Deacons in liturgy

Is it right that a deacon does not participate in the liturgy but instead sits in the pew with congregation, while extraordinary ministers take his position in the cup. Is a deacon limited to the number of masses that he may participate in, such as the lay are limited in the receiving of Communion.

It depends. For instance, if a member of the clergy does not have faculties in a certain diocese, he may not act in any ministerial capacity. The diocese has a responsibility to do background checks and that kind of thing for anyone doing public ministry. So that is the one case I can think of where an EMHC is preferable to an ordinary minister.

As far as I know, clergy are also allowed to take a break now and then; that is, to attend Mass without serving as ministers. Ideally, of course, extraordinary ministers are never used when an ordinary minister is available, but I don’t know of a bishop that goes so far as to require a polling of the church to make sure there aren’t any priests or deacons with faculties in attendance before EMsHC can be used. As far as I know, clergy at a parish are also not usually required by their bishops to act as ordinary ministers every time that they are present at Mass at all, or even every time there are not sufficient ordinary ministers for the distribution of the Eucharist under both kinds. Although it is to be hoped that they will reduce the need for EMsHC whenever they reasonably can, they are not expected to burn themselves out in the process.

Since it is not required that a minister of the Eucharist actually receive himself or herself, as it is necessary that a priest receive when offering the Mass, I don’t think there is a limit on the number of Masses that a deacon may assist at in one day…well, except the practical limit that they have to have the physical and spiritual capacity to do a good job. It would be wrong to over-commit, knowing one would minister poorly in the process.

I’m sure like any married person, married Deacons would like to sit with their spouse or family at a Mass each weekend. When necessary thay can receive a dispensation from their Bishop on the “twice in one day rule.”

That, too. Our archbishop is adamant that the family commitments of his deacons not be neglected in favor of service to the Church. When there is any conflict, he makes it clear that the wife and family are to come first.

yes if he has already taught a parent class, baptized 40 babies (English) and 35 (Spanish) done an afternoon wedding or quincenera or perhaps a funeral including graveside committal service, why on earth should he be allowed to sit next to his wife and relax and be at Mass rather than ministering at Mass. He is only 70, what a wimp. Just because he is scheduled for 2 masses tomorrow, including preaching the Spanish Mass, is no excuse.

puzzleannie, you are a hoot!

Not impossible, but he wouldn’t need a reason so unassailable as all of that! :smiley:

This actually presents a sticky situation because, according to Redemptionis Sacramentum:

  1. Deacons
    [34.] Deacons “upon whom hands are imposed not for the Priesthood but for the ministry”,77 as men of good repute,78 must act in such a way that with the help of God they may be recognized as the true disciples79 of Him “who came not to be served but to serve”,80 and who was among His disciples “as one who serves”.81 Strengthened by the gift of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands, they are in service to the People of God, in communion with the Bishop and his presbyterate.82 They should therefore consider the Bishop as a father, and give assistance to him and to the Priests “in the ministry of the word, of the altar, and of charity”.83

[35.] Let them never fail, “as the Apostle says, to hold the mystery of faith with a clear conscience,84 and to proclaim this faith by word and deed according to the Gospel and the tradition of the Church”,85 in wholehearted, faithful and humble service to the Sacred Liturgy as the source and summit of ecclesial life, “so that all, made children of God through faith and Baptism, may come together as one, praising God in the midst of the Church, to participate in the Sacrifice and to eat the Lord’s Supper”.86 Let all Deacons, then, do their part so that the Sacred Liturgy will be celebrated according to the norms of the duly approved liturgical books.

Furthermore, RS goes on to say that:

[157.] If there is usually present a sufficient number of sacred ministers for the distribution of Holy Communion, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion may not be appointed. Indeed, in such circumstances, those who may have already been appointed to this ministry should not exercise it. The practice of those Priests is reprobated who, even though present at the celebration, abstain from distributing Communion and hand this function over to laypersons.258

[158.] Indeed, the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion may administer Communion only when the Priest and Deacon are lacking, when the Priest is prevented by weakness or advanced age or some other genuine reason, or when the number of faithful coming to Communion is so great that the very celebration of Mass would be unduly prolonged.259 This, however, is to be understood in such a way that a brief prolongation, considering the circumstances and culture of the place, is not at all a sufficient reason.

Even priests cannot assist at Mass as though they were laity. Inasmuch as the deacon may have a wife and family, when it comes to the Mass, these ministerial duties should come first before his sitting with them at church.

My original thoughts were towards the GIRM and after some searching I see that it says: 116. If a deacon is present at any celebration of Mass, he should exercise his office.
Furthermore, it is desirable that, as a rule, an acolyte, a lector, and a cantor should be there to
assist the priest celebrant. In fact, the rite to be described below foresees a greater number of ministers.

It is not proper that any minister should forsake his duty and allow a non-ordained to assume that said duty, nor would it be proper for the deacon to assume the duties of the priest.

  1. When he is present at the Eucharistic Celebration, a deacon should exercise his ministry,
    wearing sacred vestments.

as Peter says, “Lord, we have given up all…”

We are involved in a Diocese wide School of Lay Ministers. I asked this same question last month and to my surprise she said that when priests go on vacation they often sit among the laity and that deacons can sit with their families to participate as a family, which I understand. But, if a deacon is at mass without his family and a priest is also present he should at least offer to the celebrant to help distribute communion if nothing else. I personally think, in my ignorance of course, that every parish should have at least as many deacons assigned as are needed to distribute communion. The parish priests could use the help anyway. And since I feel called to the diaconate I know that this is not likely to ever be resolved perfectly. There are too many people, bishops, priests, deacons and laity that will step in front of the orthodox train no matter what. It happens all the time. We are “required” to seek peace, and to constantly argue is not following peace, however we need to show some backbone and speak out against abuses, but always do it with respect.

