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St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr

Who is the Deacon?

The Italian priest and painter Bernardo Strozzi, (b. 1581, Genova, d. 1644) captured the essence of the deacon’s ministry in his depiction of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (d 258) distributing the treasures of the Church. Here one does not see St. Lawrence’s face. Only his hands and neck in the light. A disciples hands are meant for service. These acts of charity are the very life or jugular of the Church and flow from the Church’s liturgy represented by the deacon’s vestments.

What you see in the painting are the faces of the poor and sick. The deacon is to make sure the Church can see the faces of those in need. Lawrence directs his attention to the place where the older man shows his hurt. More that simple social work, the deacon expresses the Church’s empathy. The Deacon helps “keep us attentive to the needs of all that, sharing their grief and pain, their joy and hope, we may faithfully bring them the good news of salvation and go forward with them along the way of your Kingdom” (Eucharistic Prayer for Masses for Various Needs and Occasions). Those in need focus their attention on the gifts Lawrence brings. They hunger for a message of hope and relief.

The Deacon is part of the ordained ministry in the Church, together with the office of Bishop and Priest. The ordained serve the members of the Church by making public, and effectively present through the sacrament of orders necessary elements of the Church’s life. The whole Church is united to Christ around the Bishop; offering sacrifice of praise with the Priest; and serving others in their need like the Deacon.

The whole Church is a servant (or diaconal) Church, each member fulfilling in different ways the teaching of Jesus who said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). The Deacon in a special manner is to represent and encourage the specifically diaconal dimension of all Church ministry patterned after the servant ministry of Jesus.

The Deacon is the bridge between the Church and the world. He brings the needs of the poor to the attention of the Church; he brings to the poor the care and concern of the People of God.

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