“Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom… .” (Acts 6:3)
“Acts 6:1-6 is seen as the institution of the Order of Deacons; the passage uses the Greek diakonein to designate the “serving” function of deacons.” (Catholic Dictionary, Peter M. J.Stravinskas)
The reading from the Acts of the Apostles for this weekend (Acts 6:1-7) shows us a growing diversity within the early church community. This growth in diversity was a gift of the Spirit, but it was a gift that brought challenges with it.
How did the early church respond to these new challenges?
That’s right. This selection of the Seven was a turning point for the church as it dealt with a new situation. It is also seen as one of the scriptural foundations for the modern diaconate. These first seven deacons were commissioned to work alongside the Twelve in their ministry and specifically to minister in this new context of growth and diversity.
Since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965)
the Latin Church [that’s us, the Catholics in the West] has restored the diaconate “as a proper and permanent rank of the hierarchy,” while the Churches of the East had always maintained it. This permanent diaconate, which can be conferred on married men, constitutes an important enrichment for the Church’s mission (CCC 1571 emphasis added).
One of the primary purposes of the Second Vatican Council was to empower the church to respond to the contemporary world. The reestablishment of the permanent diaconate shares this purpose. Today deacons, including me, serve the mission of the church in a variety of ways, but all of us strive to enrich the Church’s mission in the modern world.
Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood