Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Every Priest continues being a deacon

Pope assisted by Cardinal Deacons - who are actually bishops at Santa Sabina on Ash Wednesday.

On Saturday the Pope had another of those question and answer sessions with with the clergy of Rome, this time permanent deacons were also present.
In the Extra Form of the Roman Rite it was customary for a priest or even a bishop to vest and fulfil the functions of deacon, nowadays that seem very much frowned upon, as if the priesthood removes the previously received order of the diaconate , which all priests receive before being ordained priest. It looks as though there is a response to that here.

I should say that when I was archbishop of Munich, I didn't find perhaps more than three or four deacons, and I very much favored this ministry because it seemed to me to belong to the richness of the sacramental ministry in the Church. At the same time, it can equally be the link between the lay world, the professional world, and the world of the priestly ministry -- given that many deacons continue carrying out their professions and maintain their positions -- important or those of a simple life -- while on Saturday and Sunday they work in the Church. In this way, you give witness in the world of today, as well as in the working world, of the presence of faith, of the sacramental ministry and the diaconal dimension of the sacrament of Orders. This seems very important to me: the visibility of the diaconal dimension.

Naturally as well, every priest continues being a deacon, and should always think of this dimension, because the Lord himself made himself our minister, our deacon. We can think of the gesture of the washing of the feet, with which he explicitly shows that the master, the Lord, acts as a deacon and wants those who follow him to be deacons, that they fulfill this role for humanity, to the point that they also help to wash the dirtied feet of the men entrusted to us. This dimension seems very important to me.

On this occasion, I bring to mind -- though it is perhaps not immediately inherent to the theme -- a simple experience that Paul VI noted. Each day of the Council, the Gospel was enthroned. And the Pontiff told those in charge of the ceremony that he would like one time to be the one who enthrones the Gospel. They told him no, this is the job of the deacons, not of the Pope. He wrote in his diary: But I am also a deacon, I continue being a deacon, and I would like to also exercise this ministry of the diaconate placing the word of God on its throne. Thus, this concerns all of us. Priests continue being deacons, and the deacons make explicit in the Church and in the world this diaconal dimension of our ministry. This liturgical enthroning of the word of God each day during the Council was always for us a gesture of great importance: It told us who was the true Lord of that assembly; it told us that the word of God was on the throne and that we exercise our ministry to listen and to interpret, to offer to the others this word. It is broadly significant for all that we do: enthroning in the world the word of God, the living word, Christ. May it really be him who governs our personal life and our life in the parishes....

That being said, is it permissable for me to fulfil the ministry of a deacon, vested as such: the Pope's answer is obviously "yes".


Ttony said...

Father, have you ever thought of pulling together a collection of "Poor Pope Paul" stories? This is the third or fourth time you've published something which shows a man wracked by the consequenc3es of his office of his actions.

Anonymous said...

Also my boys want to be ' sacristans '..one of the fathers said that Priests were sacristans too!

GOR said...

Priests not also deacons...? Some time ago Fr. Z on What Does The Prayer Really Say posted an item about Maniples. At the time I thought he was just having some fun with us. Some of the comments bore this out.

One fellow posited that seeing as the Minor Orders were no longer being conferred, and the Maniple was the 'symbol' of the Sub-diaconate, any priest who had not formally received the Sub-diaconate had no right to wear the Maniple... I got a kick out of that!

As to sacristans Mrs. Parkes, unless 'sacristan' is extrapolated from the Minor Order of Porter (after all, sacristans typically open the church doors...), the position was never raised to the level of even a Minor Order as far as I know.

But today, of course, it would probably be considered a 'ministry'...

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

I couldn't agree more.

As I understand it, a man is ordained to the diaconate.
When he is ordained to the priesthood, his diaconate is not thereby taken way from him.

After all, why does a bishop when traditionally vested wear the pontifical dalmatic under the chasuble (as Pope Benedict has recently made a point of doing) ?

The revival of the Cardinal Deacons in papal ceremonies is a reassuring reminder that there is no sound theological reason, or indeed any long standing custom, whereby a Cardinal may not function as a Deacon.

So, there is no rupture with the Church's liturgical past.

I am not satisfied that modern liturgical fashion, which is against the practice, has ever justified its thinking in this area.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever considered that there is a distinction between 'diakonia' which all ministries share and the 'diaconate'? For a priest or a bishop to dress and take the role of a deacon is like asking a butterfly to act like a caterpillar.

The Lord’s descent into the underworld

At Matins/the Office of Readings on Holy Saturday the Church gives us this 'ancient homily', I find it incredibly moving, it is abou...