The diaconate has a rich history. During the Church's first five centuries, this ministry flourished everywhere
Sadly, some Catholics who see themselves as traditionalists have a problem with those of us ordained to serve as Deacons. I have only one thing to say, adjust. Either the Church made a mistake, or you have. Most of us have much in common with you. We are older men, committed to the Magisterium of the Church and sacrificially serving the Lord and the mission of His Church in an age desperately in need of her message and her mission.
St Stephen, Deacon and Martyr
ORLANDO, FL (Catholic Online) - In the Catholic Church, Christmas is celebrated for eight days (Octave, from the Latin Octava) and opens up into a wonderful liturgical season of Christmas. On this second day of the Octave of Christmas we commemorate the great Proto-Martyr (First Martyr) of the Church, St. Stephen, the Deacon.
To understand why we celebrate a Martyr on the second day of our Feast of the Nativity of the Lord, let us consider the insight of Blessed Pope John Paul II:
"The Church calls the day of martyrdom a "dies natalis" (day of birth). Indeed, by virtue of Christ's death and Resurrection, the death of the martyr is a birth in Heaven. This is why it is so meaningful to celebrate the first martyr the day after Christmas: Jesus who was born in Bethlehem gave his life for us so that we too, reborn "from on high" through faith and Baptism, might be willing to give up our own lives for love of our brothers and sisters" (Blessed John Paul II, Angelus, Feast of St. Stephen, 2002).
Here is an excerpt from an inspired homily by a great Bishop which gives us food for our continued Christmas meditation:
A sermon of St Fulgentius of Ruspe: The Armor of Love
"Yesterday we celebrated the birth in time of our eternal King. Today we celebrate the triumphant suffering of his soldier.Yesterday our king, clothed in his robe of flesh, left his place in the virgin's womb and graciously visited the world. Today his soldier leaves the tabernacle of his body and goes triumphantly to heaven.
"Our king, despite his exalted majesty, came in humility for our sake; yet he did not come empty-handed. He brought his soldiers a great gift that not only enriched them but also made them unconquerable in battle, for it was the gift of love, which was to bring men to share in his divinity. He gave of his bounty, yet without any loss to himself. In a marvellous way he changed into wealth the poverty of his faithful followers while remaining in full possession of his own inexhaustible riches.
"And so the love that brought Christ from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth to heaven; shown first in the king, it later shone forth in his soldier. Love was Stephen's weapon by which he gained every battle, and so won the crown signified by his name. His love of God kept him from yielding to the ferocious mob; his love for his neighbour made him pray for those who were stoning him.
"Love inspired him to reprove those who erred, to make them amend; love led him to pray for those who stoned him, to save them from punishment. Strengthened by the power of his love, he overcame the raging cruelty of Saul and won his persecutor on earth as his companion in heaven. In his holy and tireless love he longed to gain by prayer those whom he could not convert by admonition.
"Now at last, Paul rejoices with Stephen, with Stephen he delights in the glory of Christ, with Stephen he exalts, with Stephen he reigns. Stephen went first, slain by the stones thrown by Paul, but Paul followed after, helped by the prayer of Stephen.
"This, surely, is the true life, my brothers, a life in which Paul feels no shame because of Stephen's death, and Stephen delights in Paul's companionship, for love fills them both with joy. It was Stephen's love that prevailed over the cruelty of the mob, and it was Paul's love that covered the multitude of his sins; it was love that won for both of them the kingdom of heaven.
"Love, indeed, is the source of all good things; it is an impregnable defence,- and the way that leads to heaven. He who walks in love can neither go astray nor be afraid: love guides him, protects him, and brings him to his journey's end.
"My brothers, Christ made love the stairway that would enable all Christians to climb to heaven. Hold fast to it, therefore, in all sincerity, give one another practical proof of it, and by your progress in it, make your ascent together."
This Feast has a special meaning to me. St Stephen was not only the first Martyr, but he was a Deacon.I was called to ordination as a deacon in 1996.
Deacons have a vital role to serve in what is now called the New Evangelization of the Church. They are to be an icon of Christ the Servant, in word and deed. They are called to live life in the "real world", but live a life that is not "of this world". (See, e.g. Romans 12:2, 1 John 2: 15 - 17)
They are to be a witness of the Church, the "new world" - to use a term loved by the early fathers - and thus a a seed of the kingdom to come. They are called to live as leaven in the loaf of human culture, elevating it from within.
Deacons go from the altar and the ambo into the street. As a result of their experiences, they are often good homilists. Church history recounts the great homilies of Deacons, such as Ephrem, the "harp of ...
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