Archbishop Lori’s Homily: Permanent Diaconate Ordination

Permanent Diaconate Ordination
Cathedral of Mary Our Queen
May 25, 2019

Introduction

All dear friends gathered for this diaconal ordination: Today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles describes how, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and after consultation with the community, the Apostles discerned that they should appoint and ordain co-workers to assist them in the daily distribution of food and other necessities. The Christian community, made up of Jews and Greeks, was growing rapidly. And while the Apostles must have rejoiced to see such growth, we get the impression that it was more than they could handle. In fact, the Apostles were getting complaints (something I find rather consoling!); Greek converts complained that their widows, who were in need of the community’s largesse, were being neglected.

Prompted by the Spirit, the Apostles chose seven reputable men to assist them, men in good standing who were filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom. The Apostles prayed over them and laid hands upon them and deputed them to distribute the resources, the goods of the community, to those in need. It turns out, however, that, in prompting the Apostles to respond to a particular need, the Holy Spirit had something more in mind, namely, the Order of the Diaconate. Indeed, the role of the Order of Deacons expanded, swiftly and organically. Soon, the deacon’s ministry of charity was linked to the proclamation of the Gospel and assistance in the Church’s sacramental worship.

Today, we have chosen twice as many reputable men as did the Apostles, fourteen! They are your husbands, fathers, sons, relatives, friends, and co-workers. As a successor of the Apostles, I shall pray over them and lay my hands upon them as an effective sign thru which the Holy Spirit will fashion in the depth of their being the image of Christ the deacon, Christ the servant of all, who came “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt. 20:28). I shall ordain them to proclaim and preach the Word of God; to assist at the Altar of the Lord and in the Church’s sacramental worship; and to engage in charitable ministries that affirm the dignity of the poor & vulnerable. As deacons, this is who they will be; as deacons, this is what they will do.

Qualities of Mind and Heart 

So now, my brothers and sons, so soon to be ordained, I address you. No doubt you have studied the Biblical roots of the Diaconate and in its development in the Church’s Tradition. You have been formed for the roles of evangelization, worship, and charitable service, roles of service you shall assume as permanent deacons. So, I will not presume to instruct you about that which you already know.

What I shall do is to reflect with you on the qualities of mind and heart which you are to bring to your three-fold ministry of Word, Sacrament, and Charity. And rather than pulling these qualities out of thin air, I shall take my cue from the Opening Prayer, the Collect, of this Holy Mass. On your behalf, this is what all of us prayed for, namely, that, as deacons, you would be “effective in action, gentle in ministry, and constant in prayer.” In this moment of grace and joy, let us reflect on what we have asked God to grant you.

Effective in Action 

First we prayed that you will be “effective in action”, that is, “effective in ministry”. This petition covers familiar ground, for your diaconal formation is geared to help you become an effective minister of God’s People; but what does that mean? Efficiency and organization are a good start but that’s surely not all we prayed for. We prayed, above all, that your ministry would produce the good fruit of the Gospel in peoples’ lives. We prayed that you would proclaim the Gospel with such clarity, understanding, and prayerfulness that its inspired meaning will resonate in the hearts of God’s People. We prayed that your preaching would open minds to the truth of the Gospel, and hearts, to the merciful love of the Savior, and that those you serve will be inspired to live as the Lord’s disciples in the world. Whether you minister at the altar or preside at baptisms, weddings, and funerals your single intention should be to draw the worshipping community into the saving embrace of the Crucified and Risen Lord. In your charitable works, you are to bear effective witness to the Gospel by touching the lives of those in need with the healing balm of God’s mercy. You won’t be able to solve every problem or address every need, but you can accompany the poor and vulnerable with a transformative love. Thus you will be effective in building up of the Body of Christ and in strengthening the unity of this local Church, the Archdiocese of Baltimore, a unity rooted in “one Lord, one faith, one Baptism” (Eph. 4:5).

Gentle In Ministry 

As you know, a gruff, pompous, or self-serving deacon is a contradiction in terms, for the word, diakonia, has to do with gentle and generous service of others. So it is that we prayed that you would be “gentle in ministry”, even as St. Paul urges in today’s reading from his Letter to the Ephesians: “I . . . a prisoner of the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility, gentleness, and patience . . . .” (Eph. 4:1-2). In the same way, the Gospel urges you to follow the example of Jesus, “the Son of Man [who] did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt. 20:28). As you go about preaching the Word, assisting in the Church’s worship, and serving those who are in need – strive to imitate Christ. Christ the Lord, who is “meek and humble of heart” (Mt. 11:29) – it is he who invites you to participate in his ministry. Your readiness to listen, your patience in difficult situations, your willingness to build bridges, and to avoid harsh and cynical speech, your rejection of all forms of clericalism – yes, it can happen to you as well – all this and more is what it means to be gentle in ministry, after the example of Christ. Let me assure you, a gentle spirit may be precisely what will open the hearts of those who are disconnected from the Church and alienated from others.

Constant in Prayer 

Finally, in our Opening Prayer, we petitioned that you might be constant in prayer. St. Paul, in his 1st Letter to the Thessalonians (5:17) urges us “to pray without ceasing”. And, as you recall, in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus taught us by means of a parable “the necessity to pray always . . . without becoming weary” (Luke 18:1). The truth is, prayer is essential to every vocation, including marriage and the diaconate, Through prayer we grow in intimacy with the Lord Jesus, and acquire from him a love that is generous and responsive to the needs of others.

As husbands and fathers, you already pray with your wives and families. Experience has taught you that prayer is essential to meet the challenges of daily life but also to make your homes domestic churches, havens of faith, safety, and joy from which the love of Christ radiates onto the larger Church and the wider community. As deacons, I urge you to build upon that life of prayer so that, together with your wives and families, you might encourage fellow parishioners and many others truly to live the faith.

Please never forget that prayer is essential to growth in intimacy with the Lord – the Lord whose Gospel we proclaim, the Lord whose Pasch we celebrate, the Lord to whom we minister in the poor and vulnerable. For that reason I urge you to punctuate your day with prayer and to the extent possible make daily Mass a part of your day, along with the Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharistic adoration, and the Rosary. Seek God’s mercy daily and seek it frequently in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and through sound spiritual direction, such that your whole life becomes an eternal offering to the Lord.

Cuando Nuestro Señor Jesús ascendió al cielo, prometió el Espíritu Santo a los Apóstoles para que ellos pudieran continuar su ministerio en el mundo. Los Apóstoles sabían que el trabajo de la Iglesia tenía que extenderse más allá de ellos mismos y, por eso, ellos escogieron a los siete hombres con mejor reputación para participar en las obras de caridad.

Como servidores de la Caridad, sus vidas deben reflejar la ayuda de Jesús a aquellos quienes la sociedad no los tienen en alta estima.

En el Altar, ellos son llamados para asistir al sacerdote, predicar, bautizar, presenciar matrimonios, y proclamar con sus palabras y sus vidas que el amor de Jesús continua a través de su Iglesia.

Como servidores de la Palabra de Dios, los diáconos tienen el reto de testificar aquellas palabras por medio de sus vidas de fe.

Como servidores de la Palabra, del Altar, y de la Caridad, ustedes son llamados a hacer presente a Cristo entre nosotros y afirmar nuestro llamado bautismal a la oración y al servicio.

Conclusion

Dear brothers and dear friends, In this Cathedral Church dedicated to Mary Our Queen, and in this month of May dedicated to Our Blessed Lady, I entrust you to her prayers – asking her intercession – that you may always be “. . . effective in action, gentle in ministry, and constant in prayer.” God bless you and keep you always in his love!

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Archbishop William E. Lori

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.