Servant Church – Diakonia

So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, ‘Do you realize what I have done for you?  You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am.  If I therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.  I given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.  (John 13: 12-15)

In the above Gospel passage, and in many others, Jesus stressed that those who follow him, must be willing to serve both those within the faith community, and those who are outside of it.  Throughout all the Gospels, Jesus showed through his healing ministry, that the Messiah in their midst came as a servant to all.  So his Church was also to be a servant to all, providing aid and support to the poor, serving those both within and without the Church.  The Greek word “diakonia,” meaning “service,” has been applied to describe an aspect of life in the Christian Church.  As related in the Acts of the Apostles, the Apostles appointed seven men to serve the Hellenist Christian widows.  In Christian tradition, they became known as the first Deacons.  As the Church grew, so did the number Deacons, performing works of mercy to the poor.  They became an Order in the early Church, an official sign of Church acting as servant to all.

As Europe moved into medieval times, as Christianity became the dominant religion in Western Europe, as bishops and the Pope inherited secular power, changes began to take hold.  The papacy and the episcopacy began to take on the trappings of the nobility; some adopting the view that they, with the nobility, deserve to be served by the serfs and peasants.  The idea of a servant Church almost disappeared; it was preserved by laypersons who were inspired to serve the poor; by some bishops and priests who established hospitals, homes for orphans, lepersariums.   An active Diaconate also declined, becoming a transactional position that a man would acquire for a period of time before being ordained to the priesthood.

With the Second Vatican Council, the concept of a servant Church was reborn.  The Council, and many encyclicals since then, have stressed that all members of the Catholic Church are called to participate in the ministry of service to the poor, the homeless, and the forgotten.  Fulfilling this call can take many forms: giving financial support to charities; volunteering for food pantries and kitchens, homeless shelters and centers; visiting patients in hospitals and nursing homes.  We need to be open to promptings of the Holy Spirit; and discern an opportunity to serve and show mercy.

The Council turned once again to the Order of Deacons, to be a visible sign of being a Servant Church.  About fifty years ago, Pope Paul VI reestablished the permanent Diaconate in the Roman Catholic Church.  Men, married and single, from many countries, including the United States, have stepped up and been ordained.  They are servants to the Church and the world, through liturgical participation, works of charity, preaching and being religion educators.  In the Archdiocese of Boston newspaper, The Pilot, three Deacons have written an excellent column on the Permanent Diaconate of today.  I invite you to go read it.

In our country, in our world, there are people in need, who feel abandoned and discarded.  In such times the world needs a Servant Church, to bring hope and relief.  A Church who follows Our Lord Jesus command; “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

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“I am in Your Midst as One Who Serves.” An Ordination of Deacons – 2017

Deacon ordination 2017 4This past Saturday, my brother Deacons and I gathered at St. Edith Stein Church, in Brockton, MA. We were there to celebrate the ordination of 7 new Deacons for the Archdiocese of Boston. It was being held at St. Edith Stein, rather than at Holy Cross Cathedral, because the cathedral is undergoing a massive interior renovation. St. Edith Stein is a beautiful church, with an interior decoration that you do not see in more modern designed churches. It does have one drawback, very narrow stairs between the basement and main levels. The basement was where we gathered to vest for the ceremony.
Now, it had been raining heavily in eastern Massachusetts on Saturday, but the rain hadDeacon ordination 2017 stopped long enough for us to organize the procession into St. Edith Stein. The church itself was packed with the families and friends of the men to be ordained. A choral group from Holy Cross Cathedral lead the congregation in song, as we walked down the main aisle; bowed before the altar and took our seats

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I have been graced with good spiritual experiences, when I attend Sunday liturgies of the Eucharist, the Mass. But there is something about a grand liturgy, like an ordination, that really draws me into a holy place. Our presider was Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap, Archbishop of Boston, lead us in prayer. During his homily, he referred to the second Scripture reading, Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 6: verses 1 to 7. The passage describes how the Apostles had the early Christian community name seven men to serve the Hellenist widows. The Apostles laid their hands on the seven chosen men, and the Holy Spirit came upon them. Cardinal Sean noted that it was interesting that we now had before us seven candidates for ordination. He reminded us all that we, as deacons, are called to a life of service, both within the Church, and to the world.

