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Detail from Cathedral of Saint Catharine of Siena, Allentown, PA

Detail from Cathedral of Saint Catharine of Siena, Allentown, PA

Since the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council the role of deacons, always maintained by the Church, has become more apparent in parishes such as ours through the presence of those ordained not on the path to the Sacred Priesthood, but in distinctive and permanent service as deacons. On this feast of the great deacon and martyr, Saint Lawrence, it is worth reflecting on what is the role of these ordained ministers and how Saint Lawrence demonstrates in a beautiful way the service to which those in this state of life are called.

Deacons have three primary functions: announcing of the Word, assisting the Priest at the altar, and the service of charity. The first role, the proclamation of the gospel, is seen most especially in the liturgical role of the deacon. The second, similarly, in his role aside the Priest during the Eucharistic celebration. The third, in the historical role of the diaconia—particular places established within the ancient Church of Rome for the distribution of food and money to the poor and destitute of that city.

How does Saint Lawrence embody these as an example and encouragement to us? First, by his death he proclaims with actions louder than words, announcing the truth of the gospel by pledging himself to Christ, even to the point of death. Secondly, by this selfsame sacrifice he comes to share in a particular way in the sacrifice of Christ, being granted a place not simply at an earthly, but heavenly altar in service of Christ the Great High Priest. Thirdly, by his love of the destitute—the true treasure of the Church—he demonstrates the burning charity of Christ and by his martyrdom gives to the materially and spiritually poor alike, the gift of his intercession.

So may Saint Lawrence pray for those who exercise in a particular way the office and work of the Sacred Order of Deacons. May their ministry be always in conformity with the heart of Christ for which Saint Lawrence died. And may we be beneficiaries of this service to the Church, by a deeper participation in the work of evangelization, a greater love for the Sacred Liturgy, and a more ardent desire to serve the poor.