The deacon is an ever-present figure in the Catholic Church and takes on important positions during solemn celebrations. We are used to seeing the deacon next to the priest. And we are actively participating in ecclesiastical life, albeit with considerable differences compared to other figures. But who is the deacon? What are his duties, and what training to follow to become one?
In this article, we will try to understand this role better and explain how to become a deacon if you desire to embark on this path of faith. Let’s find out more closely the characteristics of such an important figure in the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Enjoy the reading!
What is a deacon?
The term deacon derives from the Greek diàkonos, or servant, even if considering him a simple servant would be rather simplistic. We can feel the deacon as a faithful who wishes to live halfway between the priestly and the worldly life. Even if the deacon belongs to the ecclesiastical order in all respects, we remember that he is not a priest. The diaconate can be considered the first step towards the priesthood; in this case, we speak of a transient diaconate. But a deacon can also choose to remain in this condition forever and serve that specific role. In this case, we speak of a permanent diaconate.
The figure of the deacon has been documented since the time of the apostles, even if it was only with the Second Vatican Council that the laws and modalities of the diaconate were established, with the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium.
Considering the pastoral ministry, the deacon is on the first level. According to the Second Vatican Council, the modern organization of the church is made up of three degrees that include anyone who has received ordination. The first level is the diaconate, the second is the presbyterate, and the third is the episcopate.
Representation of deacons
The three levels of deacons
- On the first level, we find deacons at the service of priests and bishops. They have the faculty to administer the sacrament of Baptism. In addition, they have the task of assisting during the celebration of weddings and performing the function of coordinators for the ministry of charity. They also have the authority to preach God’s Word.
- On the second level, we find priests called presbyters. Priests also collaborate with bishops, but, unlike deacons, they have the authority to administer all the sacraments, excluding religious ordination; they can impart the Eucharistic blessing and distribute the Eucharist to the faithful.
- The third is the highest, and we find the bishops, considered the direct successors of the apostles. Their task covers all three ministries: the ministry of teaching (minus prophetic or munus docendi), the ministry of pastoral government (minus regale or minus legend), and the ministry of sanctification (minus sacerdotalism or minus liturgical).
How to become a permanent deacon
To become a permanent deacon, it is necessary to undertake a path of spiritual and pastoral formation, but also human and intellectual, lasting at least five years. This journey requires extraordinary commitment, study, and a spirit of sacrifice.
Among the requisites, in addition to obtaining the diploma, it is necessary that the aspiring deacon is baptized and that, if the baptism took place in adulthood, at least five years have elapsed.
What are the duties of the deacon?
The Second Vatican Council defined the triad “diaconia of the liturgy, preaching, and charity,” which describes the deacon’s duties. In the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, we find that the deacon must serve “the people of God, in communion with the bishop and his presbytery” (Lumen Gentium 29). In any case, it is up to the bishop to establish the mandate of a deacon.
His duties during the mass are assisting the priest or the bishop, carrying out the service to the chalice and the book, helping in the distribution of Communion, announcing the intentions of universal prayer, and purifying and putting away the sacred vessels. Also, he can perform gospel reading and discourse and practice the ministry of the Word. Outside of mass, the deacon can celebrate baptism.
In the Latin rite and only with the delegation of the priest, it can also celebrate weddings. He also has the faculty of blessing places, people, and objects and administering sacramentals. The deacon can participate in the funeral rite and deliver the viaticum to the dying. He cannot impart the Eucharistic blessing just as he cannot administer communion, but, as we have said, he can keep and distribute the Eucharist during Mass.
The functions of the deacon in the parish
The fundamental requirement of a deacon is charity. For this reason, his duties in the parish are linked above all to his practice. Imitating Christ’s servant’s behavior, he must be an example to all the faithful. And place himself at the full service of his brothers, especially those in need. He must commit to carrying out a continuous service of charity and Christian education of pastoral structures, especially when they involve young people, the elderly, and the sick.
Its task is also to bring the Word of God to the faithful. He is organizing family groups and promoting meetings centered on the Scriptures. If necessary, he also provides advice and helps catechists.
He must promote liturgical participation and contribute to the formation of readers. Acolytes and ministrants and guide the Extraordinary Ministers. In addition, he can participate in the organization and management of the parish choir.
What to give to the aspiring deacon?
It is a great honor and a joy to have a friend or relative who chooses to undertake the priestly path and the diaconate. It is a complex and demanding path, so it is important to support him, support him and help him reach the finish line. And what better time than his ordination to give him a special gift and show him how proud you are of him?
One of the typical gifts for a future deacon is ecclesiastical clothing. The stole, necessary to celebrate the ceremonies on the altar next to the priest, is perhaps the most sought-after clothing. He will need a stole of each color to participate in various liturgical occasions. In the same way, even the smock or the surplice can turn into sound and certainly welcome gifts.
Alternatively, you can choose a sacred book, such as the Liturgy of the Hours, or prefer a prestigious edition. If, on the other hand, you like to stay on the classic, you can opt for a beautiful crucifix, which the deacon can wear every day, or a sacred image to keep at home which reminds him of his commitment.
Are you looking for the right gift for a loved one who will soon become a deacon? On Amazon, you will find everything you need. Visit the page dedicated to deacon stoles and let yourself be inspired!