Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Tag Archives: Deacon

Revised Roman Missal: Bishop Loverde Calls for Deeper Prayer

In this week’s Catholic Herald, Bishop Loverde (Arlington Diocese, Virginia) invited his flock to embrace the upcoming implementation of the Revised Roman Missal. Bishop Loverde also invited us hear the call to deeper prayer through revised language of the Liturgy. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross best described the catechetical value of the Divine Liturgy when she said,

God Himself teaches us to go forward with our hand in His by means of the Church’s liturgy.

The Lord and the Church desires the Divine Liturgy to be the first and primary didactic means of educating her children. Bishop Loverde’s reflection is well said and deserves additional time for reflection.

The new translation — A call to deeper prayer

Some of you may recall, as I do, learning certain tenets of our faith from the Baltimore Catechism. The concise, memorable question-and-answer format assisted me as a boy in learning theological truths upon which I still reflect today. In light of the announcement from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) that, after years of work, the new translation of the Roman Missal will be implemented in Advent 2011, the Catechism question “What is Prayer?” particularly resounds with me. The response, “Prayer is the lifting up of our minds and hearts to God,” highlights the opportunity for spiritual growth that the new translation will afford each of us (Baltimore Catechism, no. 1099).

This new translation of the Mass is the result of years of labor by skilled translators and the national conferences of bishops in English-speaking nations. The result is a translation of the Mass that will contribute to the ongoing renewal of sacred liturgy in our parishes and is a more accurate translation of the official Latin edition of the Roman Missal, first promulgated in 1970, updated again in 1975 and published in its third edition in 2000. Our Holy Father prayed that the new translation would be “a springboard for a renewal and a deepening of Eucharistic devotion all over the English-speaking world” (Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Vox Clara Committee, 28 April 2010). Yes, this translation means more than merely learning new responses to say during Mass, although the words have a particular purpose and are important. It is, ultimately, a call to strengthen our prayer to God during the liturgy and to more actively and authentically participate: to truly “lift our minds and hearts to God.”

It is my prayer that each of us will take time to reflect upon the changes being made and the true meaning of the words that the priest and the congregation pray at Mass. Consider, for example, the occasions in the Mass when the celebrant says, “The Lord be with you.” Instead of, “And also with you,” under the new translation the congregation will reply, “And with your spirit.” Far from being a reduction in meaning, this response, which is more true to the official Latin text from which all translations have been made, increases our understanding that we are asking the Lord to dwell in the souls of those gathered for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In addition, since the priest (or deacon before the proclamation of the Gospel) greets the faithful with the words, “The Lord be with you,” the response, “And with your spirit” serves to mark those moments of truly priestly (or diaconal) ministry, that is, when the priest (or deacon) is about to do what he is ordained to do. These moments include: presiding over the entire prayer of the community at the beginning of the Mass; proclaiming God’s holy Word in His Gospel; offering the Eucharistic Prayer, which begins with the Preface; and imparting the final blessing. Our new response indicates that the priest (or deacon) is not acting on his own but only in the power of Christ and the Holy Spirit.

The new translation of the Roman Missal will also include Masses for recently canonized saints, additional prefaces for the Eucharistic Prayers, other Masses for Various Needs and Intentions, and updated and revised rubrics (instructions) for celebrating the Mass. The richness of these seemingly subtle changes not only brings our prayer closer in line with our brothers and sisters who speak other languages, but also invites us to enter more fully into the mystery of the Mass.

Our participation in the liturgy is an essential part of our worship. Discussing the Mass, Pope Pius X taught that “the faithful assemble for no other object than that of acquiring this spirit from its foremost and indispensable font, which is the active participation in the most holy mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church” (Pope Pius X, Tra le Sollecitudini, 22 November 1903). This liturgical theme was further developed by the Servant of God, Pope Paul VI during the Second Vatican Council when he wrote that the “Church consists in the full active participation of all God’s holy people in these liturgical celebrations, especially in the same eucharist, in a single prayer, at one altar, at which there presides the bishop surrounded by his college of priests and by his ministers” (Pope Paul VI, Sacrosanctum Concilium, 1963, no. 41). The new translation provides us with the opportunity, once again, to participate in the Mass in a deeper way.

