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Showing posts with label Diaconate. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Diaconate. Show all posts

Friday, 8 February 2019

Understanding the Diaconate: Historical, Theological, and Sociological Foundations - W. Shawn McKnight

Understanding the Diaconate:
Historical, Theological, and Sociological Foundations
W. Shawn McKnight
David W. Fagerberg (Foreword)
Catholic University of America Press
ISBN 9780813230351


I have both a personal and academic interest in Diaconal studies. Over the last few years I have read a half dozen books about the Diaconate, I have started an not finished just as many, and still have that many in my to be read pile. And I must state, clearly, and definitively, that this is by far the most comprehensive book on the Deaconate that I have read to date. I read this book of three weeks, taking my time, and really digging into the material. I know it may seem odd, but I want to begin with two quotes from the conclusion:

“An inadequate role description for Latin-rite deacons hampers the effectiveness of their ministry. For the diaconate to become successful it must have a specialized ministry that is well-defined and important to the life and mission of the church. Deacons know they are called to serve as ordained ministers, and they have some concrete guidance regarding what they are allowed to do, but pastoral demands and a lack of clarity pull them in various directions. We should not assume that, because the ranks of permanent deacons have been growing and the pastoral need is great, the diaconate will simply flourish now that it has been restored. The original Golden Age of the deacon in the history of the church, as we have seen, occurred before the legalization of Christianity in the Roman Empire, before the church grew to its large present structure of dioceses and parishes.”


“For the diaconate to thrive, bishops, priests, the laity, and the deacons themselves must understand what deacons are called to do and whether a particular ministry is appropriate for the diaconate. The deacon’s role cannot be reduced to a simple set of tasks, whether charitable or liturgical. Such limitations of the deacon’s scope occurred after the Golden Age of the diaconate in the church’s history, and the result was the gradual diminishment of the diaconate to a mere stepping stone to the priesthood—the very situation that the Second Vatican Council sought to remedy by restoring a “permanent” diaconate. Instead, deacons need a focal understanding of their role that organizes many potential activities, encouraging some and discouraging others.”

As I was reading this volume, I had to reign myself in and slow down and process the material. It was hard to put the book down. It in part reads like an academic text, and in part like a spiritual manual. The textbook part is objective, honest, and critical. Critical in the sense of a true and complete look at the Diaconate in history, as it is today, and what it could grow to become. But the book is also infused with faith and hope. Hope that the diaconate can grow and flourish not just in numbers, but in substance, in fulfilling the role envisioned. And part of that growth will only come about because of books like this that flesh out what the role of deacons should be, what it should not be, and help to fill the knowledge gap in regard to both of those.

The focus in this book is the charism of the deacon. What it is meant to be. Bishop McKnight also examines what it often becomes. The emphasis is on the deacon as social intermediary. The bridge between clergy the people and bishops. And between the church and those in need.

Reading this book as someone who has been discerning the diaconate and put off applying because of family issues. This book provides encouragement, and clarification. It Is very academic, and yet remains accessible. The writing is such that you just want to keep reading. And in fact, I was greatly disappointed upon finishing it to not find any other book by Archbishop McKnight available to pursue. But that being said, I will likely return to this volume and reread it in another year or so.

I recommend this book to all deacons, to grow in your knowledge, understand, practice and charism of your ordination. For those discerning the diaconate I have not come across a better resource. For Bishops, priests, and other religious this book will be an excellent read, not just to highlight what deacons are called to be, but what they are not. And for the rest of the lay faithful it will give you a clear understanding of Deacons, Priests, and Bishops, their roles, their relationships to each other and their relationships to us. It is an excellent read and I give it a solid 5/5 stars recommendation.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan!

