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.