Deacons and Marriage

I’d like to quote Herbert Vorgrimler in his book,  Sacramental Theology, (pg. 27o):  

“… all that a deacon does is done as a member of the hierarchy, of the clerus; whether married or not, the deacon makes it clear that the liturgy must have concrete consequences in the world with all its needs, and that work in the world that is done in the spirit of charity has a spiritual dimension.  Sacramental ordination asks for and effects in deacons the grace to perform this service.” (Italics are author’s)

Vorgrimler says that all we do is done as a member of the hierarchy. It is so tempting at times to compartmentalize our lives as deacons — “diaconate ministry”  from “occupational responsibilities” from “family responsibilities”.  If we fall into that trap, we betray our identities and we fragment our vocations, doing harm to all three aspects of our lives.

There are profound implications here for diaconal spirituality when it becomes identified with marital spirituality, as it is  for most deacons.  The richness of this has only begun to be explored by the theologians  (at least in contrast to the vast writings and thought on Holy Orders and celibacy).

To be a married deacon is in some way a calling to more fully and deeply understood marital spirituality.  A call to the diaconate after marriage can only be well understood if it is seen as a divine call to a form of marital spirituality that not only plummets the mysterious depths of our relationship with our wives but arises from its foundation.  Our marriages are transformed and necessarily are called to new heights.  After ordination, we love and communicate and give ourselves to our wives as clerics, as deacons, as Icons of Jesus the Servant. 

How then does the grace of ordination affect our wives,  for we are in marriage no longer two, but one?

Try to wrap your mind around this.  A lot to apprehend and appreciate.  A lot for which to be grateful. A great source for meditation and prayer.

About Deacon Bob

Moderator: Deacon Bob Yerhot of the Diocese of Winona, Minnesota.
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15 Responses to Deacons and Marriage

  1. Deacon Gordon Richard says:

    This even has practical Sunday to Sunday implications…try this one on for size: Where are you, as a deacon, on Sunday morning? In the pew with your wife (and family, perhaps) or ‘up on the altar’. We, deacons, might ask ourselves…which Sacrament did I receive first? Which have I lived longer? Which is more crucial to who I am? It all can be played out Sunday after Sunday.

    I would come down, for the most part, on marriage and family being the ‘first’ call for the married deacon and it means being alongside the person you have chosen to spend the rest of your life. Not to mention the ‘sign’ of that commitment and life together for the larger community.

    A ‘real’ practical challenge for married clergy.

  2. Loretta says:

    You ask “how then does the grace of ordination affect our wives”?
    I would answer that like this…. when you were married your wife took your name and became Mrs. Yerhot, now that you are ordained, she again takes your name and is now Mrs. Deacon Yerhot.

    Try not to complicate things so much. Have a nice day.

  3. mary says:

    I am Mrs. Yerhot and I am an individual. My husband is a deacon. We are married and this is our first vocation. It is the basis of my husband’s vocation….being a deacon. I am not Mrs. Deacon Yerhot. I am a spiritual woman and the spirit is within me and leads me throughout my day and night.

  4. Loretta says:

    I meant no offense. Of course we are all individuals. When married though the “two become one”, and since Bob is now ordained a deacon, that oneness with you remains regardless of his or your title.

  5. mary says:

    My husband is ordained a deacon, therefore, he received a sacrament in the church. I did not receive the sacrament of Holy Orders, my husband did. I need to say this is not a title. We received the sacrament of Holy Matrimony together and share it together. The sacrament of Holy Matrimony is the basis for the love and sacrifice we share together in our life we share together.
    Best Wishes. Mrs. Yerhot

  6. Deacon Bob says:

    Yes, the sacrament of Holy Orders is not about titles or privilege. It is about being conformed into Christ in his servanthood, his diaconia.

    One of the things that comes after ordination is the “title” of deacon. In the United States, the usual way of addressing a deacon is, “Deacon”. In formal correspondence the typical title is “Reverend Mister”. These form of address are in a sense a social custom. For instance, in the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches deacons are called, “Father Deacon”.

    We deacons ought not get too concerned about titles. Our model is Jesus.

    For us married deacons, our wives come first as they are those to whom we have commited our lives and with whom we have become one in life and love. The marvelous thing is how the grace of Holy Orders enriches our marriages through which our vocations as deacons were heard. Our wives are not ordained; they have not received the sacrament of Holy Orders. But in our oneness as a married couple, our wives are deeply affected by our ordination and the graces that flow from it. How this happens is something the Church is only beginning really to discuss.

  7. mary says:

    As a couple we discussed the fact that the energy for my husband’s vocation of the diaconate is found first through the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony we share together in love and sacrifice. Best Wishes. Mrs. Yerhot

  8. Deacon Gordon Richard says:

    Now, I have not been here for awhile, but this topic of deacons and marriage has generated some good discussion. Twenty five plus years ago, when I was in formation and eventually ordained some of us observed wives having a ‘greater call’ to diaconia or service in the Church than their husbands. The wives were intimately involved in the formation and may have ‘heard’ their call to serve sooner and more loudly. But, alas, when it came time for ordination only the man was given the stole and ordained.

