Friday, July 10, 2009

Not a Profession but a Mission

In an address to those taking part in the plenary assembly of the Congregation for the Clergy on November 30, 1995, Pope John Paul II said, "there are two degrees of ministerial participation in the priesthood of Christ; the Episcopacy and the Presbyterate. The Diaconate is intended to help them.... yet [the degree of priestly participation and the degree of service] are all conferred by a sacramental act called ordination.... In the sacrament of holy orders [Catechism, no. 1554].... the deacon receives a particular configuration to Christ.... who for love of the Father made himself the least and servant of all (Mk 10:43-45, Mt 20:28, 1 Pet 5:3).... Deacons are ordained to exercise a ministry of their own, which is not that of a priest.... The deacon is not a profession but a mission.... By virtue of ordination [the grace of the diaconate] is defined by the spirit of servide.... To fulfill his mission the deacon needs a deep interior life."

John Paul II, "Deacons Are Configured to Christ the Servant" (November 30, 1995), nos. 3,4; available at

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ordination to the Diaconate

On June 6th, 2009, Edward Bresnahan, Mick Kelly, and Jason Weber were ordained as Transitional Deacons at the Cathedral of Saint Thomas More in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, by Bishop Paul S. Loverde. Deacon Weber used to be a member of my Legion of Mary Junior Praesidium and I was blessed to be his Confirmation Sponsor. God willing, they will one day be "priests after the heart of Jesus."


The deacon will help the bishop and his body of priests as a minister of the Word, of the altar, and of charity. As a minister of the altar, he will proclaim the Gospel, prepare the sacrifice, and give the Lord's Body and Blood to the community of believers.

It will also be his duty, at the bishop's direction, to bring God's word to believers and unbelievers alike, to preside over public prayer, to baptize, to assist at marriages and to bless them, to give Viaticum to the dying and to lead the rites of burial. Once he is consecrated by the laying on of hands that comes from the apostles and is bound more closely to the altar, he will perform works of charity in the name of the bishop and the pastor.

By his own free choice he seeks to enter the order of deacon. It is a ministry which he will exercise in celibacy, which is a sign and an incentive of pastoral charity. Moved by a sincere love for Christ, he will make a new and special consecration of himself to Christ. By his life he will give witness that God must be loved above all else and that it is He whom he serves in others.

Adapted from the Rite for the Ordination of Deacons

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Deacon (Greek Diakonos)

The name deacon (Greek diakonos) means minister or servant. The Greek word is used in the Septuagint Old Testament in the book of Esther (Esther 2:2; 6:3) and in the New Testament (e.g. Matthew 20:28; Romans 15:25; Ephesians 3:7; etc.). There are several other texts in the New Testament (Acts 6:1-6; Philippians 1:1; Romans 16:1-2; and 1 Timothy 3:8-13) which serve as a basis for the ministry of deacons.

In the Acts of the Apostles, Saint Luke uses the word diakonia to describe the duty or form of service assigned to the "seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom", called to serve at the tables of daily distribution to the widows. The institution of "The Seven" is the second defined group of disciples, "The Twelve" being the first, to be given a ministry in the Church.

In his Letter to the Philippians, Paul addresses his greeting "To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the bishops (overseers) and deacons (servants)". The use of these two terms indicate that, even at this early stage, local churches had some sort of hierarchical structure.

In Romans Paul speaks of "our sister Phoebe, a deaconess (diakonai) of the Church at Cenchreae". The service performed by such women in the early Church, which was understood to be different from the service performed by men, included assisting in the baptism of women. It was necessary to have a woman present because baptism was often performed without the benefit of clothing. Although there is some historical evidence that deaconesses were charged with their ministry in a manner resembling the ordination of deacons, there was most certainly a fundamental difference in the rites. The First Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325) made it clear that "deaconesses" did not receive sacramental ordination, which was reserved to men only.

Finally, in Chapter 3 of his First Letter to Timothy, Paul gives the qualifications for deacons (1 Timothy 3:8-13). Here we can see a distinction between the men (diakonos) and the women (diakonai) who are called to service for different purposes and with different qualifications.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Second Meeting

We had our second meeting of the Aspirants on Saturday. It was a glorious day of friendship and learning. We started the day with Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours and then went into an overview of the Permanent Diaconate Formation Program in the Diocese of Arlington. Three of the current Deacon Candidates representing the two classes ahead of us welcomed us to the program and discussed their experiences thus far. Each of them had a theme for their welcoming comments: 1) Uniqueness; 2) Growth; and 3) Balance. The first group of Candidates will finish their studies and spiritual formation at the end of 2010 and the second group will be one year behind them. At the conclusion of their Formation Program, God willing, they will be ordained to the Permanent Diaconate. After Mass one of the Permanent Deacons and his wife talked to us about the graces and the challenges that come along with a calling to the vocation of Permanent Deacon combined with the vocation to the married or single life. Father Tom ended the day with a discussion on the importance of prayer and the Eucharist in our spiritual formation. He pointed out that we are not only formed intellectually in our minds but also spiritually in our hearts. Our next meeting in June will be on a date to be determined. Please pray for me any my fellow Aspirants as we seek to do God's will.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Agenda for the Next Aspirant Meeting

We just received the schedule for this Saturday's meeting. After Morning Prayer there will be an overview of the Diaconate Formation Program. [Click here] to see the Diocese of Arlington Deacon Formation Program HANDBOOK. We will also be receiving a welcome from the current Deacon Candidates. Following Mass and lunch there will be a presentation on the Diaconate and the Vocation of Marriage. We will end the day with prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. I'll post my thoughts at the conclusion of the next meeting.

Attributes of a Deacon

As I was reading through the Apostolic Letter Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem (General Norms for Restoring the Permanent Diaconate in the Latin Church) given Motu Proprio by Pope Paul VI on June 18th, 1967, I found the following paragraph to be of great import:

"25. Let the deacons, as those who serve the mysteries of Christ and of the Church, abstain from all vice and endeavor to be always pleasing to God, "ready for every good work" (cf. 2 Tim 2:21) for the salvation of men. By reason, therefore, of the order received they must surpass by far all the others in the practice of liturgical life, in the love for prayer, in the divine service, in obedience, in charity, in chastity."

That's a mighty tall order! Please pray for all Permanent Deacons, Candidates, and my fellow Aspirants.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

First Day of Deacon School

We had our first meeting of Aspirants on April 25th, 2009. There were nine men selected for the Aspirancy portion of the Permanent Diaconate Formation Program. Anne and I were very excited to meet the other Aspirants and some of their wives. We started the day with welcoming remarks from Father Tom and then Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. After Morning Prayer we went around the table and introduced ourselves to the group. There were also two Permanent Deacons from the Arlington Diocese at the meeting. Deacon Sam gave us a wonderful history lesson on the Permanent Deaconate in the Church today. He was ordained in 1984 and he has a wealth of knowledge based on his vast experience. Father Tom celebrated Mass and then we had lunch. In the afternoon we received a welcome to the Diaconal Community and Father Tom went over some of the details of our upcoming spiritual formation. Each Aspirant will be guided by three key people: 1) their pastor, 2) a Spiritual Director, and 3) a Permanent Deacon mentor. There are also three committees that will oversee our progress over the next five years: 1) Formation Advisory Committee, 2) Admissions Committee, and 3) Evaluations Committee. Each committee consists of a combination of priests and deacons. We ended the day with an introduction to the Liturgy of the Hours by Father Paul and then Evening Prayer. It was a wonderful experience and we are looking forward to the next meeting on May 9th.