Today the Diocese of Cheyenne ordained the final permanent deacon of this year’s class of seventeen. Along with one priesthood ordination this year, this marks a tremendous moment of God’s grace and blessing in the history of this Diocese.
If the statistics I’ve read are correct, I believe this year the Bishop of Cheyenne ordained more priests and deacons for service in the local church than the Cardinal Archbishop of New York! But who is counting??? (I’m sure His Eminence will let me know if my numbers are wrong.)
Sincerely, all we can do is give thanks for these men who have answered God’s call for service to His Church. I was truly moved during today’s celebration on a number of occasions. First, it was very special to witness Deacon Mike’s younger brother, Father Tim vest him. I know what a blessing it is to share ministry with brothers.
Secondly, as the deacons came forward to share a sign of peace with the new deacon, I was moved to a deep sense of gratitude to God for calling ‘one more’ to preach the Gospel in a world so in need of the Truth and Light it brings.
Finally, the ordination rite speaks quite eloquently regarding the ‘charity’ that deacons are to bring to the Church. I am more and more convinced that the grace of God at work in and through the Church is the true ‘medicine’ our world needs for all its ills. I pray daily that our priests and deacons will be true agents of Christ’s love, and that more men will follow to meet the tremendous pastoral need of our time.
For those who wish to read it, here is today’s homily. Pics will follow tomorrow.
As we prepare to reflect upon God’s WORD and the meaning of the Sacrament of Holy Orders as lived by permanent deacons, I wish to first welcome all of you to our Cathedral. We wish in a very special way to welcome Mikes family and friends, especially his wife Judith and his children. The wives of permanent deacons play significant roles in both the discernment of this call as well as in the formation process. It is one more beautiful manifestation of how in the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, the two truly do become one flesh.
To you, especially, Judith, I wish to express our profound gratitude as the diocese of Cheyenne for sharing your husband with this local church for the life of service he freely embraces today. I also wish to thank you and your children in advance for your continued support of Mike in his generous service of the Church. And to your very-soon-to-be-newest member of the family; for his or her cooperation today, we say “Thanks” as well!
In his first Encyclical Letter, Pope Benedict XVI gives us a clear understanding of the nature of the Church. In many ways, his definition of the nature of the Church could easily be seen as a job description of the Deacon. Our Holy Father writes:
The Church’s deepest nature is expressed in her three-fold responsibility: of proclaiming the word of God, celebrating the sacraments, and exercising the ministry of charity. These duties presuppose each other and are inseparable. For the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others, but is a part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being.” (DCE #25)
Mike, the Church has long-defined the role of deacons as the ministry of charity. This ministry of charity has its origins in the very love shared between the Father and the Son and poured out upon the Church in the gift of the Holy Spirit. The particular ‘gifts’ that you will require to carry out this ministry through Holy Orders will soon be extended to you through the laying on of my hands. This gesture of apostolic succession expresses the intimate bond the deacon has with his bishop. This action continues the very presence and action of Christ in His Church for all times, for the charity you are called now to exercise is nothing less than the love of Christ.
As with all Christians, your life is to be built upon the very life of Christ. This is what Jesus intends when he invites us to ‘Remain in his love.’ For your ministry to be fruitful, you must remain ‘open’ to receive the precious gift of Christ’s redeeming love, and just as open and generous in sharing that love in the midst of your ministry as a deacon. In the celebration of every Eucharist, which is the heart and soul of the Church, the deacon has distinct roles to play, and these liturgical duties define the life he is to live outside of the Mass. Here I wish to make a very clear point. The life that the Eucharist nourishes in each of us is to be coherently lived in every aspect of our daily life. The life that the Eucharist nourishes in each of us is nothing less than divine life, the life of faith, the life shared between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
There is no ‘compartmentalizing’ this life of faith. It is either alive and flourishing, or is diminishing and dying.