For all reviews and articles about the Diaconate click here.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Why Deacons The Teachings of Pope John Paul II - Michael Evans

Why Deacons
The Teachings of Pope John Paul II
Michael Evans
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9780851839431
ISBN 0851839436
CTS Booklet Do630


This is another of the CTS books that I have stumbled across that is out of print, but I really wish was still available. I know a few dozen men who are considering the diaconate, or who are deacons that I would want to get this book into their hands. I have read this through twice now and know I will read it again. The description on the back of the booklet is:

“The Second Vatican Council restored the diaconate as a proper and permanent rank of the hierarchy. This 'permanent diaconate' is, unlike the priesthood, open to married men; it has importantly enriched the life and mission of Christ's Church.”

The chapters in this booklet are:

The teaching of Pope John Paul II
Selected official and liturgical texts

The introduction is really an overview of the diaconate, and its restoration within the Roman Catholic Tradition. It is also about half of the length of the book. So it is not a traditional introduction, but is truly an introduction to the topic of Deacons. The Sections in the Introduction are:

An Exalted Office
A Sacrament of Jesus Christ
A Service Person in a Servant Church
What Kind of Service?
The Bishops Man
A Distinctive Ministry
Priests and Deacons
Unity and Diversity
A Three-Fold Ministry
The Ministry of Love and Justice
Raising the Dust
Treasure the Poor

The Primacy of Love
A Bridge Person
The Worlds of Work and Family
A Ministry of the Cross
An Important Enrichment of the Church’s Mission

From that broad overview it moves on to excerpts from three of Pope Saint John Paul II’s addresses. The specific Addresses drawn from are:

Address to the Deacons of the United States and their Wives – September 19th, 1987
General Audience ‘Deacons serve the Kingdom of God’ - October 5th, 1993
General Audience ‘The Deacon has many pastoral functions.’ – October 13th, 2993
General Audience ‘Deacons are called to a life of holiness.’ – October 20th, 1993

And finally, the chapter ‘Selected official and liturgical texts’. This chapter contains

Article 29 from Lumen Gentium
Pope Paul VI Apostolic Letter, 1972
Homily for the Ordination of a Deacon
Examination of the Candidate
Prayer of Consecration (Second Part)
Presentation of the Book of the Gospels

Over the past two years I have read several books about the Diaconate. This one is the shortest. I have been praying about the diaconate even longer. This year I started the formal application process, and this book convinced me even more so of the value of pursuing this.

This little volume is a treasure trove of information on the diaconate. It draws from sources spanning 20 years. And I found it very moving and stirring. The book inspired me to be praying for the deacons I know, their families, and for the men discerning the vocation.

If you can lay you hands on this, it is an excellent read.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

For all reviews and articles about the Diaconate click here.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time 2018

Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time 2018

The readings for this weekend's mass are:

First Reading Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8
Responsorial Psalm 15: 2-5, Response 1
Second Reading James 1:17-18, 21-22, 27
Gospel Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Almost every day over the last few weeks I have had the thought about taking a break from social media. Between the clergy scandal, the Vigano papers, Trump, Trudeau. The whole world seems to be a mess. And for the most part that is why I continue to be Catholic, there is a quote from Douglas Coupland's book Life After God:
"Now -- here is my secret:    I tell it to you with an openness of heart I doubt I shall ever achieve again, so I pray that you are in a quiet room as you hear these words. My secret is that I need God - that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem capable of giving; to help me to be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond able to love."
And I would go one step further, "I need God and I need the Catholic Church". In my opinion and experience the three things that differentiate the Catholic tradition are the Eucharist (Mass), Confession, and our Mother Mary. I spent about 10 years outside the Catholic tradition, so for some I am a revert, I reverted to the Catholic faith, as opposed to a convert. And each of those three things played a central role in my return and my every deepening faith. The other day I had to stop by the parish to help out with a request. I sat in the empty sanctuary for a while. Jesus was there in the tabernacle. And with all that is going on in the world I just did not have words to pray. I just sat and visited with Jesus. All I could really feel was 'Jesus you are here, and I am here and without words that is enough'. And it was I came away much refreshed. 

