Nearly ten years ago, the Church celebrated the Jubilee Year of Deacons. I liken it to this year’s Year of the Priest. I was reading a homily of Cardinal J. Francis Stafford, then President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, which he delivered on February 19, 2000 regarding the life, family and spirituality of the diaconate.
In it, he speaks of the deacon’s vocation to be a “confessor” of the faith. A confessor is one who is cast forth on a road filled with danger, like a lamb among wolves. Here is segment of the homily:
“The Sacrament of Baptism configures the deacon in his freedom to the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord….. The Vocation of a deacon is to be a “confessor” of the faith. He seeks to revive this ancient title in democratic modernity. He searches for that sanctity which informs the inner life of the university, of politics, of economics, of marriage and family.
“…. during his ordination the deacon was entrusted with the Blood of Christ. Central to the deacon/confessor’s anthropology is his self-awareness in Christ crucified…
“In the early and medieval Church a confessor was one who suffered for confessing the faith, but was not called to martyrdom. The term applied to holy persons….
“On the threshold of a new millennium, a confessor is one who has been cast forth, handed over by God. Where has he been cast forth? On the road he has chosen, on the road he has hurled himself on. The deacon/confessor has cast himself forth into the heart of danger like a lamb among wolves. The road of the poor and outcast, not simply the altar, is his vocation. And at every curve and bend of that road he will find challenges and suffering. St. Paul would describe it as warfare. The deacon’s walk is a heroic one. For the cup of blessing which he ministers is a participation in the Blood of Christ.
“…. Thus the deacon discovers that persecution constitutes the normal condition of the Church in her relation to the world. That is why the deacon is cast forth in hope.”
Our calling compels us to be willing to be hurled forth into the dangers of the contemporary human condition, that is, to be Icons of Jesus Incarnate, who hurled himself into a sinful world to redeem it.
Something to think about — confessors of the faith, sharers in the persecutions of Christ — whenever we elevate the Precious Blood of our Lord at Eucharist.