reflections, updates and homilies from Deacon Mike Talbot inspired by the following words from my ordination: Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach...
Monday, July 17, 2023
Great comments from Deacon Greg and Deacon Bill (please click his link): where are the deacons in the Synod?
WHAT’S MISSING FROM THE SYNOD? DEACONS
THE DIACONATE IS AN ORDAINED MINISTRY THAT IS UNIQUELY SYNODAL IN ITS NATURE AND FOCUS.
“Father, where are you going without your deacon?” These words came to mind recently when the list of participants was published for this October’s Synod on Synodality. As a student and teacher of Ecclesiology, I was excited to see the expanded “guest list”. Every conceivable category of persons is going to participate in the Synod. Lay women and men, religious women and men, young students, bishops, presbyters, theologians, canonists — almost everyone gets a seat at the table. It is a glorious tapestry of the Church! Except that one strand of color will be missing from that tapestry.
“Father, where are you going without your deacon?” Among all the participants in this part of the synodal process, there is not a single solitary deacon. To many people, this may not seem an important issue. However, the diaconate is an ordained ministry that is uniquely synodal in its nature and focus. Ordained “in the person of Christ the Servant” to model the kenotic nature of the Church, deacons are (in the words of St. John Paul II) “apostles of the New Evangelization.” Deacons proclaim, invite, mediate, and pour themselves out to meet the needs of others, with a unique relationship to the bishop and his ministry. In 1967, when St. Paul VI implemented the Second Vatican Council’s decision to renew a diaconate permanently exercised, there were no so-called “permanent” deacons in the Church. Today, there are more than 50,000 such deacons, with about 40% of those deacons here in the United States.
This is more than a question of numbers, however. It is the fact that, given what the Church believes and teaches about the very nature of the diaconate, deacons could and should contribute to the synodal process.
Not only that: the Catholic Church has just three levels of Holy Orders — deacon, priest and bishop. For one of those three levels to be so conspicuously absent is, frankly, a scandal. It suggests — or confirms — that this particular part of the ordained is considered irrelevant, unnecessary, superfluous, or just not worth paying attention to.
I beg to differ.
As one of my mentors put it so well a few years ago, the great gift of the diaconate is the gift of presence, of being among the people in the pews every day, of being accessible, of sharing intimately in their joys and sorrows, struggles and triumphs. Deacons bear witness in the workplace and in the worship space, in the supermarket and in the sacristy. You run into them at Denny’s and at the bank, in the parking lot and the dog park. It’s been said often that deacons serve as a bridge between the clergy and the laity; they dwell in two worlds. True enough. They are more than preachers and baptizers. Deacons are your neighbors, your bosses, your teachers, your accountants. Unlike others who choose religious life, deacons don’t live in community or in a rectory or a convent. They are often called upon to support a family and juggle competing obligations, between the Church and the world.
In many places, under a variety of circumstances, deacons often become the voice for the voiceless, advocates for the forgotten, defenders for the defenseless.
Many bishops and priests know this. The people in the pews know this.
Why don’t the organizers of the synod?
Know this: Deacons do have something to contribute — something vital, important and unique. The Church needs to acknowledge that and, at the very least, give us a seat at the table. The faithful will be better served — and the Church better informed — with deacons joining the conversation.