Ordination to the Permanent DiaconateBy: Bishop Edward M. Rice Springfield MO
Homily of Bishop Rice
Ordination to the Permanent diaconate
August 12, 2017
St. Agnes Cathedral, Springfield
Michael A.(Michele) Fritz / James V. (Susan) Walter
I would like to begin by offering a word of thanks to the wives of our deacon candidates for the support you have given your husband as they pursue the permanent diaconate. It has been a spiritual journey for them, yes, but for you as well. If we can say that the spiritual formation of these men has indeed, made them better men, then I am sure, the same can be said of you, the wives. You have stood beside them, not only supporting them along the journey. You have had your own spiritual journey along with them. I am also grateful for the support of your pastors, Fr. J Friedel, from St. Peter the Apostle, Joplin and St. Ann, Carthage, and Fr. Mark Binder, from Holy Trinity, Marshfield.
Just two days ago, the Church celebrated the Feast of St. Lawrence the Martyr, on Aug. 10. Many are familiar with his dedicated service to the poor. As the Archdeacon of Rome, he was personally responsible for the care of the poor, the widow, the orphaned, and the sick. It was St. Lawrence who organized the relief efforts to feed the hungry. He took his orders directly from and reported directly to the Pope, St. Sixtus II.
Pope Sixtus himself was martyred while celebrating Mass, along with some of the other deacons of Rome. And, St. Lawrence should have been with him when he was martyred. As Archdeacon, he had the privilege and responsibility of assisting the Pope while at Mass. But, as it was, St. Lawrence had been sent by the pope to care for the poor that day instead of being by his side for Mass. St. Lawrence was not happy with the Pope. It is recorded that he said, “Father, where are you going without your son? O priest, where are you going with your deacon?” He wanted to be with the Pope, even if it meant to die with him. And, it is recorded that the pope told him to go and take care of the poor, you will suffer soon enough. And so it happened. Pope St. Sixtus II was martyred on Aug. 7, and his deacon, St. Lawrence, was martyred on Aug. 12.
That little exchange illustrates the beautiful relationship that existed between the Bishop of Rome, Pope Sixtus, and his deacon. It illustrates the relationship that should exist between every bishop and his deacons. In the homily provided for this ordination, it states, “It will be their duty, at the Bishop’s direction … to instruct people in holy doctrine.” It further states, “they will perform works of charity in the name of the Bishop or the pastor.” And, of course, a deacon promises obedience to his bishop.
Michael and Walter, never forget this point. You never act alone. In all that you will be asked to do, you do so in my name or the name of your pastor. In your ministry of word, of the altar, and of charity, you will help the Bishop and his priests.
Many of you are probably more familiar with another story about St. Lawrence. Once he was arrested, he was given two days to gather together all the wealth of the Church to give over to the magistrate. And so Lawrence did just that. But he gathered not golden chalices or precious jewels. He gathered the poor, the sick, and the widows of Rome and presented them, “This is the treasure of the Church.”
The ministry of Deacon
Yours is a three-fold ministry as outlined in the ritual of ordination. In the ministry of the Word, your own heart must be a tabernacle of the Word long before you preach the word. As a minister of the altar, your life must be a sacrificial offering, pleasing to the Father, in union with Christ, long before you minister the Body and Blood of Christ. As a minister of charity, your heart and your hands must be vessels of the Charity of Christ long before you reach out to the neighbor.
My dear deacons, never forget the example of St. Lawrence. Remember, that in all you do, you act in my name and in the name of your pastor. Exhaust yourselves in caring for the needy. Seek them out as you would a precious treasure, for so indeed that is what they are. And, not unlike St. Lawrence, offer your lives in service to the word, the altar, and of charity the very offering of your own lives in witness to the faith.
St. Lawrence the Martyr, pray for us.