Mass with a deacon

Is there a theological difference between Mass with a deacon and a Mass without? I’m not talking about the things a deacon does during the Mass but much deeper than that.

I’m not sure exactly what you are getting at.

If there is no deacon available then the priest can fill that role since he too has been ordained with those orders. So in that sense there is no such thing as a Mass without a deacon.

I suppose it can be said that the theological “fullness” of the Mass is better illustrated by Mass with a deacon, but if there isn’t one, the same roles are still performed, but by the priest.

I’d argue that there is no difference. Mass focuses on the representation of the sacrifice of Christ, not on the role of a deacon. Mass cannot happen without a priest, it can happen without a deacon.

I thought that deacons were extra, not the norm…?

I am not sure what the OP meant. A Deacon cannot say Mass although they can certainly take part in it, and preach and teach. They can hold Communion services when a priest is not available, but that would be done with reserved consecrated hosts. The Deacon cannot consecrate.

Ideally, all masses should involve a deacon.

Various documents directing liturgies assume a deacon is at every mass, most notably the GIRM, but provide an alternate should a deacon not be present - almost always, as has been said - the priest should do it.

An example of this is proclaiming the Gospel - despite all priests (and bishops and even the pope) being ordained deacons, if a deacon is present, he should proclaim the gospel; a good example of this can be found easily on YouTube from the funeral mass of Pope John Paul II - an English transitional deacon proclaimed the Gospel. However if a deacon is not present, only a priest may fill in.

An exception to it having to be a priest that steps in is the proclamation of the exultet at the Easter Vigil - this can be done by a priest or a lay person if a deacon is not present.

As to the theology of why a deacon should ideally be present, the area is much greyer. There is no set theology of the diaconate (transitional or permanent). Most books I have read on the subject have the deacon’s role within the liturgy being a liturgical example of the service that a deacon is called to provide to their communities. If you think about what a deacon does in the mass (particularly during the Liturgy of the Eucharist), almost everything is service-related, and everything emphasises another theological idea that a deacon’s liturgical role is to provide a go-between between the people and the altar.

All the best


OP was talking about Mass without a deacon, not “Mass” with a deacon, but without a priest.

I’ve seen a lot of both in our parish, including one without this morning. There is no real difference, except that the priest has more to do in the absence of a deacon, and a couple more lines to say.

In reality, a priest is also a deacon, so there is no such thing as a Mass without a deacon.

A deacon has the threefold ministry of liturgy, word, and service. A deacon is to assist in the liturgy at the altar, proclaim the Gospel, and be a visible sign of the Church at work in the world. A priest is also ordained into these ministries when he is ordained as a transitional deacon, but has been given an additional pastoral ministry for the salvation of souls which he recieves when he is ordained as a priest. As the priest is also a deacon, he also serves the threefold ministry of liturgy, word and service and so acts as both deacon and priest at the Mass. For example, when the priest steps to the ambo to proclaim the Gospel at a Mass, he is exercising one of the three ministerial roles which he received when he was ordained as a deacon - to be a proclaimer of the Gospel.

The answer to the OP’'s question is no, there is no difference. The priest is also a deacon, and so again, there is no such thing as a Mass without a deacon. The priest simply fills both roles at Mass.



No, the norm and the ideal is to have a deacon (or two? not sure…).

I was under the impression that a priest could refuse a deacon, that he was not required to have one if he did not want one.


As a practical matter, the pastor is asked and would normally not be assigned a Deacon if one is not desired, but a priest has no canonical authority to reject a Deacon if the Bishop so assigns one.

I personally know of one case in particular where the pastor complained rather strongly about being assigned a Deacon, and of the specific Deacon in particular.

But the Bishop informed the Priest that the Deacon was assigned there and that was that.

The priest had been known to articulate several unothordox opinions during homiles, The Deacon was known for orthodoxy. Not a very ‘fun’ position for the Deacon to be in, but a Deacon is ordained to be the servant of the Bishop, and does what he is asked to do.

sounds rough. :frowning:

No the mass is the same with or without the deacon.

This is a bad understanding of the presence of deacons, but I know what you mean.

The fulness is illustrated when the entire hierarchy of the clergy is represented, this can be a beautiful thing when duties are well carried out by the bishop, priests, and deacons.

He could…generally deacons are not assigned to parishes where priests are hostile to deacons, at least not in my diocese. Unfortunatly this still occurs.

I would take that role…to “re-orthodox” a priest…that sounds like fun!!! Yes folks I am kidding.:smiley:

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