The permanent diaconate
The diaconate is the first rank of holy orders in the Catholic Church. Deacons, pastors, bishops — even Pope Francis — are all brother deacons. The title deacon comes from the Greek word for service: diaconia. The call emphasizes a lifelong, threefold ministry, configured to Jesus the Servant:
Proclaiming, teaching and preaching
Serving and presiding at communal prayer
Serving as a bridge of God’s love between the Church and those on the margins of society.
Most deacons have already discerned a call to married life and eventually, within the context of this primary vocation and in close conversation and agreement with their spouse, inquire about a call to the diaconate. The process of diaconate formation is long and includes the spouse from initial inquiry, to ordination and throughout the rest of their lives. With this in mind, a fruitful diaconal call always places the married life at the center.
A permanent deacon is ordained for life, a cleric committed to bridging relationships between the church and the most marginalized. Much of a deacon's work falls outside the physical walls of a church — a deacon often goes to where the Church is not formally present yet. Thus, most of a deacon’s ministry is not visible; deacons are out on the streets, in hospitals and in prisons, in conversation with our marginalized brothers and sisters, bringing God’s Love to those who often do not feel loved, by either themselves or the rest of society. They speak out on behalf of those whose voices are unrecognized and advocate for the dignity of all people. The variety of charity conducted by deacons is unlimited.
“Deacons share in Christ’s mission and grace in a special way. The sacrament of holy orders marks them with an imprint ('character') which cannot be removed and which configures them to Christ, who made himself the 'deacon' or servant of all” (CCC 1570).
The following activities are recommended for discerning a potential call to the diaconate:
1. Talk about it with your spouse (if applicable)
2. Talk about it with your pastor
3. Review and contemplate the resources & guidance available in the National Directory for the Formation and Life of Permanent Deacons with a particular focus on chapters 1 & 4.
“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
~ John 15:13