In the upcoming year, you will learn more details on the new translation and be given the grace-filled opportunity to deepen your life of prayer during the liturgy through additional catechesis. Resources will be made available to you through our website,; diocesan workshops will be offered to priests and musicians; and parishioners will have the opportunity to delve more deeply into the meaning of this new translation through programs at their parishes. I encourage you to take advantage of the resources and opportunities that will be available this year — they will be advertised on the website, via Facebook and Twitter, in your parish bulletin and also in the Arlington Catholic Herald.

In the next year, in our diocesan Church and throughout English-speaking nations, we will prepare for the implementation of the new translation. During this time of fruitful transition, I ask you to dedicate yourself to active participation in the celebration of the Mass. As this new translation so beautifully emphasizes, Our Lord Jesus Christ died so that we may have life, a mystery which we celebrate at each and every Liturgy. He sacrificed Himself for us; let our response be one of prayerful participation in the celebration of the Eucharist, which He instituted

In Service of a Bishop

Deacons are ordained to be a Bishop’s “eyes and ears” within the particular church. While a priest is tied to an altar, a Deacon is tied to a diocese and in a special way, his Bishop and all his successors.

As an individual who is a huge fan of Cardinal Newman and a candidate for diaconal ordination in January 2011, the following story caught my attention. Here we have a Deacon still serving a Bishop – even in death.

Healed Deacon to Assist at Newman Beatification

BIRMINGHAM, England ( – The deacon who was miraculously healed thanks to the intercession of Cardinal John Henry Newman will serve at the papal Mass when the cardinal is beatified.

Deacon Jack Sullivan of the Archdiocese of Boston was healed of a spinal disorder after he asked for Cardinal Newman’s intercession.

At Benedict XVI’s Mass in Birmingham on Sept. 19 for the English cardinal’s beatification, Deacon Sullivan will proclaim the Gospel and serve the Mass as deacon.

Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham told the Catholic Herald that recognizing Cardinal Newman’s intercession will be at the heart of the beatification.

“We can speak about prayer to the saints as part of the life of the Church,” he said. “We feel a closeness to those who are part of the communion of the saints.”

The archbishop noted that he recently met Deacon Sullivan, and will be hosting the deacon, his wife and members of their family as his personal guests.

Archbishop Longley also suggested that the beatification is one of the main reasons Benedict XVI decided to travel to the United Kingdom.

The Blessing Deacon

Every once in a while, I am asked if a Deacon may administer a blessing.  The quick answer is yes.  The more correct answer is that while a Deacon may administer a blessing there are a number that are reserved to the second and third grades of Holy Orders i.e., Priest and Bishop respectfully.  To assist everyone just a little more, Deacons may administer the following blessings which are categorized by object from the The Roman Ritual: Book of Blessings:

Blessings Pertaining to Persons

  1. Order for the Blessing of a Family
  2. Order for the Annual Blessing of Families in Their Own Homes
  3. Order for the Blessing of a Married Couple outside Mass
  4. Order for the Blessing of Children
  5. Order for the Blessing of Sons and Daughters
  6. Order for the Blessing of an Engaged Couple
  7. Order for the Blessing of Parents before Childbirth
  8. Orders for the Blessing of a Mother before Childbirth and after
  9. Order for the Blessing of Parents after a Miscarriage
  10. Order for the Blessing of Parents and an Adopted Child
  11. Order of Blessing on the Occasion of a Birthday
  12. Orders for the Blessing of Elderly People Confined to Their Homes
  13. Order for the Blessing of the Sick
  14. Order for the Blessing of a Person Suffering from Addiction or from
    Substance Abuse
  15. Order for the Blessing of a Victim of Crime or Oppression
  16. Order for the Blessing of Those Appointed as Catechists
  17. Order of Blessing for a Catechetical or Prayer Meeting
  18. Blessings of Catechumens
  19. Order for the Blessing of Students and Teachers
  20. Order for the Blessing of Ecumenical Groups
  21. Order for the Blessing of Organizations Concerned with Public Need
  22. Orders for the Blessing of Pilgrims
  23. Order for the Blessing of Travelers

