The Holy Father directly spoke of deacons last Wednesday during his General Audience. He rarely mentions deacons, and those of us who have been called to the diaconate have been a bit confused as to his silence (see previous posts). His comments on Wednesday were a welcomed relief. Thank you, Holy Father! We deacons stand ready to serve you and our bishops!
His comments are welcomed, not only because he speaks of deacons along with priests and bishops, but also because of some of the divisive stories that the secular press, and others, are putting out there about bishops opposing the Holy Father and the “threat” of schism.
All of us in Holy Orders are to be one in collaboration in building the Body of Christ. We deacons are sent forth by our bishops to do just that, and we present ourselves to the Holy Father in respect and obedience.
Here is his talk. The original language was Italian. The English translation below is from the Vatican Information Service.
Dear Brothers and Sisters Good day,
We heard the things that the Apostle Paul says to the Bishop Titus, how many virtues we bishops must have, we all heard no? And it’s not easy, it’s not easy because we are sinners. But we entrust ourselves to your prayers so that we can at least hope to be closer to the things that the Apostle Paul advises for all Bishops. Do you agree? Will you pray for us?
We have already had occasion to point out, in the previous reflections, how the Holy Spirit has always filled the Church with an abundance of gifts. Now, in the power and grace of his Spirit, Christ does not fail to give rise to the ordained ministries, in order to build up the Christian community as His body. Among these ministries, that of the bishop stands out. In the Bishop, assisted by priests and deacons, it is Christ himself who is present and who continues to take care of his Church, ensuring his protection and guidance.
In the presence and ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, we can recognize the true face of the Church: she is our Holy Mother the Hierarchical Church. And really, through these brothers chosen by the Lord and consecrated by the sacrament of Holy Orders, the Church exercises her motherhood: she generates us in Baptism as Christians, when we are born again in Christ; she watches over our growth in the faith; she accompanies us into the arms of the Father, to receive His forgiveness; she prepares us for the Eucharistic table, where she nourishes us with the Word of God and the Body and Blood of Jesus; she calls upon us the blessing of God and the power of His Spirit, sustaining us throughout the course of our life and envelops us with her tenderness and warmth, especially in the most delicate moments of trial, suffering and death.
The Church’s motherhood is particularly expressed in particular in the person of the bishop and in his ministry. In fact, as Jesus chose the Apostles and sent them out to preach the Gospel and shepherd his flock, so the bishops, their successors, are placed at the head of the Christian community, as guarantor of their faith and as a living sign of the presence of the Lord among them. We understand, therefore, that it is not a position of prestige, an honorary role. The Bishop is not an honorary role it is a service. Jesus wanted it this way. There should not be room in the church for a worldly mentality. A worldly mentality speaks of a man who has an ‘ecclesiastical career and has become a bishop’. There should be no place for such a mentality in the Church. The Bishop serves, it is not a position of honor, to boast about. Being Bishop means keeping ever present the example of Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, came not to be served but to serve (cf. Mt 20:28; Mk 10:45), and to give His life for His sheep (cf. Jn 10:11). The Bishops who are Saints – and there are many in the history of the Church – show us that one does not seek this ministry, one does not ask for it, it cannot be bought, one accepts it in obedience, not in an attempt to climb higher but to lower oneself, just as Jesus “humbled himself and became obedient unto to death, even death on a cross”(Phil 2,8).
It is sad when we see a man who seeks this office and does all he can to get it and when he gets it does not serve, instead goes around like a peacock and lives only for his vanity.
There is another precious element that deserves to be highlighted. When Jesus chose and called the Apostles, he thought of them not as separate one from another, each on their own, but together, that they might be with Him, united as one family. The Bishops too are a single college, gathered around the Pope, who is the guardian and guarantor of this profound communion that was so dear to Jesus and His apostles themselves. How beautiful it is, then, when the bishops, with the Pope express this collegiality! And try to be the servants of the faithful, the servants of the Church! We recently experienced this in the Assembly of the Synod on the Family. Just think of all the Bishops throughout the world who, despite living in places, cultures, sensibilities and traditions that are different and distant from each other, – One bishop the other day told me that to come to Rome it took a flight of 30 hours – even distant from each other, when bishops feel part of each other and become an expression of the intimate bond, in Christ, in their communities . And in the common ecclesial prayer all Bishops together listen to the Lord and the Spirit, thus being able to pay greater attention to man and the signs of the times (cf. Conc. Ecumenical Council. Vat. II, Const. Gaudium et Spes, 4 ).
Dear friends, all of this makes us understand why the Christian communities recognize the Bishop as a great gift, and are called to nurture a sincere and profound communion with him, starting with the priests and deacons. There is no healthy Church if the faithful priests, deacons are not united around their bishop. This Church not united around their bishop is a sick Church. Jesus wanted this union, of all faithful with the Bishop. The priests and deacons too. And this in the knowledge that it is in the Bishop that the relationship of each Church with the Apostles is visible and with all the other communities, united with their bishops and the Pope in the One Church of the Lord Jesus, that is our Holy Mother the Hierarchical Church.