I was tempted to post something about Pope Francis's motu proprio, Traditionis Custodes, restricting the celebration of the Mass and other rites according to the pre-Vatican II missal and other liturgical books. But apart from agreeing wholeheartedly with the Holy Father, including his reasons for restricting the use of the older Latin liturgical rites, I don't have much to say about it. This does not mean I am unsympathetic toward those who, in good faith, found benefit from these celebrations. I take heart in the fact that the pope gave much discretion to bishops in the regulation of the use of the liturgy in Latin, something Summorum Pontificum removed from them. This removal, as Pope Francis noted, has been to the overall detriment of both local churches and the universal church.
As Director of the Office of the Diaconate for my diocese, I am continuing to lead the process of forming a new class of aspirants. Aspirants are men who aspire to become deacons. According to the most recent iteration of the National Directory for the Formation, Life, and Ministry of Permanent Deacons in the United States, Apsirancy is now two years. Aspirancy is a time of discernment both on the part of the Church as well as on the part of the aspirant and his wife. With this change, formation for ordination to the diaconate as a permanent deacon is now a bit less than six years. Contrast this with the four years my class spent in formation from start to finish.
Discernment is critical. Discernment is a process. Discernment is a two-way street. If the Church does not call you, you are not called. Like other ecclesial vocations such as priesthood and religious life, it is important for someone who aspires to be a deacon to have enough exposure to deacons and the diaconate for the romance to wear off. Cutting to the chase, the magic of wearing an alb, stole, and dalmatic and sitting upfront in Mass wears off in about a month. A deacon is a servant. Hence, deacons do what needs doing according to their gifts, skills, knowledge, and availability. But if you don't like making coffee, setting up, and putting away chairs, the diaconate is probably not for you. The way I like to state it: Aspirancy is for those who think they aspire to be deacons.
Being on the committee for the planning and execution of my diocese's annual Pastoral Congress, along with the directors of the offices of Faith Formation, Hispanic Ministry, and Worship, I was asked to write an article for our diocesan newspaper on deacons as catechists. Below is a section of the article I have already shared publicly:
The vast majority of Catholic permanent deacons throughout the world, in the United States and in the Diocese of Salt Lake City are married. Because of this, deacons are uniquely called to simultaneously live out the sacraments at the service of communion: holy matrimony and holy orders. Deacon Owen Cummings dubbed these “the diaconal sacraments.”After it appears in the Intermountain Catholic, I will post the article in its entirety.
Most married permanent deacons are also parents. Like all Christian parents, deacons with children, along with their spouses, have responsibility for being the first and main teachers of the faith. This helps them understand firsthand the challenges and opportunities involved with imparting an understanding of Christian faith in the hearts and minds of young people.
Being married clerics also ideally situates many deacons, often alongside their spouses, to prepare couples for marriage. Deacons and their wives should be involved in parish and diocesan marriage enrichment programs as both participants and presenters. Preparing parents for the baptism of infants and small children is also a fruitful catechetical service.
When done well, advocating canonically for those engaged in a marriage annulment process is a chance to offer compassionate pastoral care. Additionally, serving as a canonical advocate for someone involved in an often painful, sometimes lengthy, and far too often incomprehensible annulment process presents an opportunity to assist them in attaining a deeper understanding of and greater appreciation for the sacrament of matrimony.
Another reason for posting today was to see if I could still sit down and type something coherent and hopefully useful on the blank screen. Whether or not I accomplished that can only be judged by you, dear reader.