The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Pope Francis' Challenge to Deacons

Diane and I have visited Rome several times in recent years, including a pilgrimage during the Holy Year in 2000 when St. John Paul II was pope. On that occasion we joined hundreds of deacons from around the world who had come together to focus on our diaconal ministry. What a blessing that was!

This year the Church is celebrating the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy and last week in a special way it celebrated the Jubilee of Deacons. This celebration drew permanent deacons from all over the world. Unfortunately Diane and I were unable to make the trip, but thanks to the worldwide web I could follow the events each day.
Deacons in Procession at St. Peter's - Jubilee for Deacons

One of the more interesting of these events was a Mass celebrated for the Jubilee of Deacons by Pope Francis this past Sunday, May 29, in St. Peter's Square. I was especially moved by the pope's homily in which he encouraged deacons to strive to live up to their calling as servants. He made a point that to be a good servant, one must be available:

"A servant daily learns detachment from doing everything his own way and living his life as he would. Each morning he trains himself to be generous with his life and to realize that the rest of the day will not be his own, but given over to others...One who serves is open to surprises, to God’s constant surprises. A servant knows how to open the doors of his time and inner space for those around him, including those who knock on those doors at odd hours, even if that entails setting aside something he likes to do or giving up some well-deserved rest."
Pope Francis meeting several deacons

The Holy Father then went on to challenge our parishes to focus on availability and not be slaves to a timetable. The needs of the people we serve do not mirror the parish schedule:
"One who serves is not worried about the timetable. It deeply troubles me when I see a timetable in a parish: 'From such a time to such a time.' And then? There is no open door, no priest, no deacon, no layperson to receive people…This is not good. Don’t worry about the timetable: have the courage to look past the timetable. In this way, dear deacons, if you show that you are available to others, your ministry will not be self-serving, but evangelically fruitful."
The Holy Father is right. So many parishes operate as if they are store-front providers of retail services, available only when the store is open for business. Perhaps deacons can be the catalysts for change and develop creative ways to make our parishes more available to those we serve.

Finally, Pope Francis addressed the need for spiritual healing so we can more readily give ourselves to others.
"To be ready to serve, we need a healthy heart: a heart healed by God, one which knows forgiveness and is neither closed nor hardened. We would do well each day to pray trustingly for this, asking to be healed by Jesus, to grow more like him who 'no longer calls us servants but friends.'”
You can read the Holy Father's entire homily here: Homily - Jubilee of Deacons.

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