Copyright © 2017-2020 Deacon Community of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. All rights reserved.
The Deacon Community Of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe
Ego Vobiscum sum, sicut qui ministrat
Ministry of Love and Justice (Charity)
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Deacons were an important part of the early church. From the foundation of the order of deacons, those ordained to this order had the special role of caring for the poor and the outcast, and reminding the members of the Church to do the same. The word “deacon” comes from the Greek word “diakonia,” which means “service.” It is because of the role of the deacon as servant that medieval paintings depicting angels typically show them wearing dalmatics, the vesture of deacons, for they “serve before the Throne of God.”
     So vital was the ministry of charity that deacons were entrusted with all the worldly assets of the Church to distribute them as necessary to the needy. One of the greatest stories that illustrate the ministry of the deacon in the ancient Church is that of St. Laurence of Rome. Along with St. Stephen (the first Martyr, Protomartyr) and St Francis of Assisi, he is one of the three great deacon saints of the Western Church. Tradition tells us that Lawrence was roasted to death on a gridiron, and that his famous dying words were said to be, “Turn me over, I’m done on this side.” But the circumstances leading up to his martyrdom tell us much about the role of the deacon.      In 257 ADE new laws were enacted in Rome against the Church. The Prefect of Rome learned that deacons were responsible for safeguarding and distributing Church assets, so he sent for Lawrence and demanded that he turn over the treasures of the Church. Lawrence asked for three days to gather the wealth. He want about the city gathering the poor and the outcast, the widows and the orphans, the sick and the homeless supported by the Christian community. He took them before the pagan Prefect and declared: “These are the treasures of the Church.” Lawrence paid for these actions with his life. (Today the Italians, with their characteristically ironic humor, celebrate the Feast of St. Lawrence with barbecues!)
     By the end of the first millennium, the Order of Deacons had died in the Western Church. Ordination to the diaconate became a step along the road to priestly ordination, along with other ancient roles such as lector and acolyte. There were many interesting theories as to why this happened, but is notable that the Eastern Church retained the permanent diaconate all throughout its history. Even in the Western Church some still lived the life of a deacon, such as St Francis of Assisi, who after his ordination as a deacon, declined to be ordained a priest, and lived as a deacon for the rest of his life.      The Council of Trent (1545-1563) ordered the restoration of the permanent diaconate but the decree was never implemented. The restoration of the permanent diaconate by the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) was the result of extensive theological, historical and pastoral scholarship, originating primarily in Germany, on the need to emphasize the servant role of the Church. The leaders of this movement were a group of priests who developed their thoughts while imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau. For decades they championed the restoration of the diaconate as necessary for the full life of the Church.      Based on the extensive historical and theological work on the Order of Deacon prompted by the witness of these priests, the Council decided to restore the permanent diaconate. While the bishop is an icon of Christ the Shepard, and the priest is an icon of Christ the Priest, the deacon is the icon of Christ the Servant. The deacon must seek out the poor and the outcast in the community. He ministers to their needs and brings them to the Christian community for continued care. To ensure that the faith community is disposed to welcome the outcast, the deacon is called to remind the faithful of their Christian responsibility to service and justice and to assist in carrying out this responsibility.      The deacon ensures that the Church community is a welcoming place for all. By personal service among those on the margins of society, the deacon becomes intimately familiar with their needs as he is intimately familiar with the Christian Community. Thus he lives in two worlds, seeking to bridge the gap between the comfortable and those in need of comfort. To those whom society deems less then -- the poor, the immigrant, the imprisoned, the divorced and remarried, and all those alienated from society and the Church for whatever reason -- the deacon brings the compassion of the Church, and to the Church Community he presents these for whom God has a special love and asks the community to welcome them. In this way, the deacon continues the ministry of the prophets of the Hebrew Testament, who constantly called the Chosen People to be concerned for the “anawim,” a Hebrew word meaning “the least” and often identified as the widow, the orphan and the alien - - those in such dire straits that they can only rely on God, and by extension, his people for their existence. The deacon is the voice of the Church to the marginalized, and the voice of the marginalized to the Church.
