At first glance, this blog title might be confused with a famous Dan Brown novel: Angels and Demons, but our understanding of the connection between Deacons and Angels is much more fascinating to me as my ordination as a Deacon is scheduled for October 15th, 2022.
The three-fold ministry of deacons involves focus on the Word of God, Charitable Outreach and Service at the Altar. Angels often convey God’s messages to important figures in the Bible. Abraham and Mary were both given very important messages that changed their lives. In the ancient Church, like angels, deacons were used by bishops as messengers. We also read in the Book of Revelation that angelic hosts minister at the altar of God. Similarly, deacons prepare the altar for the Eucharistic celebration. We can be fairly sure that angels exercise charity in their guardianship of the human race. The Books of Daniel and Tobit in the Hebrew Scriptures describe the archangels, Michael, Raphael and Gabriel, as guides, healers and protectors. The idea of guardian angels has obvious roots in these stories.
Deacons are both ordained ministers and people who live and work outside Church settings. While some are paid ministers, most spend their time away from the sanctuary because they live and work with ordinary people, believers and non-believers alike. The image of angels ascending (worshipping God in heaven) and descending (guiding and helping) has been viewed in tandem with the role of the deacon. On Sundays, deacons help at the altar; then, they spend the bulk of their week living their lives and helping others as best they can.
As the deacon surrounds the priest at the altar, so too do the angels surround the entire sanctuary. Also, some dalmatics for deacons (liturgical vestments worn over the Alb/white garment) don’t have sleeves and medieval Church art depicts winged angels wearing these same dalmatics. Eastern art depicts St. Stephen (arguably the most famous deacon) with both deacon vesture and the wings of an angel. Saints Lawrence and Francis of Assisi are also famous deacons, but perhaps angels such as Raphael who heals, guides and protects, Michael who defends and advocates, and Gabriel who proclaims and preaches are more ideal role models.
Deacons are not angels. We sin and need the forgiveness offered by Jesus’ redemptive sacrifice just like everyone else. We need our guardian angels as much as anyone. As a family we made a point of praying together before bed. This simple and brief time, right before the children went to sleep was central in our efforts to convey our faith to our children. The Guardian Angel Prayer resonated with them and remains a favorite prayer even in their adult lives.
O Angel of God
My Guardian Dear
To Whom God’s Love
Commits me here
Ever this night/day
Be at my side
To light, to guard, to rule and guide.
Colm Is a Deacon in the Archdiocese of Boston and a prison Chaplain. He and his wife Julie have 4 adult children and 2 grandchildren. His Catholic faith has always been a central part of his family and work life and is a source of endless joy.