The deacon is, according to Pope Paul VI, un “animador de servicio, o sea, de la diakonia”— a “driving force for service or diaconía.”
Service has been a part of my life – from my high school days. But it has most often been connected with the service of God, especially the liturgy.
In the deacon the table of the Lord is intimately connected with the table of the poor. Deacon James Keating puts it well:
The deacon is sent by the Holy Spirit to the forsaken. This is why it is crucial for the diaconate to remain a liminal vocation. The deacon lives at the doorstep between the culture and the liturgical mysteries so that he can see and hear the cry of the poor and lay these needs at the foot of the altar and the pastor.
Even the Vatican document on Basic Norms for the Formation of Permanent Deacons states clearly that
service of the poor is the logical consequence of service of the altar.
But the best formulation of this connection comes from an article by Father Paul McPartland:
The deacon stands at the altar and prepares the gifts with clean hands, but he stands also where the practical need is greatest, getting his hands very dirty.
Padre German and I were talking a while ago about the offertory procession for the Ordination Mass. I suggested members of the parish bring up a basket with corn, beans, and coffee. Not enough, he said. Thus we have asked the parish to bring sacks of corn, beans, coffee, salt, and sugar to be offered to God and then shared with groups that attend to those in need.
I hope that this simple gesture will become the first of many ways that I can become even more “a driving force for service,” an animator of the people to live out our common call to serve those most in need.