My friend Kevin di Camillo draws our attention to a few of them in the National Catholic Register:
St. Ephrem the Deacon is the only Eastern deacon who is a Doctor of the Church, and was known even during his own lifetime as “The Harp of The Holy Ghost” — mainly for his ability to set theological teachings to music, and especially for his inspired poetry.
I’ve written before about deacon-saints and it’s a pretty impressive collection: St. Francis of Assisi, St. Stephen the Protomartyr, St. Laurence of Rome, St. Philip of the Acts of the Apostles, St. Vincent of Saragossa, St. Quodvultdeus, Deogratias and Cardinal Reginald Pole.
However, there are other deacons who have left their imprint on both the Church and the world. Perhaps first and foremost, at least as the study of history is concerned, is St. Alcuin of York (735-804). Although he is a “blessed” in the Catholic Church, the Anglicans revere him as a saint, and both Britain and Rome can be proud and thankful for this eminent churchman.
Alcuin made his mark as court adviser and friend of the emperor Charlemagne. He was, by every standard, a man of genius. Even during his lifetime he was acknowledged as “the most learned man anywhere to be found.” His expertise included not only theology and philosophy, but mathematics, calligraphy (which he perfected, making it more readable) and poetry. Also, even though “only” a deacon, he was made Abbot of Tours, France, where he died.
However, it was for his ability to teach and explain that he was so widely known and respected — since, when one thinks about it, what good is it to be genius if you cannot share that knowledge?
Another deacon who contributed to the medieval Church is one of Alcuin’s companions at Charlemagne’s palace school, and a friend of Charlemagne as well — Paulus Diaconus (or more simply “Paul the Deacon”). He came from Lombardy and among his important works to legacy of western civilization is his book, History of the Lombards. About the same time that his teacher was made the Abbot of Tours, Paulus retired to the motherhouse of all Benedictine abbeys, Monte Cassino, then a great center of learning. Renowned for his knowledge of Greek, he, like Alcuin, was also a poet.