Role of the deacon

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John Hardy makes his Promise of Obedience to Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, N.Y., during his ordination to the diaconate at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Brooklyn May 25, 2019. Bishop DiMarzio ordained 18 permanent deacons for service in his diocese at the Mass. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Msgr. Charles Pope Question: My parish is getting a permanent deacon. He is married and already a member of the parish. How might we expect him to help with this ministry and how it relates to the priests and lay people who serve the parish?

Name withheld, Washington, D.C.

Answer: Permanent deacons assist with the liturgy through the proclamation of the Gospel, the preparation of the gifts and, at times, by preaching. They are also able to administer the Sacrament of Baptism, preside at marriages, funerals and burials and conduct Communion Services in the absence of a priest.

The word “deacon” means “servant.” As such, deacons serve in the diocese and parish beyond the liturgy. They assist with religious education, help prepare couples for marriage and the baptism of their children. They may also assist with the administration of the parish.

Generally deacons also have a ministry of charity and may assist with social outreach, hospital ministry, prison ministry, in pregnancy centers and so forth.

As for helping the deacon, work with your pastor, accept the deacon, encourage him to take up the leadership that is properly his and assist him by prayer and supportive collaboration. The deacon is a member of the clergy and should be treated as such.

Mystery of the Trinity

Question: I am curious about how the names Father and Son in the Trinity relate to the reality of the first two Persons. How is the Son begotten, and how can this relate to the biological relationship of fatherhood as humans experience it?

Edward, Mishawaka, Indiana

Answer: In saying that Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, is begotten we are asserting that he is not a creature, but is of the same divine nature as the Father.

In human terms, a man may make something out of wood, steel or clay, but what is made does not share his nature. But when a man fathers a child, that child shares his human nature. We do not say he makes a child; rather we say that the child is begotten by him. Thus Jesus, who is begotten (not made) shares fully in the one divine nature of the Father.

How the Son is begotten is different from human generation, which involves sexual intimacy. But in the Trinity, this is not the case, since the divine nature is pure spirit, without a body and therefore without a sex. Rather, in the divine begetting, the Father considers or thinks of himself. Since he is God, his consideration of himself is perfect and comprehensive. And, since it is the nature of God to exist, his consideration of himself has existence, and is his Son, who is the perfect image and likeness of the Father. Thus Jesus can say, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9).

We also say that the Lord Jesus is eternally begotten of the Father. That is to say: there never was a time when the Father was alone and without the Son. The Father has always begotten the Son and the Son is always begotten by the Father. The Holy Spirit eternally proceeds from them both.

As for the titles Father and Son, the Father is rightly called Father since he eternally begets the Son and is the principium deitatis, the source in the Trinity. The Son is eternally begotten by the Father and is rightly called the Son in this respect. The Third Person is rightly called the Holy Spirit since he proceeds, or spirates, from them both.

Msgr. Charles Pope

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. at Send questions to