At an annual all-day meeting with deacons of the Archdiocese of Denver, Archbishop Samuel Aquila highlighted the importance of their responsibilities during Mass.
“It is my desire to see every one of you grow in your faith in Jesus Christ through your ministry of diakonia (service) in the Church,” the archbishop began his address at Deacon Convocation Day Feb. 28 to some 160 deacons gathered in the refectory of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary. “In particular, I would like to see your awareness and understanding of your role in the liturgy deepen, so that you will be able to carry it out with serenity and a prayerful disposition.”
Photos by Deacon Mickey Webre and Julie Filby/Denver Catholic
He focused his comments on the origins of the diaconate, implications for the way they carry out their roles, and then examined the spiritual meaning of the various actions they perform during the liturgy.
“At a practical level,” he instructed, “you should make it a habit to pray to the Holy Spirit for his gifts before you exercise your ministry, especially before you participate in the sacred liturgy.”
Quoting Msgr. James Moroney’s book “The Deacon and the Liturgy: A Search for Identity,” he said a deacon “must minister to the priest and to the altar with the humility of him whose very body and blood were offered on the altar of the cross.”
“This is even more the case when it is a liturgy that I am presiding over,” Archbishop Aquila said. “As the archbishop, I am the chief steward of the mysteries of God, which means that I am the moderator, promoter and guardian of the whole liturgical life of the Church in the Archdiocese of Denver.”
For that reason, those Masses must be an example for the archdiocese and taken seriously. He then reflected on three moments during Mass where deacons play a “significant but often under-appreciated role”—proclamation of the Gospel, intercessory prayers and preparing the altar with the gifts.
“You have a great responsibility to proclaim the truth … to the faithful, to those who are fallen away, to the indifferent and to those who have never heard the good news,” he said. “In the context of the Mass, it is therefore particularly important for you to read the word of God with clarity, conviction born from your life of prayer, and the solemnity appropriate to the occasion.”
The proclamation of intercessory prayers must be connected to their ministry of charity.
“To carry out this role effectively, your ministry of charity must put you in touch with the struggles of the people in your parish,” he said. “The faithful need to know that you are a trustworthy, compassionate person that they can approach.”
When placing the gifts on the altar, a deacon must represent the “joys, sufferings, fears, strengths and weaknesses of the faithful” and assist the priests in sanctifying “the whole Christian community by connecting their gifts and sacrifices to the wellspring of grace found in the Eucharist.”
His talk was followed by a Q-and-A session. Then the archbishop’s personal secretary, Father Scott Bailey, led a session clarifying some of the finer points of a deacon’s role during a liturgy celebrated with the archbishop.
In the afternoon, Ben Akers, director of the Catholic Biblical School, led two sessions on Scripture.
“It helps the deacons,” explained Deacon Joseph Donohoe, director of deacon personnel. “The archbishop has really been portraying over the last couple years how important it is for the deacons to know the book of the Gospels. Not just what is being said, but to be the voice of Jesus speaking to the people—both when they proclaim and when they do a homily.”
There are 188 deacons serving the Archdiocese of Denver.