Magazine article U.S. Catholic

What's a Deacon to Do?

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

What's a Deacon to Do?

Article excerpt

In fact, one cannot give a single answer to the question "What do deacons do?" and be accurate everywhere in the United States. While all dioceses follow canon law, the ministry of deacons in different places can vary quite a bit.

Our church has two types of deacons: transitional (those who will become priests) and permanent (those who are not seeking priesthood). Married men may be ordained permanent deacons as long as they are at least 35 years old and have their wives' permission to enter into the formation program. In some dioceses wives attend the same preparation classes as their husbands. In others they are not required to do anything but support their husband's vocation.

So what do these fine men do? Both types have similar roles. All deacons have "faculties," which allow them to perform certain functions in the sacramental life of the church. In a typical parish the deacon often assists at Mass, including reading the gospel and proclaiming certain prayers. According to the new General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the recently revised "guidebook" for celebrating Mass, the deacon also leads the prayers of the faithful. He may also preside at Baptisms as well as weddings and funerals, as long as the liturgy is not a Mass. He may lead the prayers at a wake service or exposition of the Eucharist.

Still, there are two areas that seem to cause the most stir in deacons' conversations: preaching and anointing.

Canon law permits deacons to preach, and homily preparation is generally a part of the formation process. …

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