Book ReviewsThe Deacon Reader

Book edited by James Keating.  New York: Paulist Press.  Paperback.  280 pages.   May 2006.  ISBN 0-8091-4389-5.  $22.95.


This book is directed at current deacons, those studying for the diaconate and for those just interested in knowing more about it.  Keating’s book is a collection of 14 essays on various subjects connected with the diaconate such as: the history of the diaconate by Fr. Edward J. Enright; the contemporary renewal of the diaconate by Deacon William T. Ditewig; the deacon and Gaudium et Spes by Fr. Paul McPartlan; the diaconate as medius ordo: service in promotion of lay participation by Fr. William S. McKnight; the deacon: icon of the sign of hope by Deacon Michael Ross; the moral life of the deacon by Deacon James Keating, who is also the editor of this book; theological education and the diaconate by Deacon Charles A. Bobertz; father and shepherd by Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas; the deacon and personal prayer by Deacon Owen F. Cummings; the deacon at work by Deacon Thomas Baker; the sacramental ministry of the deacon in the parish life by Deacon Ray R. Noll; the diaconate and marriage by Fr. Mark A. Latcovich; the deacon’s wife by Dr. Rebecca Meehan; the kenotic leadership of deacons by Deacon William T. Ditewig. 


Since this book is a collection of essays, readability varies from essay to essay.  Some are more academic than others, but the authors all do an excellent job on their topics.  Footnotes and a select bibliography are provided.  The authors and their credentials are listed in the front of the book.    There are seven deacons, one bishop, four priests and one woman researcher involved in this book.


All Christians are called to serve each other following the example of Jesus.  The deacon is the sacramental sign of this to the rest of the Church.  This book might interest those in authority positions in government, the Church, business, education, or even the family.  It discusses how a leader is called to not to lord it over others, but to be a servant.  This is following the example Jesus gave who did not come to be served, but to serve.


This book does well in presenting the history and theology of the diaconate.  It also discusses the problem the diaconate runs into concerning not being recognized by some as being part of the clergy.  Some clergy see them as being lay ministers at best while lay people see them as being almost a priest but who cannot say Mass.  The Church is still grappling with this and it will slowly improve as time passes especially since the permanent diaconate continues to grow in numbers throughout the world.  The largest numbers of deacons are still in the United States, but other countries are starting to restore it.  The future of the diaconate is bright and is meeting the goals the Second Vatican Council Fathers wished for it and it is also moving into new areas that the Church will have to discern about.


Several of the contributors to this book have written other books which include:  Saintly Deacons (2005) and Deacons in the Church (2004) by Deacon Owen F. Cummings; 101 Questions and Answers on Deacons (2004) by the present executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on the Diaconate, Deacon William T. Ditewig; the forthcoming book Way of Mystery by Deacon James Keating; The Latin Rite Deacon (2001) by Fr. William S. McKnight; Sacraments:  A New Understanding for a New Generation (1999) by Deacon Ray R. Noll; and Fr. Paul McPartlan was involved in the creation of the forthcoming Directory for the Formation of Permanent Deacons in England and Wales.


The Deacon Reader is recommended to deacons, those studying for the diaconate, to those involved in the formation of deacons, and to seminary or theological libraries.

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