The Ceremony

The ordination for deacons takes place during the Mass, after the Gospel is proclaimed. The ceremony begins with the presentation of the candidates. Each one will be called forth by name, and he will stand and answer, “Present.”

After all the candidates have been called, the bishop will ensure that the candidates are suitable for ordination. The simplest way to accomplish this is to ask the Rector of the seminary whether he considers them worthy. Since he and the rest of the faculty at the seminary have already discussed the suitability of each man, he has a good idea of the qualities of each of them. He will therefore respond, “After inquiry among the people of Christ and upon recommendation of those concerned with his training, I testify that they have been found worthy.”

Here, the “election” takes place: the bishop declares that he has chosen the candidates to be ordained. The congregation begins applauding to show that they agree with the decision. This is reminiscent of the first “election” by the early Christian community when they chose the first seven deacons. The bishop will then preach a homily on the Gospel just read.

When he is finished, the candidates make their promise of celibacy. This is followed by the “examination”—a series of questions, which includes the promise of prayer.

Then, each candidate goes individually to the bishop to make the promise of obedience. He kneels before him and places his joined hands between the hands of the bishop while making the promise.

After all the diaconal candidates have made the promise of obedience, the bishop invites the people to pray that the “Father will mercifully pour out his blessings on these servants whom, in his kindness, he raises to the sacred Order of the diaconate.” In one of the more dramatic moments in the liturgy, all the diaconal candidates will lay prostrate on the floor, while everyone else will kneel in prayer for them.

While everyone is kneeling, the litany of the saints is sung. This calls to mind the fact that not only those faithful on earth, but also the entire Church in heaven is praying during this important moment. We invoke Mary and Joseph, the saints from the Gospels and the heroic martyrs of the early Church, some of the humblest saints and some of the most influential teachers of the Church, as well as the founders of the great religious orders, and ask them for their prayers.

The bishop then extends his hands over all the candidates. This begins the most important part of the ceremony—the ordination itself. At this point, he begins the prayer of consecration. It asks God to draw near and recalls the gift of the first deacons. The bishop continues, “Send forth upon them, Lord, we pray, the Holy Spirit, that they may be strengthened by the gift of your sevenfold grace for the faithful carrying out of the work of the ministry.” He then intercedes for them, asking the Lord to grant them growth in holiness.

After this, each candidate goes to the bishop and kneels before him.  The bishop lays his hands on the candidate’s head, in silence. This is the “laying on of hands” found in the first ordination. The man is ordained a deacon.

After all the candidates have been ordained, assisting deacons or priests will help the new deacons put on first a deacon’s stole and then a vestment called the dalmatic.

Each newly ordained deacon then goes to the bishop and kneels before him.  The bishop places the Book of the Gospels in the hands of the newly ordained, saying, “Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”

Finally, the bishop stands and gives the kiss of peace to each new deacon.

The Celebration of the Eucharist then continues as usual.