January 26, 2017
Father Michael Sweeney, OP
In September we will welcome a new class of aspirants to the permanent diaconate for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Men who are interested in discerning a call to the diaconate are invited to attend a presentation at St. Mary’s Cathedral from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 2. During the presentation we will outline the five-year formation program for ordination to the diaconate and the application process for admission to the program.
At the ordination of a deacon the archbishop places the Book of the Gospels in the hands of the newly ordained and says, “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.” Deacons are chosen from among the People of God to be “heralds of the Gospel,” to make the Gospel present in the community through a threefold ministry of service: service of the Gospel, service of the altar, and service of charity.
When he serves at Mass, the deacon prepares the altar for the eucharistic sacrifice. The whole sacramental ministry of the deacon might seem to be one of preparation: He prepares the People of God to receive their Risen Lord through his preaching and teaching; he baptizes and prepares men and women for baptism and the baptism of their children, whereby they enter into the life of Christ in his church; he witnesses marriage and prepares men and women to receive their Lord as one in a communion of love; he consoles the dying and their families and presides at vigils and interments, helping to prepare the People of God to meet their Lord in death.
In his service to the church the deacon is a sacramental sign of the presence of our Lord in the community, accompanying his people as one who came “to serve and not to be served.” In his service of charity the deacon is one who manifests a concrete and practical solicitude and love for others, visiting the sick and prisoners, assisting those who are in need, comforting those who are alone, advocating for victims of injustice, while always referring them beyond himself to the One who has sent him.
By his ordination the deacon is ordered to a life in which he is conformed to Christ’s urgent love for his “little ones” whereby none should ever be lost. The first sign of a call to the diaconate is therefore a deep desire to grow closer to our Lord through a practical love of his people and a willingness to undertake a life of prayer, of constant meditation upon the Gospel, of encouraging others in faith, of accompanying others in love.
Let us pray that our Lord will bless the church of San Francisco by raising up men to undertake this ministry in his name!
Dominican Father Sweeney is director of diaconate formation for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Email email@example.com or call (415) 614-5531.