Deacons are ordained ministers and models of Christ. As deacons move along the path of charity, they spread the Good News of Jesus Christ in the world.
Twenty-two men were ordained as permanent deacons for the Archdiocese of St. Louis Aug. 29 at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. There are 209 active deacons currently serving in the archdiocese, and 102 retired deacons.
Deacons are called to minister to the community of believers, in service to Christ, their bishop, the poor, and the Body of Christ. Pope Francis exhorts us to pray for them, that they may be “an invigorating symbol for the entire Church.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that “Deacons share in Christ’s mission and grace in a special way. The sacrament of Holy Orders marks them with an imprint (‘character’) which cannot be removed and which configures them to Christ, who made Himself the ‘deacon’ or servant of all’” (CCC, 1570).
They are a sign, in the heart of the Church, of Christ the Servant. In fact, the Greek word diakonía means service, and this is the spirit that defines their function: They help through the service to the Word, service of the liturgy, and service to the poorest and most disadvantaged.
In the pope’s words, “they are dedicated to the service of the poor, who carry within them the face of the suffering Christ.”
That’s a lot of responsibility, and it’s why we should take up Pope Francis’ call to pray for them. It’s also important to support the annual collection for the permanent diaconate in October and the Annual Catholic Appeal, which helps fund formation efforts.
In a homily to a gathering of deacons in 2016, Pope Francis said that in order to proclaim Christ, one must first imitate Him and “strive to become a servant.”
“If evangelizing is the mission entrusted at baptism to each Christian, serving is the way that mission is carried out. It is the only way to be a disciple of Jesus,” the pope said.
The first step in becoming “good and faithful servants,” he continued, is to be available to others and detached from living life in one’s own way. A true servant doesn’t “hoard his free time,” but gives up “the idea of being the master of his day.”
“One who serves is not a slave to his own agenda but ever ready to deal with the unexpected, ever available to his brothers and sisters and ever open to God’s constant surprises,” he said.
Pope Francis said that like the servant healed by Christ, deacons must have “a healthy heart” that has been healed by God through forgiveness and constant dialogue with Jesus through daily prayer and the sacraments.
We see these qualities cited by the popes all the time in our deacons. It’s a reminder to us to work to emulate them in service to to others and in staying close to Jesus.