This is superb: a very good unpacking of what the diaconate means, from Christopher Ruddy in Commonweal:
Today, in an effort to see deacons as something other than “first-class altar boys or second-class priests,” and also to avoid what some see as a too “churchy” or introverted view of ordained ministry, the diaconate often gets defined primarily as a ministry of service, especially of charity and justice—sometimes with subtle and not-so-subtle warnings against focusing too much on the ministries of word and sacrament.
However, the Australian Catholic exegete (and inactive priest) John N. Collins has argued, in numerous books and articles, that the Greek diakonos, as it is used in both classical and early Christian writings, is something quite different from a humble servant who washes feet or buses tables. It refers to an ambassador or an intermediary who is commissioned by a superior authority to proclaim a message or perform a deed. The deacon’s service is thus directed primarily toward his bishop, not to the needy. At his ordination, a deacon receives the Book of the Gospel from his bishop—“the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become.” This is a sign of his office. The nature of this office is also reflected in art that depicts angels vested in dalmatics (the outer vestment proper to the deacon, just as the chasuble is proper to the priest): an angel is a messenger sent by God. And, certainly, St. Paul’s reflections on the origin and nature of his apostolic ministry make clear this divine commissioning; even as he pours out his life ministering to his people, he is above all a “slave of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1).
Collins argues that the “humble service” interpretation of the diaconate grew out of nineteenth-century German Lutheran charitable activities and later passed mistakenly into German Protestant and then Catholic biblical scholarship, where it influenced Vatican II and Catholic theologians (e.g., Yves Congar and Thomas O’Meara). It has since become the dominant interpretation of diakonia and “ministry” in both Catholic and Protestant circles: “diakonia = ministry = (humble) service.”
My point is not that the church—and its deacons—should not serve humbly, but that its first (though not only) service to the world is to proclaim the Gospel to all creatures. Both Vatican II and the Council of Trent, for instance, affirm that evangelization is the preeminent task of the bishop.
And although both the “humble service” proponents and Collins himself tend to underemphasize or overlook it, the diaconate is also fundamentally a liturgical ministry.
You’ll want to read it all, which helps to cast the role of the deacon in a very different light from what many may presume. There are numerous ways to serve. Deacons (and their pastors and bishops) shouldn’t sell them short.