So, my brother, you are to first live a coherent faith life, so as to be able to effectively en flame the faith in the lives of others. This is a great challenge for the Church today. This is a challenge which you as a deacon are to embrace, in order to help the People of God know the basic tenants of the faith, so as to live it fully and freely in their own lives.
As you continue to work and live in the midst of the world, precisely in the midst of your daily life, as husband and father, as co-worker and volunteer, you are to lead others to the Truth of the Gospel. This Truth has a name, and he is Jesus Christ. The Gospel is entrusted to you today in a special way.
This is one of the roles of the Deacon during the Eucharist, to carry the Book of the Gospels; to enthrone the Book of the Gospels; to proclaim the Truth of the Gospel. My dear brother, our world needs you in your person to carry the Book of the Gospels, to enthrone the Book of the Gospels, to proclaim the Gospel by a life of charity and service. In many ways, the deacon fulfills our diocesan Mission Statement to Proclaim the Gospel, Celebrate the Sacraments, and Invite others to a deeper relationship with Christ.
As a Deacon, your life is to be a proclamation that the Word of God is alive. The WORD became flesh in the person of Jesus to take up a dwelling place in the world as the fullest revelation of God in the midst of His people. Through the Living Word, through the Church, the same Jesus takes up his dwelling place in you and me that we may continue to be His witnesses in the world today. The WORD of God is our foundation. We are called to listen to the Word of God personally, and we are to listen to the Word of God together. This is exactly what the Church does in the Liturgy of Hours and in every Eucharist. In this manner we accompany the Living Word, the Risen Lord.
Part of the promise that you make today is to faithfully pray with and for the Church in the Liturgy of the Hours. Always know and believe that this is far more than just another book with sacred words. The Liturgy of the Hours is a precious compilation of the Living Word of God, and a privileged means by which the Living Word accompanies us, His Church. This life-breath of prayer is vital to our being able to faithfully accompany the Lord in the pilgrimage of faith through this life.
Another role of the Deacon is to assist the bishop and the priest at the altar. The altar of God is perhaps the most precious place in this world, because it is the point of access to Him who raises this life to its fullest potential, sustaining us for the life that is yet to come in all its fullness.
For the past several weeks, the Church has listened in the Sunday Gospel to Jesus’ teaching that He has come to give us life. He tells us that whoever eats his flesh and drinks his blood will have life. He even teaches that unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood, we do not have life within us. Your presence and service at the altar as a deacon not only draws you more deeply into the life of Christ, but now gives you a unique role in the very service of this life of Christ.
Finally, Mike, I encourage you in the work of the New Evangelization to help people realize the Truth that true joy is found only in and through Christ. There is a direct correlation between remaining in Jesus, and knowing the fullness of life and joy. Necessarily, there is also a direct correlation between the separation from Jesus and knowing darkness, despair, and death.
The secular world today falsely believes that freedom is found only when the human person is free from God. There is plenty of evidence in the world to demonstrate how wrong this notion of freedom is. Only chaos and confusion follow when we separate our self from God. A world closed in on ‘self’ and restricted to what man alone creates, can only lead to a dead end and a lack of true joy. Part of your task in teaching the Gospel and our faith in the Risen Christ is to help people realize that true freedom is discovered when the human person is in relationship with God. Only with the One who has conquered death are we capable of experiencing the fullness of life, because only the Risen Christ is capable of helping us transcend our ‘self.’
This is what true love entails; a giving of self to others. This is what your life as a deacon requires; a generous gift of yourself in charity and service.
Mike, conform your life to the person of Jesus, whose Body and Blood you are now entrusted to offer from the altar of God. He is the true servant, who laid down his life for the many that we may live. As you have been generous in sharing your life with Judith in the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, so now continue in the same generosity in sharing your life with the People of God who call you to this ministry of charity and service. Please know and believe that it is in such charity and service, that your life will bear much fruit for the glory and honor of God. Thank you for your faith. Thank for your love and service of Christ and His Church.0