Friday, January 7, 2011

Deacon as Minister of Sacrament -- Part III

What the church means when she refers to deacons as ministers of sacrament is, in one sense, fairly straightforward: How does the deacon participate in the sacramental life of the church?  In answer to that question, one can often rather simply just list the various sacramental functions of our public worship -- as I did in the last post -- and speak to the various roles of the deacon in their celebration.

However, in my opinion, we need to then broaden the discussion back to where we started in the first post in this series: that for Catholics, "sacramentality" means much more than simply "the seven sacraments of the church."  Sacramentality, as you will recall, is grounded in Christ, the ursakrament or the fundamental sacrament of our encounter with God.  The entire "sacramental life" of the Church, in all of her members, flows from this relationship with Christ.

So, looking at the deacon, then, we might ask: How does the deacon "sacramentalize" for the Christian community this encounter with Christ?  Pope John Paul II, writing about the human dimension of the formation of presbyters, used the image of a bridge: that the ordained minister needs to be a bridge for people in their encounter with Christ, and not an obstacle to that encounter (see Pastores Dabo Vobis); in subequent documents, the Holy See and USCCB have developed this idea for diaconate formation as well.

How can deacons be this "bridge" leading others to Christ?  There are many ways, of course, including the deacon's liturgical and sacramental roles.  However, equally important (and some would say, even more important) are the various ministries and "apostolic works" in which the deacon is engaged in the service of others in the community.  This will be subject of our next series on the deacon's participation in triple munus of ordained ministry, when we turn our attention to the deacon as Minister of Charity and Justice.

1 comment:

  1. Bill,

    I haven't posted in awhile but wanted to let you know I follow your articles religiously, (pun intended). You have helped me in my formation process many times. Keep up the good work.