From 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.
In the Scriptures for this past Sunday, we read from the Book of Wisdom, that God creates life, only life. He meant for humanity to be immortal. It is only because humanity allowed evil into its hearts, that death came in.
In the reading from the Gospel of Mark; we see Jesus as the source of healing and life. A woman needed only to touch his cloak, and she was healed of her illness. Jesus restores a little child to life. And he will, by his death and resurrection, will free all from the power of death.
But death can take many forms. There is physical death, and then is the slow death of one’s spirit, one’s soul. Sometimes, the harsh circumstances of life can grind us down. So much so, that we begin to to feel dead inside to the beauty of creation; the love of others; the love of God.
It is in moments like this, that we need to turn to Jesus, through Word and Sacrament; through prayer and meditation. In encountering Jesus Christ, we encounter the healer, both of body and soul. Now this does may not mean an instantaneous healing. But if we remain open to the Spirit of Christ, working within us; we may feel a little more peace, a little more hope. And a new dawn will break open for us.