This is not the easiest time to be a Catholic, to which many who have been reading news of late from both secular and Catholic sources can attest. To be quite honest, the recent allegations about the sordid behavior of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick have hit me, in particular, pretty hard. I mentioned recently to my husband that this scandal feels even worse than the onslaught of allegations in 2002. It might not be, but it feels that way.
Maybe it’s because, after the Charter, after the safe environments, after all of the apologies, the meeting with victims, the talk of transparency, the classes, the fingerprinting, even the excuses, it feels like we should be somewhere … better. But it turns out that we’re not, and it sure seems like we have a lot of work to do before we are.
So I needed a shot in the arm, big time.
Thankfully, at the end of July, I got one, in the form of 3,000 permanent deacons and their families who were gathered in New Orleans for the National Diaconate Congress. The event was marking the 50th anniversary of the restoration of the permanent diaconate, begun by Pope Paul VI after Vatican II. I was expecting an engaged group in the Big Easy, but I didn’t know exactly how that would manifest itself.
The first clue that this would be a special event was that the opening Mass, which had been scheduled to be in the historic and beautiful St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter, was relocated to a massive Marriott Ballroom on Canal Street. The cathedral simply was not big enough to accommodate the crowd of deacons and their families. That fact alone was pretty astounding. And while the beautiful setting was sacrificed, the sheer number of participants made for a deeply moving first liturgy. And that set the tone for the rest of the impressive event.
These deacons are, to put it plainly, in love with and on fire for the Faith. And they are hungry for any help or support that they can get as they live out their ordained ministry.
Being with this community for a few days as Our Sunday Visitor celebrated the launch of Deacon Digest magazine, it was very evident that permanent deacons are a critical part of the heartbeat of the Church.
These guys are in the trenches, visiting the sick, caring for the poor, visiting the prisoner. They are the manifestation of Christ the Servant to the world. And their witness is a reminder that while the Church is made up of humans who engage in bad behavior, it is also made up of many humans who are determined to engage in that which is good.
Right now, this has been a welcome reminder for me. That you, that I, that the parishioners in the pew next to us, can be and are engaged in the positive, joyful and life-giving work of the Church. That we can still faithfully work for good, despite the storms that may be swirling around us.
Thoughts? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gretchen R. Crowe is editor-in-chief of OSV Newsweekly. Follow her on Twitter @GretchenOSV.