Deacon Bill Ditewig is ruminating these days on the deacon as Minister of the Word, and he reminds us of a few points that we all need to remember:
The deacon — as servant to and for the People of God — proclaims Christ in the Gospel in order to sacramentalize the servant-character of the Gospel itself. The Gospel not only delivers “good news”; that good news is also a call to service, a call to action. As the Church teaches, this ministry is diaconal, NOT an act of the presider. In fact, the rules surrounding this part of the liturgy is quite illustrative. When a deacon is present and assisting, he IS the minister of the Gospel. Period. This is not one of those optional things which either the priest, deacon, or another minister may do. This one is for the deacon. If there are 500 bishops and priests present, it is still the responsibility of the deacon. In fact, have you ever seen the pope proclaim the Gospel at Mass? Nope. Here’s some more: In a concelebrated Mass, if there is no deacon present and serving (and why not, I have to ask?), the priest-presiding is STILL not the first choice to proclaim the Gospel in the deacon’s absence. Rather, one of the concelebrating priests is to proclaim the Gospel if there is no deacon. Only when there is no deacon, and no concelebrant, is the priest presiding to proclaim the Gospel; he is, literally, the last choice.
And yet, we still have some priests who will simply tell the deacon before Mass, “I’ll do the Gospel today, since I’m preaching; I have some things I want to stress in the reading that tie into the homily.” I wonder: What if he were going to preach on the FIRST reading (usually from the Old Testament). Would he go to the lay person who is assigned to read that day, and tell her, “I’ll do the reading today, because I want to stress some things that tie into the homily.” I certainly hope not! There’s a reason why each of us has different roles in the liturgy, and the church is clear: each of us is to to “solely but completely” what is ours to do.
You’ll want to read it all. He’s promising more installments. I look forward to seeing what else Deacon Bill has to say on life in the pulpit.
(For those wondering: yes that’s me in the picture, from Holy Thursday, 2008, beginning my first Triduum as a deacon.)
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