 
After the ordination rite, we previously ordained went up into the sanctuary to welcome our new brothers into the fraternity of Deacons. We are joined together; to be servants by proclaiming the Good News to people, and by living the Good News. We are joined together; to be servants at the Eucharistic altar, to help add to the people’s experience of liturgy, to help distribute the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ to the community through Holy Communion. We are joined together, to be servants to the poor, to those in pain and are alone. As a fraternity of deacons, we support each other, and learn from each other. Together, we help the Church bring the Good News to the world.

 

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Weekend Coffee Share 10/09/2016

deacon coffee mugOver a cup of coffee, I would be telling you about my wife and I attending the 2016 Annual Convocation of Deacons of the Archdiocese of Boston, at the Pastoral Center, in Braintree, MA, yesterday.  There was a very good turnout of deacons, spouses, and men who are in formation for the diaconate.  After some coffee and pastries; the Morning Prayer, we heard a presentation from Deacon Stephen Lape from the Diocese of Albany, NY.  Deacon Lape is also a Licensed Social Worker, and his topic was on Addiction, the types, the addictive substances, and the treatments.  The talk was timely for us, since the Boston area has been going through an opiod addiction crisis.  Some of my brother deacons have been trying to help persons suffering from addiction, and/or their families, through this illness.

After the presentation, we received a report from two of our brother deacons on the results of a survey that was sent out to the Boston Diaconate community on the New Evangelization.  “The New Evangelization “is a term coined by the late Pope St. John Paul II.  The goal in the Archdiocese ofdeacon-convo-2016 Boston is to reach out to those Catholics who may have fallen away from the Church, and invite them back; and to reach out to others who may not be Christians.  This is to be done by having all Catholics realize that we are all called by Christ to become evangelizers; by our words and lives, to show that the Good News of Jesus Christ, still has the power move people’s hearts, and make a difference in their lives.   The goal of the survey was to provide a snapshot for our Cardinal Archbishop, of the work of the diaconate in the Archdiocese, and how it furthers the goals of the New Evangelization.

The survey shows that, as of 10/15/16, there are 166 active Deacons in the Archdiocese.  That a majority of us provide from 5-10 to 10-30 hours of weekly service.  That 52% of us preach on a monthly basis; a majority of us prepare couples to receive the sacrament of marriage; prepare new parents for their child’s baptism, and preside over the celebration of the sacrament; and a majority of us preside over wake services.  The survey also showed a multitude of other social, charitable, and parochial works we are involved in.  There followed small group discussions on how we can further the work of New Evangelization.

By CatholicTV

By CatholicTV

After a celebration of the Eucharist, followed by lunch; we heard a moving talk by Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart.  She is the foundress of an archdiocesan religious community of sisters, “Daughters of Mary of Nazareth” She is a favorite speaker of the Boston Diaconate community, and she did not disappoint.  She is an Iraqi Eastern Rite Catholic nun, who came to this country, in 2001, to finish her education.  She became involved in campus ministry at Boston University.  In 2005, she was received into the Roman Catholic Church, and in 2011, she received permission from Cardinal Sean O’Malley to establish the new religious community.

Mother Olga spoke to us about the need for prayer in our ministries, the need for humility, and the need for faith.  I hope to have more reflections in future posts.

Over a cup of coffee, I would share with you the today’s news that Pope Francis has named 17 individuals to the “scarlet;” cardinals in the Catholic Church.  13 of them are young enough to be electors in future papal conclaves.  Three of them are Americans; Archbishop Cupich of Chicago, Archbishop Tobin CSSR, of Indianapolis, and Bishop Farrell, formerly of Dallas, now Prefect for the newly formed Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life.  With these current and past appointments, Pope Francis is well on his way to leaving his imprint on the Catholic Church, well into the future.

Over a near empty cup of coffee, I would tell you that my wife and I are now visiting her parents and cape-in-the-rainone of her brothers on Cape Cod; and that it is raining cats and dogs, and the wind is blowing very strongly right now.  Ah well.

Well, the cup is empty, and I am now nursing a glass of beer.  I hope to see you next weekend, over a cup of coffee.