Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Deacon as Minister of the Word of God, Part III
We have reflected upon the deacon and his role of proclaiming the Gospel and on his responsibilities as a preacher at Mass. Now we turn our attention to other dimensions of the deacon's service as a minister of the Word; specifically, in this posting, the deacon's role as an official teacher of the church. The deacon's catechetical role flows from the same charge given to him by the bishop. While some deacons do not consider themselves teachers, and a few might even argue loudly that they are not! However, that doesn't change the fact that the church sees all ordained ministers as teachers, and as with most things the deacon does, his responsibilities as teacher flow from his relationship to the bishop, who is the prime teacher of the faith in the diocese.
Our second example is similar. In this case, still another deacon from Carthage, this one named "Quodvultdeus" writes to Bishop Augustine informing him that the bishop of Carthage has asked the deacon to preach the Lenten homilies, and the deacon asked for Augustine's advice (I like to think that Quodvultdeus heard from his buddy Deogratias about how helpful Augustine had been to him!). In this case, however, we don't have a document from Augustine in answer to the deacon's question; but we do have the deacon's homilies! So it is possible to study them and discern Augustinian influence. But again, for our purposes here, it's illuminating to see that the deacon is again taking on preaching/teaching responsibility on behalf of his bishop -- and that this is seen as a normal activity of the deacon.
So, for our reflection today, those of us who are deacons can ask ourselves how well we handle our catechetical responsibilities. First, do we embrace them eagerly and passionately as a constitutive component of our ministries? Second, do we continue to seek opportunities for ongoing formation, just as our predecessors turned to a master teacher for advice? Third, how well do we teach, helping others find the practical applications of the Gospel in every day life. Such ministry is part and parcel of the charge given to us at ordination.