Thursday, January 25, 2007


Looming very large is an incident which happened in Buffalo, New York:

The Buffalo Regional Right to Life Committee on Wednesday hailed a deacon who criticized Rep. Brian Higgins during Sunday Mass in St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church.

Deacon Tom McDonnell's rebuke of the Buffalo Democrat for voting for federal funding for embryonic stem cell research led Higgins to walk out of the church during his sermon.

As might be expected this rather inflammatory story is not exactly what happened. Amy Welborn has a post in her comments by a parishioner who was actually there.

Now I'm a great fan of the deaconate. I have a good friend who is deacon, who has been a very great help in my spiritual growth.

It surprises many people that priests are not mentioned in scripture, at least not Christian priests, except possibly by the term elders or presbyters, which actually should be more closely translated as bishop. Deacons, however are a different story.

On the night he was betrayed Jesus washed the feet of the Apostles. then he dies, rose again, and ascended into Heaven. Pentecost came and the next thing you know the Apostles are saying, "We shouldn't ignore the Word of God to wait tables..." So they appoint deacons to do the serving. St. Steven, the first adult martyred in Christ's name, was one of these men.

Steven was a deacon and I think that has it's own significance. The Apostles were too busy to serve (the thing that Jesus told them was absolutely vital to their ministry) so they appoint others to do it. And God calls upon one of them to be killed while preaching the word of God, the first to die in his name. I wonder what the Apostles thought of that?

Now we have a modern deacon who is being persecuted for doing what his priest and bishop should be doing, which is pointing out to politicians who proclaim their Catholicism while voting against the tenants of the Church. Kind seems as if things never change.

So who and what are deacons? A deacon is a member of the Catholic clergy. They are ordained ministers. They are not members of the priesthood and do not have the facilities to say Mass or receive Confession, with the power to give absolution of sins confessed. They can perform Baptisms and Marriages. Deacons have a specific role at Mass. Among other things it is their duty to proclaim the Gospel, and a priest will only fill this role if there is no deacon serving.

In modern times, since Vatican II, there have been permanent and transitional deacons. A transitional deacon is one who has been ordained a deacon on the path to the priesthood. From ancient times there have been permanent deacons, but they fell out of favor in the last centuries. Besides St.Steven there have been other famous deacons. St. Francis of Assisi was one. St. Gregory the Great was a deacon at the time of his election as pope.
A deacon may be either a married or single man. Once he becomes a deacon a man may not marry. If a married deacon becomes a widower he may not remarry, though a dispensation may be granted if he has small children. A married man who wishes to take orders as a deacon must have his wife's permission.

Though he may serve in a parish under a priest, is to the bishop that a deacon is responsible. He serves at the parish not at the pleasure of the priest, but of the bishop.

Paul give us a descrition of the qualities necessary in a deacon in his First Letter to Timothy:

The deacons, in like manner, must be grave, not double-tongued, not giving themselves to much wine, not persons who earn money by base methods; holding fast the secret of the faith with a pure conscience. But let these also be first proved; then let them exercise the office of the deacon, being without blame. The women, in like manner, must be grave, not slanderers; but vigilant, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling well their children and their families. For they who have performed the office of a deacon well, procure to themselves an excellent degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Jesus Christ.
Ans so it is still true today.

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