1. Deacons have been in the Church since its very early days
The first follower of Jesus to be martyred was a deacon, St. Stephen. He was an eloquent speaker and drew many people to Jesus. He was stoned to death, and right to the very end, proclaimed the good news of Jesus’ salvation. His dying words were, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” and then he prayed that the Lord would forgive those who stoned him. This all happened before the conversion of St. Paul and scriptures say that St. Paul, then Saul, was a part of his stoning. St. Stephen’s feast day is December 26th.
2. Deacons are ordained clergy in the Church
The hierarchy of orders is: Bishop, Priest and Deacon. Like priests, deacons also attend seminary training and continuing education.
3. Married men are allowed to become deacons
They usually remain a deacon as their life vocation. Seminarians, on their way to becoming a priest, are first ordained a deacon. They usually remain in this vocation for a short period of time (called transitional deacons) in preparation for their ordination to the priesthood. Whether or not the diaconate is permanent or transitional, the order of deacon is the same. In all actuality, all deacons are permanent in that the mark of diaconate ordination is permanent.
3. A deacon is ordained to serve
His primary mission is to serve the Church and the world. The word deacon comes from the Greek word for servant. The scriptural reference for the beginning of deacons is usually seen in Acts 6: 1-6 where servants are needed to take care of the needs of widows and others. All deacons are required to have ministries where they serve. What the ordinary Catholic sees at mass is a deacon serving at altar, but the majority of his ministry happens in the various needs of the church and society.
5. The deacon is called to be the “Herald of the Gospel”
At my ordination, the bishop handed me the Book of the Gospels and said, “RECEIVE the Gospel of Christ who’s HERALD you are. BELIEVE what you read, TEACH what you believe and PRACTICE what you TEACH.” I personally take that very seriously.
6. Celibacy affects every deacon
Married deacons may not remarry and must be celibate if their wives die. The church follows ancient tradition and the scriptures in requiring this.
7. Deacons, as ordained ministers, wear clerical garb
Some deacons, in some dioceses, wear the Roman collar for “street garb”, especially in working within their ministries. Some local bishops prefer that the deacon not wear the Roman collar. All deacons wear liturgical vestments during liturgies they serve or preside at. Like a priest, the deacon wears an alb and a stole. The deacon’s stole is worn over the left shoulder and attached on the lower right side visible in both the front and the back. The priest wears a stole that goes around his neck and straight down both sides in the front. When at a Eucharistic celebration, the priest wears a chasuble and a deacon wears a dalmatic. They may both look similar but if you look closely, the deacon’s dalmatic has sleeves and the chasuble does not.
8. The deacon has prescribed parts of the Eucharistic liturgy
He may lead the penitential rite. The deacon reads the Gospel. He may preach. He does the intercessions in the prayer of the faithful. He prepares the chalice and helps the priest at the altar. He is an ordinary minister of the Eucharist. He calls people to the sign of peace and he dismisses the people at the end of mass.
9. Like a priest…
The deacon can preside at baptisms, weddings, wake services, exposition and benediction and various prayer services. Unlike a priest, he cannot celebrate Mass (only assist), cannot hear confessions and cannot anoint the sick.
10. The majority of permanent deacons are married with children and grandchildren
Since deacons usually volunteer their services and are not paid by the church, they must maintain a job. A deacon is told that his priorities are (in order): family, job, the diaconate. Most people do not realize the sacrifices that a deacon’s wife and children make to allow the deacon to serve. Most wives and children are most cooperative in the ministry of the deacon.
11. All deacons are required to pray the Liturgy of the Hours like bishops, priests, and religious
Deacons are also required to have a spiritual director and make annual retreats and continue their education.
12. Being a deacon is absolutely AWESOME
It is humbling, as well as uplifting, to serve the Lord and His Church.
Deacon Marty McIndoe serves as a deacon in the Diocese of Rockville Centre on Long Island, NY. He was in the first class of deacons for the diocese and has served for 35 years. Deacon Marty, and his wife Martha, live in Patchogue, NY and are members of St. Francis de Sales parish. Deacon Marty has been involved in many ministries and has been a teacher and speaker at numerous events on Long Island. He converted to the Catholic faith in 1973 from the Methodist faith. He loves being a deacon and serving the Lord and His church.