From Ephrem the Syrian, Saint and Deacon

“O Lord and Master of my life, grant me not a spirit of sloth, meddling, love of power and idle talk. But give to me, your servant, a spirit of sober-mindedness, humility, patience, and love. Yes, Lord and King, grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brother, since you are blessed to the ages of ages. Amen.”

Saint Ephrem, a Syriac Christian, was born around 306 AD, in ancient Mesopotamia. Baptized as a young man, he also was ordained a Deacon. He acquired fame as teacher of the Faith, and as an author of hymns. His hymns were written again to promote and defend the Christian faith, as well to give praise to God. With his fellow Christians, he was forced to flee his homeland for ancient Edessa. He died in 373. He was proclaimed a “Doctor of the Church” by Pope Benedict XV, in 1920.

Fifty Years And Counting; Celebrating in “The Big Easy!”

deacon red stoleFrom July 22 to July 26, 2018, 1,300 Catholic deacons, along with their wives and children, gathered in New Orleans, LA, for the 2018 National Diaconate Congress.  This year’s meeting was significant because 2018 is the fiftieth anniversary of the restoration of the permanent Diaconate in the Latin Rite Catholic Church.  Nationwide, there are  18,500 permanent deacons in the United States.  Columnist, blogger, and Deacon, Greg Kandra, shares some of his experiences of the Congress.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, presided at the opening Mass.  In his comments to the deacons before the end of the celebration of the Eucharist, he challenged them “to be an evangelizing force in the world.”  The homilist at the opening Mass, was Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans.  He called on the deacons present to be the “conscience” of the Church; bringing it’s attention to the needs of the poor and powerless.  “All Christians are called to charity by their baptism, but deacons lead us as a church in the works of charity,” he said. “We look to you in some ways as the conscience of the church. We ask you to find those who are in need and to invite us to serve them. And when we forget them or fail to be people of charity as a church, we ask you to be our conscience and to call us back to what God asks.”

It is a challenge that all of us deacons need to accept, and act on.  Through reading and reflecting on the Scriptures, through prayer and being open to the Spirit, to realize new ways to serve the poor; to be a voice for the poor.  To seek from the Holy Spirit the strength to reach out of our “comfort zones,” and encounter the poor where they are.  Now is the time for us discover what new ways are open to us on how to live and minister as husbands, parents, and deacons.

Commission to Study Possibility of Women Deacons Appointed.

deacon red stoleThe Catholic blogosphere is abuzz with the news from the Vatican, that Pope Francis has appointed a commission of academics to study whether the ordination of women to the Permanent Diaconate is theologically possible.  The commission is made up of six clergymen, and six women, two of whom are religious nuns.  One of the women theologians is Phyllis Zagano, who is an author, and columnist for the National Catholic Reporter newspaper.  She has been a long advocate for bringing women into the diaconate.

I personally would like to see women being able to be ordained as deacons.  A vast number of Catholic women are already involved in the service of charity; serving the poor and homeless. Many Catholic women are already involved in the service of Word, through being religious educators; being lectors at Mass; and by the example of their own lives.  Many Catholic women are already involved in service to the Altar, through being extraordinary Eucharistic ministers at the celebration at Mass; and by bringing communion to the homebound.  And I am sure that many of these women, like the men, feel called to deepen this sense of service by becoming deacons.

Now, people should not fool themselves, or have high expectations on how soon this will come about, if at all.  We have just made the very first small step, with a long road ahead for those advocating for women deacons.  But, it is a beginning; may the Holy Spirit guide us!

When a Deacon Made a Difference

arialdoWhile surfing various topics on the Wikipedia, I came across an entry for Saint Arialdo, an Italian deacon who lived in the 11th Century.  Born of a noble family, he was well educated, attending a couple of universities.  He became a deacon in the Diocese of Milan, and joined a group of Milanese citizens with the goal of reforming the diocesan clergy, and Milan’s corrupt bishop.  The efforts by Arialdo and his compatriots eventually lead to the excommunication of the bishop.  On June 27, 1066, his henchmen would later ambush and assassinate Arialdo, while he was on a journey to Rome.  In 1067, Pope Alexander II would declare Arialdo a martyr and saint.

Even, in the early Middle Ages, deacons had an influential affect on the life of the Church.  The Diaconate may be different these days, but we deacons are still called to bring new life to our local parishes; by our ministries, and by the way we each live the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Reflection on Last Weekend’s Retreat

As I have posted previously, members of the Diaconate classes ordained in 2012, 2013, and 2014, are required to come together for a jointEnders Island Chapel retreat.  This year’s retreat was held at Saint Edmund’s Retreat Center, on Enders Island, Mystic, CT.  Our retreat director was Father William Murphy, who is on the staff of St. Pope John XXIII National Seminary, MA.

Some random thoughts from the retreat:

The Church’s primary message, received from Jesus Christ, what we Deacons are to proclaim by our words and actions: God loves us, God cares for us.

No matter what matter troubles afflict us, no matter what anxieties there are in our lives, “we are being held in God’s arms, we are safe!”

In the Book of Exodus, we see the Hebrews threatened by Pharaoh’s army, God tells them to stand firm, and not to be afraid, and He will save them.  God is also telling us to stand firm in the face of pain and suffering we may be experiencing; He will be there to help us.  God wants us bring all thing to Him, our joys and our fears.  In the Gospels, Jesus promises that He will be there to help us with our burdens.

As Deacons, we are to be witnesses of the Love of God.  When we proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ, by the words we speak to others, by the care we give to others, we are witnessing to God’s love.  When we help to raise people up from their burdens, we are witnessing to the love and hope that comes to us through Jesus Christ.

I know that for some these words may sound hollow; I will admit that at times the road ahead right now looks dark threatening.  But I also know that God cares for me, and is trying to help me, right here, right now, if only I just open my heart and soul to his Presence.  I trust in the words of Jesus, when today, He promises to be with me, and will be with me till the end of the agEnders Chapel JFJe.

This is the truth all of us Christians, especially we ministers of His Word must witness to, at every moment of every day.

A task Father gave to us Deacons was to remember the words from our Ordination and live them: “receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ whose heralds you have become.  Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”

The retreat was definitely a time to practice deeper prayer, to be more present and open to my God.  The challenge now is carrying that experience forward into my daily life. Enders Island 3

End of Retreat -Packing Up

Enders Is ChapelIt is Sunday, and our Deacon weekend retreat at Enders Island is coming to an end.  The day’s were filled with conferences, times for silent reflection and prayer.  I will be honest, I have not felt like writing and sharing on this blog, for which I am apologize.  Even this post will be brief, because, first all the laptop is being particularly cranky now; and I have to pack it it soon, and it needs time to cool down.

Just let me say it has been a very refreshing retreat, a challenging retreat, a prayerful retreat, and a retreat full of good fellowship.  The day I spent gazing at the sea; the evenings looking up at a star filled night.  Once is reminded of the beauty, and awesomeness of God, who created all this, and yet still cares for each one us, who loves each one of us.

More later.