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Lynn Clay wrote:

Hi guys,

  • What is the difference between a deacon, a brother, and a priest?


  { What is the difference between a deacon, a brother, and a priest? }

Mike replied:

Hi Lynn,

Thanks for the question.

The following answers were taking from Fr. Peter Stravinskas's Catholic Encyclopedia. I've enhanced his definition of Brothers.

Catholic Encyclopedia


The priest, or presbyter, is a member of one of the three orders of ordained ministry in the Church (the others being the diaconate and the episcopacy). The chief role of priests is to offer sacrifice. In the Eucharistic Sacrifice, they act in the person of Christ and thus join “the offerings of the faithful to the sacrifice of Christ their Head. . .” and “in the sacrifice of the Mass they make present again and apply . . . the unique sacrifice . . . of Christ offering himself once for all a spotless victim to the Father” (Vatican Council II, Lumen Gentium, n. 28). “In virtue of the sacrament of orders, in the image of Christ the supreme and eternal priest. . . they are consecrated to preach the Gospel and shepherd the faithful, as well as to celebrate divine worship as true priests of the New Testament” (Vatican Council II, Lumen Gentium, n. 28).

Transitional Deacon:

A man who has been ordained to the diaconate but who ultimately will be ordained to the priesthood.

Permanent Deacon:

In 1967 the Holy See restored to practice the permanent diaconate. Henceforth, with the approval of the episcopal conference, bishops could ordain single and married men to the permanent order of deacon. The Vatican regulations stipulated that unmarried candidates observe clerical celibacy. Married men who are ordained are prohibited from remarrying if their wives die.

Permanent deacons are clerics who can perform all of the functions associated with their order. These include proclaiming the Gospel, preaching the homily, assisting the priest at Mass, administering solemn Baptism, distributing Communion, presiding over funeral and burial services (but not celebrating the funeral Mass), acting as the official witness at weddings and exercising certain ecclesiastical offices.

Permanent deacons receive training in theology, canon law and pastoral ministry over a period that can last several years. In preparation for their ordination, they receive the ministries of lector and acolyte. Once ordained, they are in the clerical state; however, certain exceptions are made in regard to the obligations of clerics. Permanent deacons are not obliged to wear clerical dress. Rather, they are to follow the norms in place for their country or diocese. Although they are urged to recite the Liturgy of the Hours, they are not obliged to as are deacons preparing for the priesthood.

Permanent deacons perform a variety of pastoral services in various settings. In addition to general assistance in parishes, some function as directors of parishes without a permanent pastor.


The term designating the members of a religious community who are either not ordained and not intending to receive Holy Orders or those who are in the process of preparing for the sacrament. Some in religious orders can be called to the priesthood. Brothers who are ordained in a religious order serve the needs of the Abbot/Superior and the religious community in which they live. The Abbot is under the authority of the local bishop in most cases. Religious order priests have a distinct and separate calling from diocesan priests who serve the local Churches and the public under the local bishop as well.

I hope this answers your question.


Mary Ann replied:

Hi Lynn,

Deacons and priests are ordained clerics, and brother are vowed religious only (deacons and priests can also be vowed religious) That sounds sort of technical, I know. A priest by ordination participates in the priesthood of Christ through the bishop. A deacon is ordained for ministry of the Word and for service. He may also serve as an official minister of Baptism (anyone can Baptize, however), and as official representative of the Church at marriages.

There are two kinds of deacons, transitional (on the way to priesthood), and permanent. In the Latin Rite, neither may marry, though married men may be ordained to the permanent diaconate.

A brother is a special calling to service and prayer for the Church. It is not a "lesser" vocation. It is a calling lived in community with others, through vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The community of monks or friars also has priests to serve the community and to serve the Church. Some Orders have few, and some have as many or more priests as brothers.

Hope this helps.

Mary Ann

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