What is a deacon and how is it different than a priest?
A deacon can do everything a priest can do except celebrate the Eucharist and hear confessions. That means a deacon can perform baptisms, weddings, funerals, distribute holy Communion and preach on the Gospel. Nowadays the diaconate is viewed as a unique ministry unto itself and not just a step along the way to priesthood.
There are, therefore, in the Church, permanent deacons and transitional deacons.
Permanent deacons may be married or single. They are ordained and hence members of the clergy (as priests and bishops are). Permanent deacons, especially those who are married, have secular jobs to support their families and also help the local pastor by visiting the sick, teaching the faith, counseling couples and individuals, working on parish committees and councils, and giving advice to the pastor.
Transitional deacons are seminarians or Religious who are ordained deacons as a necessary step towards priestly ordination.
In conclusion, deacons – both permanent and transitional – can baptize, witness marriages, perform funeral and burial services outside of Mass, distribute Holy Communion, preach the homily (which is the sermon given after the Gospel at Mass), and are obligated to pray the Divine Office (Breviary) each day. (The Divine Office, Breviary, orLiturgy of the Hours are all the same thing. These are the 150 Psalms and Scriptural readings from the Old and New Testament that every deacon, priest, and bishop must pray every day and a few times during each day.)
Most popular questions
- I feel I have a specific charism to youth outreach. Can I live this charism out as a priest, or must I follow the charism of the order I join?
- If I request information about joining a religious organisation, will I be pressured into joining?
- Can I become a bishop or cardinal and not a priest?
- I read stories of religious communities merging or closing down. Are religious organisations dying out?
- Why are there so many different religious orders?
- If I take a vow of celibacy, will I get very lonely?
- Can a gay man become a priest?
- I do not consider myself to be exceptionally holy, I try to pray every day and follow the commandments. I have always been very interested in the priesthood but I have never felt a burning passion for it. Could I still be called to the priesthood?
- What’s the difference between a diocesan priest and a priest in a religious order?
- Can I still join the priesthood if I have personal debts?