Diaconate and third orders


I’m a young guy, married a few years - for a while, my wife and I have discussed the possibility that I may have a vocation to the permanent diaconate but, given the time commitment involved both in formation and in ministry, we are putting off exploring while we (God willing) have some more children and let them get a little older.

We’ve also talked about attractions we’ve both had to a possible third order - she’s felt a call to be a secular dominican, I have felt an attraction towards either the secular dominicans or secular franciscans.

My question is - if I were to discern a call to a religious order, would this have any impact upon a potential application to the permanent diaconate later in life?


St. Francis was a deacon.,


I’m a lay Dominican and loving it.

It suits me to a T.

The four “pillars” of the order are : prayer, study, community, and preaching. A room full of lay Dominicans is a formidable force! :slight_smile:


are you a deacon?


It won’t have any detrimental effect on the diaconate later on.

Obviously it may have great positive effects, as your spiritual life will be enhanced by mendicant lifestyle and so forth.

Deacons are free to join 3rd orders, and those in 3rd orders are free to pursue the diaconate.

Pope St. John Paul II was a Carmelite tertiary, by the way.


As my screen nic implies, I am an invested Knight of Malta, a lay ecclesial order of the Church, and I was before I applied to the deacon formation program.

You say you are “young man”. I am not quite sure how young but you should be aware that the minimum age for ordination to the diaconate is 35. If you are under 30 (typical 5 year formation program), you will need to delay applying to the diaconate in any case.

God bless you in your discernment.


And if you have young children, no matter how old you are. We know a man who wants to be a deacon, but he was told to wait until his youngest was older. The wife has to be completely on board with this and has to attend classes. Very young children can make that difficult. And you said you want more children.

While you wait (and live your life) a third order is a great way to grow spiritually.


We have several Benedictine secular oblates (though not strictly speaking a third order) who are deacons, and two who are priests. There’s a persistent rumour that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is a Benedictine oblate.


This is something I am very interested in. I am currently in diaconate formation and have been wondering about third orders as a way to deepen my spirituality after I am ordained (God willing of course). I will add this to the list of things to speak with my spiritual director about.


Our Lay Carmelite community produced a vocation to the diocesan permanent diaconate.


My Bishop stated that he needed permission from the order before he could consider Ordination. I’m a brother in the Secular Franciscan Order. My minister has to request it.


I disagree with this. This is a very American attitude toward the diaconate. I was ordained earlier this year and several of the younger men in my class (including me) had babies during our formation! (well, our wives did!!)

Here is what Deacon Bill Ditewig has said about our unique view of being a deacon which is contrary to the rest of the world:

** Why is it that in the United States, deacons are often older men?**

The original proposal at Vatican II was that mature married men, about the age of 40, could be ordained. When it came to the debate, the bishops said, “That’s too old,” and lowered the age to 35. Clearly the vision was that these would be men who were married, raising families, still engaged in the workplace, in the world, and also who would be deacons.

What’s happened here in the United States is a tendency to see the diaconate as a second-career opportunity. Whenever I go to Europe to talk to deacons, I get teased about, “Why have you guys let this turn into a retirees’ club?” The average age of a deacon here in the United States is pushing 64. Fifteen
percent of our deacons are over 70, and only 2 percent are under 40. The average age of a deacon around the world is significantly younger, somewhere in the 40s.

A lot of men in the United States thinking about the diaconate might say, “I don’t want to do the deacon formation when I’m younger because I don’t want to dump the kids on my wife while I’m off attending classes.” But what do they do in Europe? The whole family comes. A group of child care providers and youth ministers meet the family at the door. The kids go off and do age appropriate stuff and Mom and Dad go to their program. And at mealtime and Mass time, everybody’s together.


I also feel that I may have a vocation to the deaconate, but being 28 I know I have to wait. I have spoken to my pastor about this and have gotten more involved in the parish as a result (Joined KOFC, became a EM, etc…) I liked the way he explained it. He said something along the lines that a vocation to the deaconate is made apparent by the person’s involvement with the parish. People don’t usually just come out of nowhere and ask to become a deacon, they are usually very involved and go from that to a formal vocation. The getting involved (Participating in ministries, assisting the liturgy (lectures, EM, MC, etc… ) is all apart of the formation process. So right now being only 28 with a young child (and maybe more to come) I am doing that and striving to build a strong spiritual basis for a potential future vocation.

Don’t forget you can never go wrong with obedience. If the Church in its wisdom says wait, then wait. If the decide to change the rule later or you are granted an exemption then that’s good to.


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