The Permanent Deacon: Ordained to Serve, Sacramentalizing Service, the Icon of Christ the Servant
What is a Deacon?
A permanent deacon is a man ordained—like bishop or priest—to serve as Christ Jesus who “came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). The word deacon comes from the Greek word for service: diakonia.
A deacon is a man with a vocation (call) from the Holy Spirit to embody and make visible the service (diakonia) of Jesus in the Church and to the world.
The deacon’s service is rooted in Love and makes God’s love visible in a three-fold way: in the ministry of the Word, in the ministry of Sacrament, and in the ministry of Charity and Justice. Through the deacon’s ministry, we see a clearer image (icon) of Christ the Servant. We see Love in action.
What does a Deacon do?
Serve. First serves God in prayer, in worship, and in intercession for God’s Church and for those in need.
Then, as Servant of the Word, meditates and listens to the Word of God in Scripture and through the Church, allows that Word to shape him, and proclaims that Word in preaching and evangelizing and teaching and preparing people to receive the sacraments of grace.
Then, as Servant of the Eucharist, makes a gift of his own life for the sake of the Church, brings the needs and gifts of the people to the Eucharist, is minister with the priest at Mass, can be the minister at Baptism and Marriage and Wakes and Funerals, takes the Eucharist to those unable to be present for Mass, leads the Church in worship, and administers sacramentals.
Then, as Servant of Charity and Justice, lives a life of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy—Eucharistic Love in action—wherever and however those needs show up: in preaching, teaching, visiting, counseling, and caring for the sick, the poor, the immigrant, the imprisoned, the suffering, the oppressed, the victimized, the ignorant, the laborer, the elderly, the orphaned, the neglected, the self-secure, and the dying.
Once ordained, a man is a deacon always and everywhere—even when he is not engaged in official ministry. Nationally, about a third of deacons work full-time in secular work, about a third are retired from secular work, and about a third work full-time for the Church. Regardless of their work, most deacons put in about ten hours a week of “official” service in a parish and in outreach ministry. The deacon brings God’s presence—he is Sacrament of Christ the Servant— to his marriage, in his family, in his work, on the job, in outreach, in the parish, in the public sphere.
Where does a Deacon serve?
As the Bishop’s man, the deacon serves wherever the Bishop asks.
In practice, this means a deacon serves both within a parish (usually near his home) and within a non-parish outreach such as evangelization, hospital work, or ministry to the imprisoned.
As the eyes and ears of the Bishop, the deacon helps the Bishop to know and respond to the pastoral needs of the Church and of society. Through his promise of obedience at ordination, a deacon is then freed to serve in response to those needs.
Who can be a Deacon?
A Catholic man actively living his faith, from any ethnic or social background, married or celibate (unmarried), engaged in almost any field of work, at least 35 years old at time of ordination, who humbly seeks to discern his vocation in and with the Church.
What qualifies a man to be a Deacon?
Prayer. Humility. Service. Grace. Suffering. Love. A willingness to be changed and to offer his life in sacrificial service to God, to the Church, to any and all in need of God’s mercy.
How does a man become a Deacon?
Through a process of discernment and formation that takes about four or five years. If a man is married, his wife and family must also come to embrace the joys and demands of having a husband and father who is a deacon.
How do I find out more?
Contact Deacon Joseph Michalak, Director of Diaconate Formation, at the St. Paul Seminary at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-962-6876.