When people find out that I'm a Deacon they often ask, "What does a Deacon do?" This question comes from both non-Catholics, as well as members of the Church. The greatest misunderstanding about a Deacon is that they are members of the clergy of the Church. We are ordained by the Bishop and serve at his pleasure, usually in the community where we live. We are not "just another Altar Server" or lay person who helps out. We have prescribed duties and responsibilities in the Church that are uniquely our own.
The Role of the Deacon in the Liturgy of the Word
“Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are.
Believe what you read, teach what you believe,
and practice what you teach.”1
The Deacon serves in two worlds: the world of the Church and the world of the people. He is a bridge from one to the other, serving as the voice of the people and as the eyes and ears of the Church among the community. The Deacon, in the Liturgy, is the voice of God’s people articulating their needs before Him and the voice of the Church directing the people in their worship of God through the sacrifice of the Mass.
The Deacon’s role is more than a physical presence, assisting the celebrant and fulfilling the parts designated to the Deacon, he, as the people’s representative, fulfills a vital role as their voice to God; presenting their prayers and petitions. He voices the hopes and desires of the people in their communion with God in the liturgy of the Word. “This is why the Deacon is the ordinary minister of the ‘Kyrie,’ at all of the litanies and even the general intercessions . . .”2 It is through his voice that the people speak to God in the Liturgy.
As clergy, the Deacon serves the Church as a bridge between the Church and world. He invites the people assembled to share in the sign of peace, to stand or kneel, and to bow their heads to receive God’s blessing. The Deacon draws the people into a proper action that sets them toward receiving God’s blessing during the liturgy.
And as the people are nourished through the Word and the Eucharist, renewed and refreshed, the Deacon sends them forth into the world, “Go in peace to serve the Lord and one another.” It is his task not only to send them forth into the world, but also to accompany them on their journey: keeping the Word in his heart, on his mind and on his lips, ministering to the people in the world wherever he goes.
The Deacon, as herald of the Gospel, serves the Church and the people every day of his life. By example and through instruction his life truly reflects the words spoken by the bishop at his ordination: to believe, to teach and to practice the Word, to be Jesus and see Jesus in everyone, everywhere.
1 – From the Rite of Ordination to the Diaconate
2 – Deacons and the Church, Cummings, Owen F., Paulist Press, Mahwah, NJ