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The Deacon Community Of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe
Ministry of Love and Justice (Charity)
     Deacons were an important part of the early church. From the foundation of the order of deacons, those ordained to this order had the special role of caring for the poor and the outcast, and reminding the members of the Church to do the same. The word “deacon” comes from the Greek word “diakonia,” which means “service.” It is because of the role of the deacon as servant that medieval paintings depicting angels typically show them wearing dalmatics, the vesture of deacons, for they “serve before the Throne of God.”  So vital was the ministry of charity that deacons were entrusted with all the worldly assets of the Church to distribute them as necessary to the needy. One of the greatest stories that illustrate the ministry of the deacon in the ancient Church is that of St. Laurence of Rome. Along with St. Stephen (the first Martyr, Protomartyr) and St Francis of Assisi, he is one of the three great deacon saints of the Western Church. Tradition tells us that Lawrence was roasted to death on a gridiron, and that his famous dying words were said to be, “Turn me over, I’m done on this side.” But the circumstances leading up to his martyrdom tell us much about the role of the deacon.      In 257 ADE new laws were enacted in Rome against the Church. The Prefect of Rome learned that deacons were responsible for safeguarding and distributing Church assets, so he sent for Lawrence and demanded that he turn over the treasures of the Church. Lawrence asked for three days to gather the wealth. He want about the city gathering the poor and the outcast, the widows and the orphans, the sick and the homeless supported by the Christian community. He took them before the pagan Prefect and declared: “These are the treasures of the Church.” Lawrence paid for these actions with his life. (Today the Italians, with their characteristically ironic humor, celebrate the Feast of St. Lawrence with barbecues!).      By the end of the first millennium, the Order of Deacons had died in the Western Church. Ordination to the diaconate became a step along the road to priestly ordination, along with other ancient roles such as lector and acolyte. There were many interesting theories as to why this happened, but is notable that the Eastern Church retained the permanent diaconate all throughout its history. Even in the Western Church some still lived the life of a deacon, such as St Francis of Assisi, who after his ordination as a deacon, declined to be ordained a priest, and lived as a deacon for the rest of his life.      The Council of Trent (1545-1563) ordered the restoration of the permanent diaconate but the decree was never implemented. The restoration of the permanent diaconate by the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) was the result of extensive theological, historical and pastoral scholarship, originating primarily in Germany, on the need to emphasize the servant role of the Church. The leaders of this movement were a group of priests who developed their thoughts while imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau. For decades they championed the restoration of the diaconate as necessary for the full life of the Church.      Based on the extensive historical and theological work on the Order of Deacon prompted by the witness of these priests, the Council decided to restore the permanent diaconate. While the bishop is an icon of Christ the Shepard, and the priest is an icon of Christ the Priest, the deacon is the icon of Christ the Servant. The deacon must seek out the poor and the outcast in the community. He ministers to their needs and brings them to the Christian community for continued care. To ensure that the faith community is disposed to welcome the outcast, the deacon is called to remind the faithful of their Christian responsibility to service and justice and to assist in carrying out this responsibility.      The deacon ensures that the Church community is a welcoming place for all. By personal service among those on the margins of society, the deacon becomes intimately familiar with their needs as he is intimately familiar with the Christian Community. Thus he lives in two worlds, seeking to bridge the gap between the comfortable and those in need of comfort. To those whom society deems less then -- the poor, the immigrant, the imprisoned, the divorced and remarried, and all those alienated from society and the Church for whatever reason -- the deacon brings the compassion of the Church, and to the Church Community he presents these for whom God has a special love and asks the community to welcome them. In this way, the deacon continues the ministry of the prophets of the Hebrew Testament, who constantly called the Chosen People to be concerned for the “anawim,” a Hebrew word meaning “the least” and often identified as the widow, the orphan and the alien -- those in such dire straits that they can only rely on God, and by extension, his people for their existence. The deacon is the voice of the Church to the marginalized, and the voice of the marginalized to the Church.
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