Blessings Related to Buildings and to Various Forms of Human Activity

  1. Order for the Blessing of a New Building Site
  2. Order for the Blessing of a New Home
  3. Order for the Blessing of a New School or University
  4. Order for the Blessing of a New Library
  5. Order for the Blessing of a Parish Hall or Catechetical Center (by
    delegation from the pastor)
  6. Order for the Blessing of a New Hospital or Other Facility for the
    Care of the Sick
  7. Order for the Blessing of an Office, Shop, or Factory
  8. Order for the Blessing of Centers of Social Communication
  9. Order for the Blessing of a Gymnasium or a Field for Athletics
  10. Order for the Blessing of Various Means of Transportation
  11. Order for the Blessing of Boats and Fishing Gear
  12. Order for the Blessing of Technical Installations or Equipment
  13. Order for the Blessing of Tools or Other Equipment for Work
  14. Order for the Blessing of Animals
  15. Order for the Blessing of Fields and Flocks
  16. Order for the Blessing of Seeds at Planting Time
  17. Order for a Blessing on the Occasion of Thanksgiving for the Harvest
  18. Order for the Blessing of an Athletic Event
  19. Order for the Blessing Before and After Meals

Churches, either in the Liturgy or in Popular Devotions

  1. Order for the Blessing of a Repository for the Holy Oils
  2. Order for the Blessing of Articles for Liturgical Use (shorter rite outside Mass)
  3. Order for the Blessing of Holy Water outside Mass

Blessings of Articles Meant to Foster the Devotion of the Christian People

  1. Order for the Blessing of Religious Articles
  2. Order for the Blessing of Rosaries

Blessings Related to Feasts and Seasons

  1. Order for the Blessing of an Advent Wreath ( outside Mass)
  2. Order for the Blessing of a Christmas Manger or Nativity Scene (outside Mass)
  3. Order for the Blessing of a Christmas Tree
  4. Order for the Blessing of Homes during the Christmas and Easter Seasons
  5. Order for the Blessing of Throats on the Feast of Saint Blase
  6. Order for the Blessing and Distribution of Ashes
  7. Order for the Blessing of Saint Joseph’s Table (March 19)
  8. Order for the Blessing of Food for the First Meal of Easter
  9. Order for Visiting a Cemetery on All Souls Day, Memorial Day, or on the Anniversary of Death or Burial
  10. Order for the Blessing of Food for Thanksgiving Day
  11. Order for the Blessing of Food or Drink or Other Elements Connected with Devotion

Only the Victorious Sing

The deacon sings the praises of the Paschal Candle in Blackfriars priory church, Oxford.

For many of us, the most exciting part of the Easter Vigil is the chanting of the Exsultet. And, as I discussed in the Holy Thursday post, only the victorious sing.  The Exsultet, IS our song of victory.

This ancient  hymn in praise of the Paschal Candle is reserved to be sung by the deacon. The norms of the Roman Rite are very clear – it is the prized Gospel proclamation of the deacon.  Of course, in antiquity a deacon had to be able to sing and chant in order to be ordained.  Sadly, many parishes are without a deacon and when a parish is in a bind, the norms allow for a talented priest or cantor to stand in.  The Exsultet is actually the colloquial name,

In the missal the title of the hymn is “Praeconium”, as appears from the formula used at the blessing of the deacon: “ut digne et competenter annunties suum Paschale praeconium . Outside Rome, the use of the paschal candle appears to have been very ancient in Italy, Gaul, Spain, and perhaps, from the reference by St. Augustine (City of God XV.22), in Africa. The Liber Pontificalis attributes its introduction in the local Roman Church to Pope Zosimus. The formula used for the “Praeconium” was not always the “Exultet”, though it is perhaps true to say that this formula has survived, where other contemporary formulae have disappeared.[1]

Understanding the Context

After lighting the Paschal Candle with the “first fire”, the deacon leads the People of God into the Church where no light is present.  With the thurifer leading the way, we should recall when the ancient Israelites were led by a pillar of smoke by day and a column of fire at night.  The deacon then intones three times “Christ our Light” and the Church response “Thanks be to God.”  Once the procession reaches the sanctuary, the deacon secures the Paschal Candle in its stand, escorts the thurifer to the celebrant for its preparation, and receives his blessing to proclaim the  Exsultet. The deacon incenses the Gospel and Paschal Candle and then begins the mother of all hymns.

Looking Deeper

The Exsultet has three principle sections.  The first section begins with three exults or “Rejoice,” (Exsultet in Latin).  They are structured in such a way that the three voices of creation are exhorted to praise the risen Lord: 1) Angels, 2) Creation proper and 3) The Church.

The second section is a type of liturgical Preface which is meant to give reason for why we are giving thanks.  In the Roman Rite, the Preface precedes the Eucharistic Prayer.  The “Preface”, in covenantal order, exposes how the Old Testament typologies are fulfilled in the Resurrection of the Christ. This sequence places special emphasis on the Passover.

