The Father William Most Collection
[Published electronically for use in classes taught by Fr. Most and for private theological study.]
1. John Paul II, Osservatore Romano English, Oct 13, 1993: "Actually. according to the Church's mind and practice, the diaconate belongs to the Sacrament of Orders, but is not part of the priesthood and does not entail functions proper to priests."
2. John Paul II, Osservatore Romano English, Oct 20, 1993: "The order of the diaconate can confirm them in the mission they are exercising, through a more official consecration and a mandate that is more expressly granted by the authority of the Church by the conferral of a sacrament. In this sacrament, in addition to a sharing in the grace of Christ the Redeemer poured out in the Church through the Holy Spirit, the source of every apostolate, an indelible character is received which in a special way configures the Christian to Christ 'who made Himself a deacon that is the servant of all.'" (citing Catechism of the Catholic Church §1570).
3.John Paul II, Osservatore Romano English, Oct 17, 1993: "As the very word 'diaconate' indicates, what characterizes the interior mind and will of the one who receives the sacrament is spirit of service. In the diaconate an effort is made to carry out what Jesus stated about His mission: 'The Son of Man has not come to be served but to serve - to give His life in ransom for many.' .... The advice applies, then, to all ministers of Christ; it has particular meaning, however, for deacons, for whom the stress is placed explicitly on this service by virtue of their ordination. ...this service should first of all take the form of helping the bishop and the priest, both in liturgical worship and the apostolate. ....The catechesis I have given on the diaconate, in order to complete the picture of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, thus highlights what is most important in this Order, as in those of the presbyterate and the episcopate: a specific spiritual participation in the priesthood of Christ and the commitment to a life in conformity to Him by the action of the Holy Spirit."
COMMENTS: 1) In #l the Pope says the diaconate "is not part of the priesthood, and does not entail functions proper to priests." How does this fit with the words of #3 that the diaconate includes "a specific spiritual participation in the priesthood of Christ and the commitment to a life in conformity to Him by the action of the Holy Spirit"?
There are three aspects to the mission of Christ: sacrificing priest, prophet, king: all of which are to be exercised for service.
As to the cultic work of sacrifice, the deacon does not do this, but does help the priest when he does it. But all three ranks of the hierarchy and the laity are called on to participate in the Mass in two ways according to Mediator Dei: by offering with the priest insofar as the priest goes to the altar representing Christ, the Head of the Mystical Body, whose members they are. They also participate by the spiritual sacrifices of which LG 34 speaks, offering everything in their lives that is not sin to be joined to the interior attitude of Christ on the altar.
As to the role of prophet: that role in the NT is not primarily foretelling the future, but giving a moving exhortation to the people. The deacon can share directly in that prophetic role, and the grace of the sacrament helps him specifically for that.
As to the role of king. There are two aspects: 1) the exercise of power in directing the faithful. As a member of the hierarchy the deacon shares in that work directly, for the very word hierarchy means sacred rule. 2) The use of power in controlling one's own soul, so as not to be a slave to sin, but a king, in the sense given in Apocalypse 20.
2) Christ Himself stresses most of all the aspect of service for all three ranks of the hierarchy. He made another remarkable distinction. On at least two occasions, while teaching dramatically, as He often did, when a woman said: "Blessed is the womb that bore you, He replied, "Rather blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it"(Lk.11:27-28). Similarly, when His Mother had come to see Him when He was preaching, He said (Mk 3:35): "Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother." Vatican II explained well (LG § 58), "as she was faithfully doing." In other words, out of two dignities, being the Mother of God, and doing the will of God, the second is greater. Yes, the first is so great that Pius XI said (Lux veritatis, Dec. 25, 1931, citing I.25.6.ad 4) that she "has a sort of infinite dignity from the infinite good that God is." Yet it is still greater to hear the word of God and keep it. She is at the peak in both categories, but of the two, the greater is to hear the word of God and keep it. Her holiness, even at the start of her life, wrote Pius IX (Ineffabilis Deus), is so great that "none greater under God can be thought of, and only God can comprehend it".
So while it is right for Bishops, Priests, and Deacons to dwell on the dignity of their office, they need to remember, that even greater is hearing the word of God and keeping it.