Sunday, 3 April 2011
The Mission of Deacons
Recently, I have been reviewing several foundational documents, speeches and catecheses on the diaconate. One such text is an address given by Pope John Paul II to a joint plenary assembly of the Congregation for Clergy and the Congregation for Catholic Education on 30 November 1995. The Congregations were gathering to prepare two documents on the diaconate, which were eventually published in Feburary, 1998. This papal address was the official launch of this project. I think it would be interesting to share some of it here as part of our reflection on deacons and the ministry of charity.
Entitled "Deacons Are Configured to Christ the Servant," the whole address is excellent, but one paragraph is particularly rich in significance. Here's the first part of what the pope had to say:
“The exercise of the diaconal ministry—like that of other ministries in the Church—requires per se of all deacons, celibate or married, a spiritual attitude of total dedication. Although in certain cases it is necessary to make the ministry of the diaconate compatible with other obligations, to think of oneself and to act in practice as a ‘part-time deacon’ would make no sense. The deacon is not a part-time employee or ecclesiastical official, but a minister of the Church. His is not a profession, but a mission!”
Deacons often find themselves dealing with a common misperception on the part of some presbyters and laity that they are, in fact, “part-time” ministers. Such a misperception places the locus of ministry on formal ecclesial structures themselves; the deacon, however, as a full-time minister, exercises diaconal ministry across the full range of human activity: whether he is at home with his family, at work in a secular profession, or functioning at church. At all times and in every venue he is, in fact, acting as a sacred minister of the Church, and the pope makes this point perfly clear.