The concluding section of the Exsultet concludes with a prayer of supplication that the Father would “accept our offering” – another familiar phrase from the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  The deacon prays,

“Accept this Easter Candle, a flame divided but undimmed, a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.”

The deacon continues praying that the candle flame be mingled with the heavenlies  and that the Morning Star (Christ) would find this flame still burning.

I believe one of the key stanzas within the proclamation addresses an ancient question.  In the Jewish Seder, the youngest child is asked, “Why is this night special?”  The Exsultet intends for us to call this question to our minds and then hear the answer. In fact, the hymn reminds us that “This is our Passover feast.”  And then comes the glorious answer,

“This is the night (Hæc nox est)

  • you first saved our Fathers…
  • the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin
  • Jesus Christ broke the chains of death
  • evil is dispelled
  • guilt is washed away
  • innocence is restored
  • mourners are made joyful
  • hatred is cast out
  • peace reigns
  • earthly pride is humbled.”

What an answer! There is more we could say but this is enough to digest for now – maybe next year.  Thought everyone should be treated to hearing the Exsultet intoned by a deacon in the language of the Church – Latin. Of course, I have provided the English texts below the video.  Enjoy!

The full authorized English text is given below, from the ”Roman Missal/Missale Romanum” Third Typical Edition:

Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,
exult, let Angel ministers of God exult,
let the trumpet of salvation sound aloud our mighty King’s triumph!
Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,
ablaze with light from her eternal King,
let all corners of the earth be glad,
knowing an end to gloom and darkness.
Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice,
arrayed with the lighting of his glory,
let this holy building shake with joy,
filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.

(Therefore, dearest friends,
standing in the awesome glory of this holy light,
invoke with me, I ask you, the mercy of God almighty,
that he who has been pleased to number me, though unworthy, among the Levites,
may pour into me his light unshadowed,
that I may sing this candle’s perfect praises.)

(V/: The Lord be with you.
R/: And with your spirit.)
V/: Lift up your hearts.
R/: We lift them up to the Lord.
V/: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
R/: It is right and just.

It is truly right and just,
with ardent love of mind and heart,
and with devoted service of our voice,
to acclaim our God invisible, the almighty Father,
and Jesus Christ, our Lord, his Son, his Only Begotten.
Who for our sake paid Adam’s debt to the eternal Father,
and pouring out his own dear Blood
wiped clean the record of our ancient sinfulness.
These then are the feasts of Passover,
in which is slain the Lamb, the one true Lamb,
whose Blood anoints the doorposts of believers.

This is the night, when once you led our forebears,
Israel’s children, from slavery in Egypt
and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.
This is the night that with a pillar of fire banished the darkness of sin.
This is the night that even now, throughout the world,
sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices and from the gloom of sin,
lending them to grace, and joining them to his holy ones.
This is the night when Christ broke the prison-bars of death,
and rose victorious from the underworld.
Our birth would have been no gain, had we not been redeemed.

O wonder of your humble care for us!
O love, O charity beyond all telling,
to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!
O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!
O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!
O truly blessed night, worthy alone to know the time and hour
when Christ rose from the underworld!

This is the night of which it is written:
The night shall be as bright as day, dazzling is the night for me, and full of gladness.
The sanctifying power of this night dispels all wickedness,
washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners,
drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.
On this, your night of grace, O holy Father,
accept this candle, a solemn offering,
the work of bees and of your servants’ hands,
an evening sacrifice of praise, this gift from your most holy Church.

But now we know the praises of this pillar,
which glowing fire ignites for God’s honour,
a fire into many flames divided,
yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,
for it is fed by melting wax,
drawn out by mother bees to build a torch so precious.

O truly blessed night,
when things of heaven are wed to those of earth,
and divine to the human.
Therefore, O Lord, we pray you that this candle,
hallowed to the honour of your name,
may persevere undimmed,
to overcome the darkness of this night.
Receive it as a pleasing fragrance,
and let it mingle with the lights of heaven.

May this flame be found still burning by the Morning Star
the one morning star who never sets,
Christ your Son, who, coming back from death’s domain
has shed his peaceful light on humanity,
who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen


[1] Walker, C. (1909). Exultet. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved April 6, 2010 from New Advent: