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Posted July 9, 2004

Book: Deacons and the Church
Author: Owen F. Cummings
Paulist Press, New York, pp. 143

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Deacons and the Church presents a popular narrative history of the Order of the Diaconate in the Catholic Church from its dawn on the biblical scene in the Acts of the Apostles (with Saints Stephen and Philip), through the “golden age” of deacons in the fifth century. With the emergence of the “cultic priesthood” the diaconate as a unique and discrete member of the clergy declined into a transitional role — but never disappeared. Indeed, Dr. Cummings points out that the most popular saint (after Mary), Francis of Assisi, was a deacon — as were Saints Lawrence and Ephrem, all of whom are offered here as models of “Deacons for Deacons.”

The Second Vatican Council restored the Order of Deacon to a “full and permanent” membership in the clergy, along with priests bishops. Now thirty thousand deacons serve the Church throughout the world and remain the fastest growing clerical rank within the Latin Church. Deacon Cummings reflects on how this surge in the membership of the Order of Deacons will affect the Church in years to come.

An Excerpt from the Book:

The deaconate has nothing to do with wielding power or achieving status, but is about a power-less invitation to serve the Lord. It is beautifully put by the Anglican bishop-theologian Mark Santer:

The deacon is one who waits. He is never in charge. He is the servant of others — of God, of his bishop, of the congregation. He is a voice: it is his task to read the Lord’s Gospel, not his own . . . He is a servant: it is his task to wait at the Lord’s table. . .It is others who preside; he is the waiter, the attendant. Is there anything at all that is peculiar to the deacon? Is he given powers that are given to no one else? The answer is ‘No.’ There is nothing he can do which nobody else can do. But that is just what is distinctive about him. He has no power. He is a servant. He is entrusted with the ministry of Christ who washes his servants’ feet. He embodies the service of the Lord who has made himself the servant of all.”

Table of Contents:

1. The mature Catholic in today’s church

2. The permanent deacon and Vatican II

3. Jesus the deacon

4. A brief history of the diaconate

5. Deacons for deacons: Lawrence of Rome, Ephrem of Nisibis, Francis of Assisi, and Nicholas Ferrar

6. Liturgy, the parish, and the deacon

7. The spirituality of the deacon

8. Diaconal marriage

9. The dysfunctional deacon

10. Loving the Church