Just one question regarding “A Deacon’s Lessons,” by Greg Kandra (7/20): What about those of us who are called to the diaconate but have been given a resounding no for an answer? We are left with a burning flame, placed in the deepest part of our souls by God, which cannot be extinguished, even “on a cold floor.”
Learning From History
Re “The Modern Diaconate” (7/20): A coherent theology of the diaconate, I believe, cannot be developed without a clear, accurate understanding of the entire history of the diaconate, starting with the original seven who some say were the first deacons. No doubt the diaconate as currently lived has its variances from the diaconate in the first century of the church or the diaconate of the 12th century. Is today’s diaconate the same calling of the Spirit as that to which were called the first deacons, or the deacons described by St. Ignatius of Antioch and others? In what way has the Holy Spirit’s calling remained consistent, and in what way has it changed? These questions seem inadequately answered today.
Perhaps more easily answered is how the church’s calling of men to this vocation has remained consistent and how it has varied. As the Second Vatican Council strove to accomplish, we too need to return to our roots, all the while reading the “signs of the times,” and respond. Most of what I have read regarding the diaconate is a contemporary snapshot, a description of what it is now, with partial attention to its historical development. The entire period of time from about A.D. 800 to the Council of Trent goes largely unnoticed. At least I have not been apprised of any good reading for this time period in the Latin rite. Finally, what can the Latin rite church glean from studying in earnest the rich history, theology and spirituality of the diaconate in the Eastern rite churches or the Orthodox?
A Small and Angry Reaction
I have a nagging feeling in my gut that the diaconate (“Married and Ordained,” 7/20) subtly supports an ordination practice that is painfully broken in our church. I know wonderful people who are deacons. Deacons do good work. Still, I feel an instinctual resentment at the ways the diaconate 1) still excludes women and 2) enables the current ordination policy. Deacons fill some staffing shortages and they reinforce the clericalism that chokes lively faith in action. The discussion about the role of wives seems silly to me. The wives are put in a publicly and structurally subordinate position no matter how personally supportive or ministerially active they are. What are we doing when we hold them up as models?
And speaking of subordinate women, it could be said that we offer ordination as “bonus,” if you will, for men in the diaconate formation programs, while (mostly) women in the lay pastoral ministry programs study much the same material, undergo similar faith formation and end up doing similar work without the sacramental privileges. Would many of these men be willing to study for pastoral certification and work in parishes if they were not offered the prestige of ordination at the conclusion of their studies?
I am a little afraid of my reactions on this topic because they are not informed by research or even much experience. They seem, well, small and angry. But my reactions persist even upon reflection.
So I wonder what reactions are my peers in the pew having? Are there any theologians or scholars out there writing about whether the diaconate ministry perpetuates harm?
Lisa Maechling Debbeler
That Cold Stone Floor
I commend Greg Kandra for his heartfelt article, “A Deacon’s Lessons” (7/20). I am a lay pastoral minister in my diocese. As such I am the pastoral care minister, chairperson of the parish liturgy committee, and in charge of the extraordinary ministers of holy Communion in my parish. Deacon Kandra is correct—the work in ministry is difficult, time-consuming and at times frustrating.
I too am moved to tears when I visit the homebound and look into the eyes of an Alzheimer victim, a paralyzed elderly person and a cancer sufferer. I see Christ in them. He shines in their suffering and I am moved to tears when they smile and are so grateful I bring him to them. Sometimes at Mass when distributing holy Communion, my eyes fill with tears as I say “the Body of Christ” to my fellow parishioners. Yes, the hours are long, and some weeks I’m out four nights at meetings and prayer groups. It is hard but it is also rewarding.
I have never experienced that cold stone floor and I know I never will, because I am a woman and I cannot be ordained a deacon. But I have experienced the living Christ in the joy, the camaraderie, the fun, the teasing and the love of those I serve with in my parish. That joy brings the assurance and knowledge of the living God who holds and guides me as I serve his children.
I will never be ordained, but I too serve and am grateful to God for that privilege. Maybe someday we will have women deacons who will experience that stone floor and ordination too.
Margaret C. Jones
The Missing Elements
Re “The Stakeholder Society” (Editorial, 8/3): The current economic crisis in the U.S. banking-capitalist system, affecting the whole world, is based on the greed of corporate executives taking gross profits while bankrupting investors and clients’ bank accounts and giving loans without capital backing. Gratuity does not even touch the real problem. The homeless, unemployed and underpaid need a good fishing pole, not the gift of a fish from the overflowing nets of a wealthy patron. Morality, ethics and accountability are missing from the “gratuitousness” equation.
Michael R. Saso
Los Angeles, Calif.
Regarding the essay “The Eyes of a Child” (8/3): Many years ago, in Bangor, Me., my 2-year-old came within a second of pulling the fire alarm (the pretty red box) right next to the area that housed the linear accelerator for which her physicist father was responsible. I suspect the response would have made the Maine state newspapers. I now notice all fire alarms within reaching distance of my 2-year-old grandson.
Mary Joan Graves
Truly an Improvement
I compliment you on the new design introduced earlier this year. I love it! The use of photos and color is much better; the new font is elegant yet easy to read; and the new layout of the arts section is much improved. I especially like that the information on the book reviewer is included with the review, instead of having to page back to find out more about the reviewer.
I have seen many magazines implement new designs in the past few years and have hated every one until now. This is the first magazine redesign that is truly an improvement. Congratula-tions on a job well done!
Jersey City, N.J.
Beyond the White House
Re the article “Legal Obligations” (8/3): Instead of the executive branch unilaterally writing its conception of what war powers may be, shouldn’t this be brought before the federal judiciary? There has been an interpretation of the law by one branch of government, the executive. Isn’t it for the judiciary to decide if that interpretation of the law is in line with the Constitution?
Andrew J. Russell