1962 – 1965), however, authorized the restoration of the diaconate as a permanent order of ministry. So, while students for the priesthood are still ordained deacons prior to their ordination as priests, there are more than 13,000 deacons in the United States who serve in this Order permanently.
I have asked John Vinton, one of the transitional deacon candidates to share a little with us as he prepares for ordination this Saturday….
Reflections on the Diaconate: As I reflect on about to be ordained a deacon, I think back on when I first entered college seminary back in the Fall of 2011. It is hard to believe that 8 years have gone by. While I will eventually be ordained a priest, the diaconate is a very important ministry in its own right. As a deacon I will promise to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, to be obedient to the bishop, to be celibate, and to proclaim the Gospel faithfully. These are all very great responsibilities. While I have prepared myself to make these commitments, I realize that I am not able to fulfill them by my own strength or talent; I need God’s grace. Acknowledging my weakness to the Lord, I know that he will give me everything I need to do his will. God will be faithful; if I am faithful to him, he will make up whatever is lacking and fill every need. The Lord's words to St. Paul are just as as relevant for me: “Paul, my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
It is has been and continues to be quite a process to become less self-reliant and more “God-reliant.” I am humbled and grateful that God chooses me to love him and serve him as a deacon and as a priest.
Let us pray for these men who are approaching the altar to serve the Diocese of Lansing.
God bless, Fr. Dennis