After too many months, my good friend Triple D—the legendary Deacon Doctor Ditewig (Bill, to most of us)— has revived his dormant blog, “Deacons Today,” with a fresh look.
Once again I apologize for not blogging as frequently as I would like. On the other hand, the reasons are wonderful ones: my ministries on behalf of the diocese, the teaching I am doing, especially graduate students in pastoral ministry, and the ministries of our parish are all life-giving and time-consuming. All of which is wonderful!
I have also been considering prayerfully whether to keep this blog running in any case. As a deacon of the Catholic church who is also a professor of Theology, I am sensitive to the varying responsibilities of each venue! After all, prayerfully crafting a homily is considerably different from academic research and writing, or from writing a staff memorandum! Some people who may visit this blog may want a more homiletic approach taken; still others may expect a scholarly treatise (I am confident that NO ONE will want a staff memorandum!). I make no guarantees: there may be some issues that I will essay in a more academic vein; other things may be more personally reflective. For anyone seeking to ascertain my theological orthodoxy, I would refer them to my academic work, and urge them not make judgements solely on the basis of blog postings, since there is no way, in my opinion, to provide the academic rigor on a blog as there is in more traditional contexts. Even if there were such a possibility, I choose to use the blog for more informal writing, discussions, and reflections. So, with that disclaimer, I’ve decided to keep the blog going!
Bill kicks things off with a look at the pope’s new exhortation:
Turning briefly to the opening of the document itself, we should comment on the pope’s choice to focus on “joy” as the theme of the Exhortation. Joy, of course, has a profound and venerable theological significance for Christians, leading Teilhard de Chardin to observe that “Joy is the infallible sign of God’s presence.” There are numerous “Francis” touches related to this theme. While fully acknowledging the sufferings of so many persons today, he observes that “there are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter” (#6), and that “sometimes we are tempted to find excuses and complain, acting as if we could only be happy if a thousand conditions were met” (#7). And yet, with a masterful use of scripture and calling upon other sources such as Paul VI (especially Evangelii nuntiandi) and even the Aparecida document of the bishops of Latin America, Francis calls all of us to recall the fundamental joy that should permeate the hearts and lives of all.
Paragraph #15 cites Pope John Paul II’s Redemptoris missio of 1990, in which the late pope wrote, “today missionary activity still represents the greats challenge for the Church” and “the missionary task must remain foremost.” Pope Francis asks, “What would happen if we were to take these words seriously?” He immediately answers his own question: “We would realize that missionary outreach is paradigmatic for all the Church’s activity” [emphasis in the original]. It is here that he turns to the 2007 Aparacida Document — as he has frequently in his homilies since becoming pope — writing that “we cannot passively and calmly wait in our church buildings,” moving rather into a “decidedly missionary pastoral ministry.” As every pope has said since at least Pope John XXIII, spreading the Gospel is THE mission of all members of the Church, and every activity in which we are involved should be understood as an evangelistic. It is clear from the Introduction to EG that Pope Francis intends to focus his person and his papacy on this renewed, incarnated vision of a Servant Church who lovingly and joyfully proclaims God’s presence to all.
There’s much more where that came from. Check it out. And welcome back, Bill!