This week's readings remind me of that need. Need for time with God, and time with the son. The second reading focuses on service:
"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world."
We need to keep ourselves pure so that we can be of true service. Our relationship with Father, Spirit and Son will help us in our relationships with others and help us to live a life of service. And that same though echo's in the gospel reading but from the flip side:
"Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, what is written, 'This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.' You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition."
Reading about the news today this passage could easily be written about some in leadership in the church and the Catholic community. But that is all the more reason to be praying, to go to confession, to receive communion. To receive the strength we need for the days ahead. Our mission, our calling has not changed, and if anything we need to live even more above reproach.

I pray for you my readers. And this week I ask a special prayer intention for me, after two years of personal discernment and prayer, I have started the application process for the permanent diaconate.  And will likely begin the year of formal discernment next year. I was asked why would I proceed with this with all that is going on in the church. I had asked my priest for the letter of intent 2 weeks before so much of this blew up. And in light of recent events, my call to serve is even stronger. It is not an easy time to be a Catholic. But it is important. As I stated "I need God and I need the Catholic Church". Please be praying for me and know that I pray for you.

Related Posts:

Sunday, 22 January 2017

The Deacon Reader - James Keating Editor

The Deacon Reader
James Keating
Paulist Press
ISBN 9780809143894

In starting to read about the permanent diaconate I could not think about a better book to begin with. This collection of essays edited by James Keating does an amazing job of giving a historical background, the factors that lead to reinstating this ministry, a general overview, and some personal reflections on this ministry. To be honest while reading this book I stopped a few times and wrote down extensive notes, and started looking for other books mentioned.

The sections in this book are:

PART ONE Historical and Theological Foundations for Diaconal Identity
1. The History of the Diaconate
2. The Contemporary Renewal of the Diaconate
3. The Deacon and Gaudium et Spes
4. The Diaconate as Medius Ordo: Service in Promotion of Lay Participation
5. The Deacon: Icon of the Sign of Hope
6. The Moral Life of the Deacon

PART TWO Pastoral Foundations for Diaconal Identity
7. Theological Education and the Diaconate
8. Father and Shepherd
9. The Deacon and Personal Prayer
10. The Deacon and Work
11. The Sacramental Ministry of the Deacon in Parish Life

PART THREE Sociological Foundations for Diaconal Identity and Marriage
12. The Diaconate and Marriage: A Sociological Reflection
13. The Deacon's Wife: An Emerging Role

Epilogue: The Kenotic Leadership of Deacons
Select Theological Bibliography

And the contributors are:
Thomas Baker
Charles A. Bobertz
Owen F. Cummings
William T. Ditewig
Edward J. Enright
James Keating
Gerald F. Kicanas
Mark A. Latcovich
William S. McKnight
Paul McPartlan
Rebecca Meehan
Ray R. Noll
Michael Ross

I fist looked at the Diaconate almost twenty five years ago. And I wish there had been a book like this at that time. This book has a strong focus on the history and theology of the deacon. The greatest strength of this book is the diverse voices. Hearing from so many men who are deacons or in involved with the ministry and formation of deacons. They bring years of practical knowledge to their respective chapters in this book.

From my first reading of this book, one of the most powerful chapters was chapter 2, The Contemporary Renewal of the Diaconate, by  Deacon William T. Ditewig. This chapter focus on the modern renewal up to and including Vatican II. Deacon William states: "At least four streams of influence converged at the council: (1) the German experience prior to the Second World War, (2) the Dachau experience and postwar developments centered in Germany and France, (3) pastoral developments related to the missio ad gentes and catechetics, and (4) significant papal teachings. I reread this chapter through a few times, and am trying to track down one of the books that it mentions that was last published in 1965. This books is worth the price for this chapter alone.

