With canonization fever under way, I thought it would be a good time to remember what one of the future saints had to say about deacons.
In 2000, during the Jubilee, Pope John Paul offered these remarks to deacons:
Dear deacons, be active apostles of the new evangelization. Lead everyone to Christ! Through your efforts, may his kingdom also spread in your family, in your workplace, in the parish, in the Diocese, in the whole world!
This mission, at least in intention and zeal, must stir the hearts of sacred ministers and spur them to the total gift of themselves. Let nothing stop you, but persevere in fidelity to Christ, following the example of the deacon Laurence whose revered and celebrated relic you have wished to bring here for this occasion.
In our times too there are people whom God calls to the martyrdom of blood; far more numerous, however, are those believers who must endure the “martyrdom” of misunderstanding. Do not be upset by problems and conflicts but, on the contrary, have ever greater trust in Jesus who redeemed humanity through the martyrdom of the Cross.
Dear deacons, let us enter the new millennium with the whole Church, who urges her children to purify themselves, through repentance, of past errors and instances of infidelity, inconsistency and slowness to act (cf. Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente, n. 33). The first to set the example must be the ordained ministers: Bishops, priests, deacons. This purification and this repentance are to be understood as referring especially to each one of us personally. Our consciences as sacred ministers working in this era are the first to be challenged.
Before the Holy Door we sense the need to “break away” from our selfish world, from our doubts, from our infidelities, and we hear the pressing invitation to “enter” the holy world of Jesus, which is the world of full fidelity to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. The divine Teacher’s words echo in our hearts: “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28).
Dear deacons, perhaps some of you are tired because of the burden of your duties, because of frustration due to unsuccessful apostolic projects, because many misunderstand you. Do not lose heart! Throw yourselves into Christ’s arms: he will refresh you. May this be your Jubilee: a pilgrimage of conversion to Jesus.
Faithful to Christ in all things, dear deacons, you will also be faithful to the various ministries the Church entrusts to you. How valuable is your service to the Word and to catechesis! And what can we say of the diakonia of the Eucharist, which brings you into direct contact with the altar of sacrifice in your liturgical service?
In addition, you rightly strive to live without separating your liturgical service from that of charity in its concrete forms. This shows that the sign of Gospel love cannot be reduced to categories of mere solidarity but follows as a logical consequence of the Eucharistic mystery.
By virtue of the sacramental bond that unites you with the Bishops and priests, you live ecclesial communio to the full. Although the diaconal brotherhood in your Diocese does not constitute a structural reality analogous to that of the priests, it spurs you to share the Pastors’ concern. All the features of your specific spirituality, which is essentially a spirituality of service, clearly flow from your identity as deacons.
There’s more. Read it all.