Diakonia

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Early church writers describe bishops as representing God the Father in the community, priests as representing the Apostles, and deacons as representatives of the ministry of Jesus Christ.

In Acts 6:1-6 seven men were ordained as deacons to serve, to care for the needs of the poor, widows, and orphans. The Apostles prayed and laid hands on them. The diakonia was ordained to a ministry of service, to be servants who washed feet, fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and gave comfort to the sick and dying.

Deacons were actively engaged in the ministry of Jesus Christ during the early centuries of the church. Beyond the first seven who were ordained by the Apostles, many others continued to serve the Lord. For example: St. Lawrence, who when ordered to produce the treasures of the Church, presented the poor of Rome. He was summarily executed by grilling. Even when dying he had a sense of humor by telling his executioner to turn him over because he was done on that side. St. Francis of Assisi, who founded the Franciscan order, was a deacon of the early church.

Over the centuries the diaconate fell into disuse and eventually became non-existent, except for the order of transitional deacons, the final order before ordination to the priesthood. In 1967, there were no permanent deacons in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church; today there are more than 35,000. The Second Vatican Council redefined the church as a servant to the world and deacons as the animators of the church’s own servant-character.

The primary ministry of the deacon is one of service. As Charles J. Chaput, Archbishop of Denver writes in the foreword to A New Friendship[It] is the role of the deacon to care for the needy and to ensure that the poor are brought to the communion of the church so that they too take part in that sacrifice handed down by the apostles. A deacon is not just an image of Christ the servant who came to serve and to offer his life as a ransom. The deacon, through his ministry, is the service of Christ and the church sacramentalized and a constant reminder to the church and the world that Jesus Christ is among us always ‘as one who serves’ (Luke 22:27).”

Being a deacon is about Christ and the people we serve. At ordination the bishop places the Book of the Gospels into a deacon’s hands and says “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are: Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.” Echoing St. Paul “Do not grasp the diaconate as something to be exploited, but empty yourself, taking the form of a slave, in total service to others.”

6 Comments

  1. Thank you for such an incredible blog. Where else could anyone obtain that kind of info written in such a great way?
    I have a presentation that I am currently working on, and I happen to be on the lookout for such information.Thank you for blogging and i like your articles.

  2. One of your commentaries in the church bulletin this past year talked about prophets and the differences between prophets and other people. What was the date of the commentary and can I find it online? Thank you.

    • Deacon Chuck

      Diane, all of my commentaries, reflections and homilies are posted on my website. I took a quick peek through all the bulletin articles (which are posted under Reflections) for the past couple of years looking for when I might have discussed prophets. You are welcome of course to peruse the website at will. If you have any other identifying words or phrases to help narrow it down, please let me know and I will certainly try to locate the article in question.

  3. Susan Watters

    I am still thinking about your homily yesterday (June 25th), your eloquent comments on religious freedom and justice resonated with me. I do hope you will publish this sermon, would love to share with others and especially my husband who was out of town.

    • Deacon Chuck

      Susan, thank you very much for your kind words. The homily is available on this website under homilies. You can also find it in the latest Colloqui either on this website or in the narthex of the church. I am so glad your found it helpful.

      Deacon Chuck

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