Continuing his thoughtful and informational series on the deacon as “Minister of the Word,” Deacon Bill Ditewig has now turned his attention to preaching:
With regard to the deacon preaching at Mass, the GIRM notes that the deacon preaches “on occasion”. The norm is for the priest-presiding to preach, but he may also ask the deacon to preach the homily. This has caused no little confusion: just what does “on occasion” mean?
Some pastors have interpreted this too mean “rarely” or “only in extraordinary circumstances.” This is not correct. What the Holy See was trying to correct were abuses in some parts of the world (not so much in the US) in which priests were never preaching, but turning over that responsibility to others (deacons or lay people). However, given the law we’ve already examined, the deacon IS an “ordinary” preacher and, while we don’t preach at EVERY Mass, we should certainly preach with certain regularity.
…Diaconal preaching should have its own unique character. Deacons can bring their own experience of family and professional life to bear in their homilies. Just as priests can offer insights from the perspective of their own experience, so too can deacons. This goes much deeper than simply telling parishioners what he and his family did on vacation! Rather, the deacon can offer insights about the practical challenges of living out the Word of God in school, on the job and in the family. He can also highlight what he has experienced in his own ministries of charity, and the very real needs of the people he is serving in prisons, hospitals, on the streets and in soup kitchens. This desire to encourage uniquely diaconal preaching is reaching new maturity. Just over the last two years, I have assisted three graduate students completing doctorates in ministry who wrote about this very topic. Two were written by deacons and one by a priest.