Just who is called to be a Catholic deacon?

Many deacons, after many years of service, write books about being a deacon and ministering to people. I now join them. What they write is typically a memoir (e.g., Deacons Tom Quinlan’s Another Set of Hands, and Deacon Hugh Downey’s African Storybook) as some experiences of the deacon are worth sharing. A number of books involve explanation of the ministry, especially oriented to active deacons or for men well into formation before ordination; they include the history and/or theology of the diaconate, and/or his spirituality. Search for “Catholic Deacon” on any popular Internet book site and you’ll get a number of intriguing hits; however, a very few may contain unorthodox opinions or questionable theology. Look for the Imprimatur (the certification by a bishop that a book is free on doctrinal error, whether the bishop may not agree with certain opinions in the text) and for the date of publication (a lot of important documents have been published by the Holy See and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in the past fifteen years).

A few years ago it occurred to me that there might be a need for a book on the call to the vocation of deacon. It would be for Catholic men age thirty to sixty who might find it useful in their initial discernment of a vocational call and for men already in early formation to become a deacon. It could also be helpful to pastors and, if married, wives of potential applicants.

The book I have written is not a memoir, although personal experience cannot help but affect the elements included and there are a few short stories included to highlight a point. Rather, the book focuses on key Church sources, most of which are accessible online, that are foundational and authoritative to the restored Order of Deacon. These include three documents of Vatican Council II and subsequent papal pronouncements which restored the diaconate as a permanent order, including both married  and celibate men in the Church. Other post-Council sources include the Code of Canon Law, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and, especially the combined 1998 Basic Norms for the Formation of Permanent Deacons and Directory for the Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons (link). Also the Third Roman Missal is essential in understanding and putting into practice the liturgical ministry of the deacon. For American audiences there is also the National Directory for the Formation, Ministry, and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States (link).

BookMy new book is entitled Every Man a Deacon? Who is called to ordination as a Roman Catholic deacon. The primary title, Every Man a  Deacon? Is seemingly and absurdly easy to answer. What about non-Catholics, even non-Christians? Of course, the nominal answer is that such men could become Catholic Christians. (There is a priest of the Archdiocese of Denver who has publicly described when he first became aware of his calling. He was a teenager and told his mother that he believed that he was called to be a priest; her response was, “Well, first you need to go to Mass.” Now that is some call!)

What about men in their Seventies or older or men under the age of thirty? In the former case, it’s up to each diocese to decide when a man is too old for formation, either as a matter of policy or in early discernment of the man’s call (I’m not sure that I would be up for entering formation at my current age); men who are too young could just wait a few years.  The book is not intended to be facile or superficial. Rather, it takes seriously the question of just which men are called to be deacons.

The nice thing about online book websites is that they provide the opportunity for a potential purchaser to browse through part of the book to get a sense of its content, its style, and, in the case of the ministry of the deacon, its relevance to an individual’s call to the diaconate.  Existing deacons can read the book as, perhaps, an update to their own ministry.

Incidentally, if you search for my name on popular Internet book sites, you may also find not only Every Man, but another book by Rex H Pilger, Geokinematics: Prelude to Geodynamics, for $148.34! Yes, you read that price correctly, and yes, I am also the author of that scientific monograph. While I would be most appreciative were you to purchase the second book, I’m not expecting you to. In fact, as much as I would like to have anyone who reads this Deacon Den post to purchase Every Man , I mainly want to get copies into the hands or onto a computer or tablet screen of a man whom might be called by God and His Church to be a deacon.

[One chapter I left out dealt with a controversy that raged for a few years and in which I was involved peripherally, but was ultimate resolved. On the advice of a couple of other deacons, I decided that it not be included… something about sleeping dogs.]

I love being a deacon and am delighted to have such marvelous brother deacons here in the Archdiocese of Denver. I welcome your comments and opinions.

Deacon Rex H. Pilger, Jr.

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