By Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi, Published in the Catholic Week (6-22-18)
The Acts of the Apostles
contains the description of the selection of the first deacons. The Apostles are concerned that
some of the poor in the early Church are going hungry. The Apostles do not have the
time to attend to all these needs and therefore associate with them- selves servants or, to
use the Greek word for servants, “dea- cons,” for this ministry of feed- ing the hungry.
Deacons through their ordination are entrusted by the Church in a special way with the acts of charity to feed the
hungry. Hunger takes many forms. Dea- cons are to take God’s love to those who experience
the hun- gers of the body and the spirit.
There is an old Church ex- pression: lex orandi, lex credendi, or loosely translated: the way
we pray is the way we believe.
Often when a deacon is asked “what can you do as a deacon?” the reply is “I can marry, baptize,
conduct funerals, and bless in certain circumstances.” But the primary role of the deacon is
not liturgical but rather to wait on tables — to attend to the hun- gers of body and spirit.
A deacon has a legitimate presence in the Mass and other times of worship, but the dea-
con’s liturgical roles at Mass ex- presses what the deacon is primarily ordained to do. In other words, the prayer of the Church (lex orandi) expresses its under-
standing of the ministry of the deacon (lex credendi).
At Mass the deacon pro- claims the Gospel, because this reminds us that the deacon is
to feed the spiritual hungers of neighbor by bringing them the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The deacon is the preferred minister of the Prayers of the Faithful. He leads us in
pray- ing for the needs of the People of God since he is dedicated by ordination to serve the needs
of the People of God.
At the offertory, the deacon joins the celebrant in receiving the gifts of the people
because the deacon is called to use these gifts for the needs of neighbor.
The deacon calls upon the congregation to offer one an- other the Sign of Peace — inviting us to express our communion of faith and charity before we receive Communion — because the
deacon is to lead us in foster- ing communion through a concern for the needs of one another. At Communion, the deacon distributes the Lord’s Blood
while the celebrant distributes the Lord’s Body. This is a sign of the collaboration of the
dea- con with those ordained for priestly ministry. The celebrant may have others assist
him with the distribution of the Lord’s Body, and the deacon may have others assist him with
the dis- tribution of the Lord’s Blood, but their roles, though distinct, are complementary,
just as were the roles of the Apostles and the first deacons. The deacon’s min- istry is exercised
under the au- thority of the bishop and pastor, never alone. The deacon’s minis- try is never his
ministry but the ministry of the Lord, entrusted to the Church and which the Church
authorizes the deacon to exercise.
Finally, at Mass, the deacon dismisses the congregation at the end of Mass. As one who is sent
to serve neighbor, the dea- con reminds all of us that the Mass empowers us to go forth
and live our faith as each one of us is called to feed the spiritual and physical hungers of other.
In short, the deacon’s liturgical role reminds us of what the church primarily calls the
con to do, namely, to wait on table, to serve the hungers of the human heart and body.
Deacons do this in a number of ways:
■ Through involvement with
Catholic Social Services caring for those, desperately hungry for hope, who have too little to
eat, who need emergency financial help, or who are in distress due to a problem pregnancy.
■ Through involvement in prison ministry, caring for those who hunger for belief in a for- giving God who never gives up on
us and offers us new beginnings, realizing as the old saying goes: every saint has a past and
every sinner has a future.
■ Through involvement with those who have suffered through divorce and who hunger for a new beginning, assisting
and guiding them in requesting help from the tribunal.
■ Through involvement with marriage preparation helping couples who hunger for a mutu- al commitment to a faithful life-
long commitment of marriage.
■ Through visits to the sick and home bound being present to those who hunger for both the
Eucharist and for a kind heart who will listen and share time with them.
■ Through ministry to those who have lost a loved one, or who suffer from illnesses, or who struggle in
relationships, accompanying God’s people in the painful times of life.
■ Through involvement in adult religious education or youth ministry, helping those who hunger to know
both the Lord and His message entrusted to the Church.
In short, deacons, just as the first deacons, minister to the hungers and the deepest
long- ings of the People of God. They are ordained by the Church to model themselves, in
a par- ticular fashion, after our Master who came not to be served but