Vocation Sacraments

Holy Orders - Diakonia (Deacons)

The Deacon is ordained to the order of service, but not to the priesthood. He is ordained by the laying on of hands to the diakonia. The Deacon assists bishops and priests in the Divine Mysteries, at the Eucharist He may proclaim the Gospel and assist with the liturgy. This is symbolized by the Gospels he receives at his ordination (CCC 1574).

The name deacon means “servant” or “minister” and it is used in this sense in the Scriptures. Yet the constant tradition of the Catholic Church recognizes the office of deacon as a divine institution. The narrative of the martyrdom of St. Stephen (Acts 6:1-6) describes the first beginnings of this office.

Among the duties of deacons in the first centuries of the Church, the following stand out. They were stewards of the Church’s funds, and of the alms collected for widows and orphans; they were to help with the care of the poor and the aged; their special duty was to read the gospel; they would also preach to the people; they were especially to bring the Holy Eucharist to the sick in their homes; confer the sacrament of Baptism, and assist the bishop or priest in the celebration of the Eucharistic Liturgy.

The exercise of the diaconate enabled those who were to become priests to prepare themselves for their priestly life. But as time went on, there was a gradual decrease in the number of those who wished to remain deacons all their lives, without going on to the priesthood. As a result, the permanent diaconate almost entirely disappeared in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church.

The Council of Trent proposed the idea of restoring the permanent diaconate. Gradually this idea matured, and the Second Vatican Council officially supported the desire of those bishops who wanted permanent deacons to be ordained “where such would lead to the good of souls.”

One provision of the Code of Canon Law recognizes that married men may become permanent deacons: “A candidate for the permanent diaconate who is not married may be admitted to the diaconate only when he has completed at least his twenty-fifth year. If he is married, not until he has completed at least his thirty-fifth year, and then with the consent of his wife” (Canon 1031, 2). According to the Church’s tradition, a married deacon who has lost his wife cannot enter a new marriage (Pope Paul VI, Norms for the Order of Diaconate).

However, “A candidate for the permanent diaconate who is not married, and likewise a candidate for the priesthood, is not to be admitted to the order of diaconate unless he has, in the prescribed rite, publicly before God and the Church undertaken the obligation of celibacy, or unless he has taken perpetual vows in a religious institute” (Canon 1037).

Deacons help and serve bishops by serving the needs of the Church, proclaiming the gospel, teaching and preaching, baptizing, witnessing marriages, and assisting the priest celebrant at liturgies.

Deacons are ordained for service in the Church. There are deacons who are studying to become priests. There are deacons that include married men who are called to remain deacons for life and to serve the Church in this capacity.