I also loved the chapters in the second section. The focus on The pastoral foundation of the identity of the deacon. The focus on the theological education and its importance to the deacon's formation and life. The deacon and work, and the ministry of being ordained and yet working in the world. The deacon's prayer life. And the Sacramental ministry of the deacon. I am sure I will end up reading books on each of these topics but the overviews given in the essays in this chapter. A great quote from this section is "Most diaconate formation focuses on the deacon's "church" identity: theology, sacramental ministry, preaching, and pastoral endeavors. This is all to the good, but as a result few deacons have had much chance to reflect on how their diaconate might find expression in their work, and how their work experiences can enrich the church. This chapter offers a few beginning reflections on this topic, along with some thoughts that might help stimulate thinking about some new future directions." And really leads on to ponder, reflect and pray. And looking at life in work "A second challenge for deacons as working people is to serve as a model of people who do not build walls between their lives as workers on the one hand and their lives as Christians on the other. Erecting those walls is a tempting proposition, because being a Christian person in a workplace is not a task that comes without problems. The fact is, Christian values and business values, while not completely incompatible, are not identical, and no one in business can lose sight of it." Yes all Catholics all Christians are called to model their faith at work. But with deacons there will end up being an even greater expectation.

The chapter on the deacons wife was also an eye opener. If a deacon, can end up being caught between two worlds, or bridging two words, the deacons wife will experience that but with an extra layer.

I have found that by reading this book I am not only thinking about my future but praying for the deacons that I know. Praying for their ministry, their families and they witness.  This was an excellent read. I would recommend this book to those who are considering the ministry of being a deacon. But it would also be great for committed Catholics who want to understand this ministry in their church and maybe learn how to support these men in a new way.

A great read and I look forward to reading more from some of the contributors over the next few months. Overall I would rate this as an excellent read!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2017 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by James Keating:
The Deacon Reader 
Spousal Prayer: A Way to Marital Happiness 
Listening for Truth: Praying Our Way to Virtue 
The Heart of the Diaconate
Pure Heart, Clear Conscience: Living a Catholic Moral Life 
A Deacon's Retreat 
Crossing the Desert: Lent and Conversion 
Spirituality and Moral Theology: Essays from a Pastoral Perspective 
Seminary Theology: Teaching in a Contemplative Way  
Seminary Theology II: Theology and Spiritual Direction in Dialogue
Seminary Theology III: Seminary Formation and Psychology  
The Way of Mystery: The Eucharist and Moral Living
Conscience and Prayer: The Spirit of Catholic Moral Theology  
Resting on the Heart of Christ 
Spiritual Fathers: A Workbook for Priests and Dads 
Entering Into the Mind of Christ: The True Nature of Theology 
Communion with Christ: Practical Prayer
The Character of the Deacon: Spiritual and Pastoral Foundations  
The Priest as Beloved Son 
Moral Formation in the Parish: With Your Whole Heart Turn to God
Christ as the Foundation of Seminary Formation

Friday, 20 January 2017

The Permanent Diaconate - A Reading List

The Permanent Diaconate - A Reading List

And so the journey begins. I am looking to do some reading on the Diaconate, or really all aspects on being a married deacon. I reached out on facebook, twitter and Google+ looking for recommended reads. Here is the list I have so far but would love more ideas. So please add them in the comments or drop me a line.

Yes this is research but also a sort of pre-discernment reading.

The Deacon Reader
James Keating
Paulist Press
ISBN 9780809143894

101 Questions & Answers on Deacons
William T. Ditewig
Paulist Press
ISBN 9780809142651

A Deacon's Retreat
James Keating
Paulist Press
ISBN 9780809146444

The Heart of the Diaconate: 
Communion with the Servant Mysteries of Christ
James Keating
Paulist Press
ISBN 9780809149179

This final one on my starting list might be hard to track down but I am trying to find it. It is mentioned in the second essay in The Deacon Reader the specific essay is The Contemporary Renewal of the Diaconate by Dcn. William T. Ditewig, PhD. 

Married Men As Ordained Deacons
Wilhelm Schamoni
Otto Eisner (Translator)
1st Edition 1955
Catholic Distributors
2nd Edition 1962
Burns & Oates

And I will add more as I get recommendations or these books lead me into further readings.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2017 Catholic Reading Plan!
Note: Links on titles to books will be links to reviews as I read those books.