    This may be an important reason for husband and wife to work together in serving the Church and God’s people.

    When ordination of women returns to the Catholic Church it may come through the diaconate as it did in the New Testament Church. We do seem to be going back towards the early Church…households of faith, smaller, more personable gatherings and meeting with others to follow this “way of Jesus”.

  9. Deacon Bob says:

    Pope John Paul II declared that the Church has no authority to confer priestly ordination on women. The manner in which he declared this is definitive. So I do not think women will be ordained priests.

    Deacons are not ordained to priesthood, but to diakonia. We are configured to Christ in his Servanthood. Yet, we receive the same sacrament of Holy Orders as do priests and bishops. The question is then can/will ordination to the diaconate be opened to women in the future. To my understanding, the Church has not made a definitive declaration on this matter.

    Perhaps a reader of this blog who is expert in Canon Law, Sacraments and Church doctrine could offer additional information here.

  10. mary says:

    I do believe that in our diaconate classes, it was taught that in the past history of the Church, that the Catholic Church had women deacons. Best Wishes. Mrs. Yerhot

  11. Deacon Bob says:

    There reportedly were deaconesses in the early Church. The question seems to be what was the Church’s understanding and intention in appointing deaconesses vis a vis the ordination of deacons. For instance, were they deacons’ wives, or were they ordained to the same office as deacons. I have tried to read the research on this and realize I am not smart enough and haven’t studied enough to know the answers to all that.

  12. I am a 41 yrs. married man with two children who attend Catholic schools, as you probably are aware there are a lot of parental involvements in these schools and with my wife being a nurse doing shift work this responsibility falls to me as well as being the only driver in the family. My question is how might this level of involvment towards my family work if I were to begin the formation of Deaconate?

    Peace and prayers,


  13. Deacon Bob says:

    Barry, great question! You, like so many of my brother deacons when they were going through discernment/formation, had that same question.

    There is no doubt that life as a married deacon requires good time management skills, especially when young children are involved. But quite frankly, too many young men put off responding to the call to the diaconate because they think it is incompatible with parenting responsibilities. In my diocese, there are several deacons with thriving young families. WIth the support of their wives, they are doing wonderful ministry for the People of God.

    We are clearly told in formation that if we enter formation as a married man, then our first priority is always our wives and family. We strive to live both vocations with balance. Our parish responsibilities must not cause us neglect of our families’ needs. The thing that happens after ordination that is so wonderful is that YOU change in a way that is very difficult to describe. Even when you are carting the kids around, you find yourself doing so with the heart of a deacon, as an “Icon” of Jesus the Servant.

    My ministry takes about ten hours a week as far as parish work is concerned. On top of that is the time spent in prayer each day, as is required of clergy, praying the Liturgy of the Hours in the morning and evening. This takes about 45 minutes to an hour a day. Ninety percent of my ministry is at my secular job. Whatever you are doing for a career/job, or if you are the parent at home full-time with the children, you will find people approaching you differently after ordination, even those who don’t know you are a deacon. God works in this way.

    My advice to you, Barry, is “Fear not!” Listen to God now. Talk to your wife, who will probably have some concerns and questions. Then talk to your pastor about your interest and he hopefully will direct you to the Director of the Diaconate in your diocese. Tell him of your situation and what you think God may be asking of you. You will then be in the process of discernment.

    Let me know how it goes for you. If you have any other questions, don’t be hesitant to ask.

  14. Thank you Deacon Bob for those enlightening words of encouragement! In regards to my wife this seems to an on going issue saying” you have no time for our family”, when ever I have an inspired desire to assist with the lectures or to begin a Liturgy committee in my parish or just lecturing once a month, though my wife is very prayerful at times and busy with her own charity(sewing shorts and collecting clothing, toys and other neccessities for the poor in the Philippines) she hopes that I too would embrace this same cause as she does. This calling of service has been inturupted many times throughout our marriage and now knowing this calling is not a full-time replacement to my secular career I find it difficult to persue once again. If you have any other suggestions it would be most appreciated.

    Peace and prayers,


  15. Deacon Bob says:

    Barry, if you have a calling (vocation) from God to pursue diaconate formation, you will continue to hear it over and over again. The process of discernment includes you, your wife, and the diocesan church. All three are important and necessary.

    The support of your wife is needed. I would suggest that you and she contact a deacon who has been ordained for a few years, and his wife, and you and your wife sit down and talk about it. Many wives have a lot of anxiety at first about their husbands pursuing formation.

    Let me know how it goes for you!

    Blessings to you and your family,
    Deacon Bob

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