Blog People The so-called “Crisis…


The so-called “Crisis of Diaconal Identity”

As a permanent deacon of the Archdiocese of Santiago de Chile, ordained more than eighteen years ago, incardinated in the parish San Alberto Hurtado of Peñalolén, in the Eastern Zone of the Archdiocese of Santiago de Chile and as a married man (with my wife Sary) and father of three daughters (Sarita, Pía and Paz), I would like to reflect on the following: The threefold manner is still valid and nobody changed it; that is to say, we deacons must still exercise the ministry of the Word, of Liturgy and of Charity.

Reflections by our delegate Miguel Ángel Herrera Parra

The sentence spoken by Pope Francis: “Distance the deacons from the altar!” far from disturbing us deacons, should encourage and challenge us to be “apostles in the new frontier of the mission” (as stated by the closing document of Aparecida, issued by the Episcopal Conference of Latin America and the Caribbean, 2007).

Bild vergrößern If we distance ourselves from the altar, it is in order to come closer to the persons who are deprived of freedom, in jails or prison centres.

If we distance ourselves from the altar, it is in order to accompany the persons having a diversity of sexual identities, as well as their parents who support them, along the path of life.

If we distance ourselves from the altar, it is in order to come closer to the persons without a religious faith, and to those who live as a couple without a civil or religious wedding.

The God of Jesus Christ, who is Love and Mercy, wants everyone to be saved and reach the knowledge of Truth. Are we deacons collaborating in this mission, entrusted to us – as a Church – by the Second Vatican Council, to evangelize and serve the world?

Why does it hurt so much that we are compared with the lay people, “as if we were mere lay people”, if we lived so many years of lay commitment and love, which accumulated in our heart, a time during which the Lord Jesus blessed us in our marriage and our family, so that eventually, in this blessed lay life, we come to discern, with the help of the Holy Spirit, that we indeed aspired to be ordained deacons, only in order to better serve our community?

From my point of view and from my experience, it is not “the diaconal identity” which is in crisis, but rather the different interpretations of the diaconate, including some by us deacons; the cause for these interpretations is that, even in the initial stage of the formation to the permanent diaconate, most subjects taught were connected to the liturgical ministry and the ministry of the Word. The greatest weakness of the formation programme, was that deacons were presented with few subjects and concrete pastoral experiences of the ministry of Charity, which would make us capable of being deacons inserted in (not isolated from) the world of today, which changes at every moment.

However, the mere statement of the weakness in our initial formation is not enough. Even if our formation in various areas was lacking, it is now our duty, as deacons, to create places of formation for ourselves and for our wives, as well as to actively participate in this formation.

We have indeed done this in the Church of Santiago de Chile, where – within the framework of the Vicariate for the Clergy – we have set up, more than seven years ago, a team of deacons who, starting from a survey on deacons and their wives, are offering semester-long courses, at a high academic and pastoral level, allowing us to know and reflect on the Social Doctrine of the Church, pastoral care in hospitals, prisons, of migrants and of sexual diversity. During the time of the pandemic, we switched from in-person courses to online ones from our own homes.

During this lockdown, we have shared a sort of “long retreat” in our own families and have shared more than ever before with each of our family members, which is our domestic Church. How can we complain that we cannot do other things, outside of the house, if we don’t take maximum advantage of this opportunity to strengthen our beloved family.

Why should we complain that we cannot vest with our alb, stole and cincture, if we as permanent deacons actually had this precious time to realize that it is in the family that we can make each other happy through words, signs and proofs of love, even though this isn’t of interest to anybody?
Some speak of a crisis of the diaconate, because over the past months or years we have not been able to vest liturgically as we did before, in order to serve our ecclesial or parish community.

However, even without any stole, alb, or cincture, the important thing is that we are still deacons and – naked before God –, we wish to the best to our families and to our community.

To the extent that the deacons are fuelled and “challenged” by the reality of the world of suffering and exclusion, we can become deacons who, when again able to have access to the altar, will incorporate in our ministry the suffering and the commitment, the joys and hopes of the whole People of God. In this way, we will be able to offer homilies and reflections which will be, at the same time, more rooted in the Gospel and relevant to our respective social and cultural circumstances.

We distance ourselves from the altar in order to serve the poor,
we distance ourselves from the altar in order to bring them to Christ,
in order to wash their feet, in order to give them His love,
in order to be able to love and serve them as Christ.

When we approach the altar, we will bring the cultures,
of many suffering people, who have already lost hope,
when we approach the altar, we will not get lost in posturing,
we will speak of the poor Christ, who longs for our trust,

from the solidary Christ to a solidary Church,
who never falls silent, nor rests, until she alleviates pain.
In this enormous pandemic, let us cease competing with each other,
but let our every word be just love and service.

With much love and hope,

Miguel Ángel Herrera Parra
Permanent Deacon
Santiago de Chile

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