By: Deacon Marques Silva
From a young age, my parents taught us that service is the duty of every Christian. It was not merely words, but lived out in their daily experience. In fact, I cannot say that we only served on certain holy days or for particular events for the reason that it was a way of life for our family. This love to assist behind the scenes stayed with me as I went off to college, married, and started our family.
Then I was invited by my wife and kids (I did not see it coming) to apply for the permanent diaconate here in the Diocese of Arlington. My question was, “Why?” when I could serve just as well as a lay person. More importantly, I knew little about the permanent diaconate except for the deacons that I grew up seeing. After much prayer and discussion with my family and pastor, I applied to the program and was surprised at what I discovered.
The Deacon finds his origin in Chapter 6 of the Acts of the Apostles. We all remember the most famous of those first deacons — namely, St. Stephen who was martyred by St. Paul (Saul of Tarsus at the time – not so much in support of Christ at that moment in his life). He was the first Christian martyr recorded in Sacred Scripture and is known as the proto-martyr.
The Catholic deacon is a member of the hierarchy of the Church (Bishop, priest, and deacon) and,
“As an ordained minister, he partakes in the fullness of the priesthood of the bishop along with the body of priests in a given diocese. At ordination to the diaconate he also becomes part of the Church’s clergy.”
The Permanent Deacon differs from a transitional deacon in that the permanent deacon does not advance to the presbyterate, meaning they are not ordained priests. If he is married at the moment of his ordination, he makes a promise to embrace a life of celibacy if and when his wife passes into glory before he does. While the transitional deacon and the priest are trained and formed in the spirituality of Christ the Bridegroom, the Head of the Church, and Sacrificial Victim, the permanent deacon is formed and trained as Christ the Servant.
The Permanent Deacon is ordained to serve the people of God in three distinct ways through the Liturgy, Word, and Charity:
His service to the people of God has three aspects of participation. In liturgical ministry he assists the bishop and priests in the Eucharistic Rite. He is significantly assigned to proclaim the Gospel and to preach on occasion. He imparts the solemn blessing with the Blessed Sacrament at Benediction. He may baptize, witness, and bless marriages, preside at the Liturgy of the Hours and at wakes and grave site services.
Each deacon is commissioned by the bishop at ordination to “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you are. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.” Thus evangelization and catechesis are an essential part of the deacon’s ministry of the Word, the heartbeat of all that he is called to be and do.
In his ministry of charity the deacon is able to bring a unique sensitivity in ministering to the needs of families, single parents, students, the aged, the infirm, the imprisoned, those who suffer from poverty or addictions, and many other important services already existing or yet to be discovered.
All Christians are called to charity but the deacon is one who, responding to the call of the Holy Spirit, is sent by the Church to bring Christ and His Good News to those in need. His actions and deeds should serve to inspire and support the faithful in their own imitation of Christ.
Some mistake the permanent diaconate as a retirement vocation, and that could be nothing further from the truth. The Church invites men who are at least 31 years of age (the minimum age for ordination the permanent diaconate is 35) to consider this vocation.
I have been ordained for only 3.5 years, and what a humbling and amazing experience the Church has offered me. I can share my limited experience, but I must say that there are permanent deacons in this diocese that have far more experience and who make outstanding contributions not only to this diocese, but to the Church at large through their “behind-the-scenes” service. Currently, there are 61 permanent deacons in the Diocese of Arlington.
Today, let us take a minute and thank the Blessed Trinity for the service of the many men who pour themselves out in service through this vocation. We should also pray that the Lord, in His generosity, would call more men to serve through the Permanent Diaconate.
For more information, check out our diocesan website.