I was fortunate to be at the Basilica of St Mary, Minneapolis this morning to witness the diaconal ordination of seven men:
Please pray for these brothers.
Today they began to serve the Church as transitional deacons this year in preparation for priestly ordination in May 2008.
Good for them. They will take part in preaching and practice corporal mercy as demanded by the office of Deacon. Then, when the time is right, they will enter an even greater fullness of mercy, being ordained to the priesthood which empowers them to offer God's grace to others through the sacraments.
What binds these two offices together? What binds these men with us, the laity?
It is their common purpose: to give true witness to God's love to all people. That witness is the endpoint of both diaconal and priestly ministry and it's also what binds us all together, with our Bishops in a common witness, or martyria. We are all one in self-giving, in spite of our differing gifts and functions in the Body of Christ. So, I felt a great sense of kinship with these men as they stood in front of God's altar.
I am also reminded of the evening nine years ago when I myself stood up in front of an assembly at this huge Basilica during the Easter Vigil. I was there to be received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. I recall how my knees went weak as I stood in the sanctuary, turned and looked out at the gathered crowd.
It was a real one-ness moment.... this was the Church of which I was becoming a part.... these are the people with whom I am called to be in relationship..... this is the Body and Bride for which Christ gave His life. Immediately, I was smitten, wanting to give myself to this Church, not just for one night, but forever.
I suspect that our young Deacons had similar feelings today as they stood in front of the assembly. And it is this offering of self which our world needs so much to see today.
I ran across this commentary on self-giving witness from John Paul II. I think it states very succinctly the self-giving relationship to which all, and especially our leaders,are called. May our new deacons be strengthened in it for true service to others in the Church:
Homily for the ecumenical commemoration of the witnesses to the faith in the twentieth century on May 7, 2000 - Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana
“Whoever loves his life loses it and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (Jn 12:25)... These words contain a truth which today’s world often scorns and rejects, making love of self the supreme criterion of life. But the witnesses to the faith, who also this evening speak to us by their example, did not consider their own advantage, their own well-being, their own survival as greater values than fidelity to the Gospel.
Despite all their weakness, they vigorously resisted evil. In their fragility there shone forth the power of faith and of the Lord’s grace. The precious heritage which these courageous witnesses have passed down to us is a patrimony shared by all the Churches and Ecclesial Communities...
It is the heritage of the Cross lived in the light of Easter: a heritage which enriches and sustains Christians as they go forward into the new millennium... In the century and the millennium just begun may the memory of these brothers and sisters of ours remain always vivid.
I pray to the Lord that the cloud of witnesses which surrounds us (He 12:1) will help all of us who believe to express with no less courage our own love for Christ, for him who is ever alive in his Church: as he was yesterday, and is today, and will be tomorrow and for ever!"