Archbishop Lori’s Homily: Ordination of Permanent Deacons

Ordination of Permanent Deacons
Cathedral of Mary Our Queen
May 22, 2021

Domestic Church: Word, Worship, and Charity 

Over these past few days, I have had the joy and privilege of visiting with you, dear brothers, and with your wives, as we prepared for this Ordination. They were delightful visits as you spoke to me about your backgrounds, your jobs, your families, and your formation. In our give and take, what stood out most for me was your love for your families. Each of you, together with your wives, have sought to live fully and faithfully the vocation of marriage and family, and as a testament to your dedication, we are joined today by your children, and in some cases, by your grandchildren.

As you spoke of your life at home, a phrase from the Church’s Tradition kept recurring in my mind and heart, namely, the phrase, “domestic church”. You have sought to make your homes, not merely places of love and security, but indeed, havens of faith and hope and love. For all your diversity of background and place, three common characteristics of your homes, your domestic churches, stood out: First, you founded your homes on Faith in Jesus Christ and on the Church’s Faith. You have built your homes on the solid rock of the Lord’s love and his teaching, and within the walls of your homes you have shared the Faith with your spouses, and you have shared and handed on the Faith to your children and grandchildren. Second, your homes have become beautiful by prayer. Some of you described for me how you read the Scriptures and pray together, how you set aside time in each of your busy days to pray, and not only to pray, but to offer to God the sacrifices of love that go hand-in-hand with marriage and family. Third, your homes are places of charity, places of love, not only for your families but indeed for the wider community, for those who are in need, especially the poor. Long before you seriously entertained the idea of the diaconate, you understood how central love for the poor is in the life of every Christian. What came through loud in clear in our Zoom meeting was the quality of the love that you share in your families and with many others. It is not a selfish love that seeks its own gain but a generous love that seeks the good of the beloved, even amid life’s challenges, the very sort of love that Jesus our Good Shepherd and Savior has lavished upon us all. In a word, your homes are marked by faith, prayer, and an exquisite charity.

Serving the Larger Church 

In homes such as yours, the Holy Spirit is not a mere guest but the animating force. For the Holy Spirit links us to Christ and makes his redeeming love present to us, and in such an atmosphere of faith and love, the Lord’s voice is more likely to be heard. You and your wives did indeed listen to the voice of the Lord, and in your prayer and generosity, you discerned a further calling. You discerned a calling to serve the larger church, your parishes and the Archdiocese, just as you serve so generously the domestic churches you have established. Such discernment, often aided by the encouragement of family and friends, led you to enter upon a period of intense formation, lasting four to five years, thru which the Church would find you to be filled “with wisdom and the Holy Spirit”. None of this was easy but you undertook this challenge as a couple and found in your formation, not only preparation for diaconal ministry, but also mutual enrichment for the continued living of your vocation of marriage.

Now, in the full light of this diaconal ordination ceremony, it becomes evident that the same characteristics of your service to your domestic church will also mark your service to the larger Church, viz., the Archdiocese and the parishes you will serve. For by the prayer of the Church and the laying on of my hands, you, my brothers, will become ministers of word, sacrament, and charity, a ministry that you will exercise in partnership with your wives and families. In light of today’s Scripture readings, let us reflect on the ministry you now undertake.

Ministry of the Word 

Just as you and your wives hand on the faith to your children and bear witness to it among your friends and colleagues, so now, you will proclaim the Gospel, preach homilies, and offer catechetical instruction. As you contemplate the ministry of the Word, let the words of Peter ring in your ears: “Whoever preaches, let it be with words of God.” After all, the word you will preach is not your own but rather the Word of Christ, the words of “spirit and life” that come to us through the Church’s magisterium. In the exercise of this ministry, turn to St. Stephen, one of the original deacons, asking that, like him, you may be deacons “filled with faith and the Holy Spirit”. As you know, St. Stephen is the Church’s proto-martyr, the first of the Risen Lord’s disciples to bear witness by laying down his life. In preaching and teaching, may you be filled with wisdom and courage, and above all, may you witness to the Word you impart by the testimony of your life. Thus, God’s word will continue to spread as it did when the first deacons were chosen.

Ministry at the Altar 

Just as you and your wives made your homes a place of prayer, and saw to it that your children were initiated into the Church’s sacramental life, so now, you will be assisting at the Church’s Eucharistic table, as well as baptizing, witnessing marriages, conducting funerals and prayer services. As good servants of the Church’s life of public worship, you will contribute to making the Church truly a house of prayer for God’s People. In the exercise of the Church’s sacramental ministry, let the words of St. Peter resonate in your hearts, where he says: “Be serious and sober-minded so that you will be able to pray.” Never forget that service at the altar of the Lord is first & foremost an act of prayer, an act of prayer whose goal is to lead the worshipping community into the Trinitarian communion of love and life for which they are destined, and which even now they are called to reflect in their daily lives. In this sacred moment, hear the Apostle Peter exhorting you, to be “good stewards of God’s varied grace.”

Ministry of Charity 

Finally, your homes are places of love – the mutual love of spouses and children – a love that overflows to your extended families, to your parishes, and to many others. Supported by families that grasp the beauty of self-giving love, you are to become ministers of charity, the distinguishing mark of the diaconate. As deacons, you will engage in a hands-on ministry of service to those in need, and you assist the whole parish in being a community of self-giving love and service. In the exercise of your ministry of charity, hear again the words of the Apostle Peter: “…let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins.” And again, “Be hospitable to one another without complaining.” Thus, like the first deacons you will welcome those in need and tend to them with a love like that of the Good Shepherd, who eternally attends to us in our needs. By the witness of charity, you will lead many to embrace the Gospel and to return to the Church’s sacramental life of worship. By your preaching and your manner of assisting in the Church’s public worship, you will encourage many to engage in ministries of love and service to those in need.

The Eve of Pentecost 

Finally, as we gathered on the eve of Pentecost, I pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to overshadow you, your loved ones, all those whom you will serve, and I entrust your ministry to the loving intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to Mary Our Queen, to Mary, the Mother of the Church. And may God bless you and keep you always in his love.

Archbishop William E. Lori

Archbishop William E. Lori was installed as the 16th Archbishop of Baltimore May 16, 2012.

Prior to his appointment to Baltimore, Archbishop Lori served as Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., from 2001 to 2012 and as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington from 1995 to 2001.

A native of Louisville, Ky., Archbishop Lori holds a bachelor's degree from the Seminary of St. Pius X in Erlanger, Ky., a master's degree from Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg and a doctorate in sacred theology from The Catholic University of America. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Washington in 1977.

In addition to his responsibilities in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Archbishop Lori serves as Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus and is the former chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.