But, if a deacon is at mass without his family and a priest is also present he should at least offer to the celebrant to help distribute communion if nothing else.

Even if the deacon is at Mass with his family, it’s hardly a crippling burden to distribute communion, is it? I’ve never heard an EMHC say, “Well, I like distributing, but it’s hard being separated from my loved ones for so long.” I suppose if the deacon has young children and his wife isn’t present (or the couple has a lot of children), then he should stay with them, but otherwise I don’t really see the difficulty.

That’s my point. But my point also includes the most unsuspecting option. What if the wife is having a nervous breakdown for a day and everyone knows who they are. She is present but the children may need dad to help out today. Kind of makes one rethink things then. Charity should always be exercised for such private and unsuspecting reasons. One of our priests said to me in confession one day “I always thought you guys were the perfect Catholic family”. I had to beg to differ and said that we try to be the best we can though.]

BTW: I’ve had days where I had to get someone to sub for me as EMHC. I’d put my “job” on forever fired just to get qualified men to become deacons and replace us any day.

Kind of makes one rethink things then. Charity should always be exercised for such private and unsuspecting reasons.

Yes, that’s entirely right, and I have no idea what the circumstances are of the OP’s deacon on that particular day. I just meant that barring other circumstances I’d hope that a deacon could be troubled to distribute communion even if, because his family is present, he otherwise sits with them and doesn’t participate as a minister in the Mass.

The instructor gave you incorrect information regarding the role of the priest. Redemptionis Sacramentum states that:

The practice of those Priests is reprobated who, even though present at the celebration, abstain from distributing Communion and hand this function over to laypersons.258

[128.] Holy Mass and other liturgical celebrations, which are acts of Christ and of the people of God hierarchically constituted, are ordered in such a way that the sacred ministers and the lay faithful manifestly take part in them each according to his own condition. It is preferable therefore that “Priests who are present at a Eucharistic Celebration, unless excused for a good reason, should as a rule exercise the office proper to their Order and thus take part as concelebrants, wearing the sacred vestments. Otherwise, they wear their proper choir dress or a surplice over a cassock”.218 It is not fitting, except in rare and exceptional cases and with reasonable cause, for them to participate at Mass, as regards to externals, in the manner of the lay faithful.

With all due respect, it is incumbent on people teaching diocesan courses to read the documents before they state something that could very well be in error.

I read this in wonder since our diocese has no deacons whatsoever. Nary a one. In fact, there is nary a deacon in the any of the dioceses in our archdiocese.

We only have one full time and one parttime who is parttime at another church.

I realize, because we were taught this as EMsHC, that a priest will identify himself and self-communicate, if he attends a Mass at which he is not one of the celebrants, because after ordination he always receives Holy Communion as a priest, not as a lay person. You are not saying, though, that every priest who walks into a Mass at St. Peter’s has to get vestments on? That every priest or deacon attending a Mass at which he is not scheduled to assist is duty-bound to check in at the sacristy to make sure there isn’t a scheduled EMHC he could possibly relieve? That can’t be right, if for no other reason than that it cannot be required for a priest to act as a priest in a diocese in which he has not been given faculties, or in which the presider does not know him to be a priest with faculties.

The documents are the ones that state this, specifically Redemptionis Sacramentum. And, actually, St. Peter’s in Rome welcomes the help, as the ones who are distribution Holy Communion for the most part, are priests. And yes, every priest is duty bound to assist at Mass in his appropriate role.

Let me give you an example that happened last month. We had a visiting priest from Nuevo Laredo who was going to talk about his charity. He got there late (just after the Gospel). My parochial vicar told the EMHCs that since the priest was there, both he and the priest would be distributing Holy Communion. He called up the priest who was a little taken aback, but, he assisted my parochial vicar.

Here is another reference from RS:

111.] A Priest is to be permitted to celebrate or concelebrate the Eucharist “even if he is not known to the rector of the church, provided he presents commendatory letters” (i.e., a celebret) not more than a year old from the Holy See or his Ordinary or Superior “or unless it can be prudently judged that he is not impeded from celebrating”.199 Let the Bishops take measures to put a stop to any contrary practice.

If there is a language problem, then, the priest should be in choir dress and be seated in an apporpriate place, but, he should not be acting as though he were a member of the laity.

113.] When Mass is concelebrated by several Priests, a language known both to all the concelebrating Priests and to the gathered people should be used in the recitation of the Eucharist Prayer. Where it happens that some of the Priests who are present do not know the language of the celebration and therefore are not capable of pronouncing the parts of the Eucharistic Prayer proper to them, they should not concelebrate, but instead should attend the celebration in choral dress in accordance with the norms.201

Thus, insofar as the Mass is concerned, the priest is pretty much never off-duty.

…not to beleager the issue, butI here a lot about how the Deacon could at least help distribute Communion. This is not the point, the deaconate is a consecrated office in the church. If the deacon can be present at a mass, and he forgoes his office to be amongst the congragation, or sing in the choir or whatever, it just seams out of the ‘ordinary’. His office calls him to participate at the alter, in the sacrifice, and most especially to be the minister of the ‘cup’.

Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America

  1. In addition the deacon who assists the bishop or priest in distributing Communion is an ordinary minister of Holy Communion. When the Eucharist is distributed under both forms, “the deacon ministers the chalice.”]

  2. In every celebration of the Eucharist there should be a sufficient number of ministers for Holy Communion so that it can be distributed in an orderly and reverent manner. Bishops, priests, and deacons distribute Holy Communion by virtue of their office as ordinary ministers of the Body and Blood of the Lord.

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