On this weeks podcast, we dig into the archive to a broadcast from June 2012 with Br Martin Browne OSB. We dug it out from the archive following Bishop Brendan Leahy's announcement that the 2016 Synod proposal to institute the permanent diaconate in Limerick diocese will be implemented.
Br Martin Brown OSB joined us on the programme to discuss the restoration of the permanent diaconate to the Irish diocesan church fifty years after Pope Paul VI restored it to the universal church at the Second Vatican Council.
The diaconate is seen as the public manifestation of the servant nature of the church. Deacons are ordained ministers of the church who also serve in a liturgical function.
"The restoration of the ministry of permanent deacons is somehow looked on in terms of what the deacon can or cannot do compared with the priest and ministry of the deacon is looked on as some sort of second-class ministry. People who speak or write in this framework fail to understand the deaconate and fail to understand ministry. The order of deacons is not just about doing things; it is a call to be configured in a special way to Jesus who serves and to represent in a special way in the life of the Church Jesus who serves." - Archbishop Diarmuid Martin
The Acts of the Apostles describes how, in the first century, the Church was faced with the challenge of responding to the needs of those who were at risk of being marginalised, either through culture or through material poverty. Keeping in mind the example of Jesus, the Apostles selected and ordained a number of men specifically for this service. For a number of centuries, deacons ministered in close co-operation with the bishops of the Church, assisting at the Eucharist, preaching the Gospel, and exercising a ministry of charity. Gradually, in the Western Church, the functions of deacons were absorbed into the ministry of the priest, and the diaconate became a transitional order, for those on the way to priesthood.
The Second Vatican Council envisaged a renewal of ministry, both lay and ordained, in the Church. The Council’s Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, explains that the lay faithful, by virtue of their Baptism, are commissioned to an active apostolate and insists that “every opportunity be given them so that, according to their abilities and the needs of the times, they may zealously participate in the saving work of the Church. The Second Vatican Council also proposed the restoration of the diaconate as a “distinct ministry of service” to be exercised “in communion with the bishop and his group of priests”.
Many of the functions which deacons perform can also be carried out by members of the lay faithful. The restoration of the diaconate is not intended in any sense to change that situation. The idea is that some of those who already exercise these functions would be “strengthened with the grace of diaconal ordination” and in that way would be designated to be a visible public sign of the Christ the Servant in the community of the Church. Deacons are ordained to service, to charity and to proclaim the Word.
Other links and information on the permanent diaconate: