Introductory address and Closing words
given by His Excellency Archbishop Csaba Ternyák
Secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy
on the occasion of a Meeting for the Families
and a Conference presented by
J. Francis Cardinal Stafford
President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity
Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia
Saturday, 19 February 2000
My dear Brothers and Sisters, families of our Permanent Deacons,
It is with great pleasure that I welcome you here this afternoon to the Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia, during these auspicious days when we celebrate the Jubilee for Permanent Deacons, in the shadow of the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. 1 greet you in the name of the Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Dario Castrillon-Hoyos. I am pleased to add my own welcome as Secretary of the Congregation, as well as that of all my collaborators in the Dicastery. My name is Archbishop Csaba Ternyák.
As the families and friends of our dear Permanent Deacons you hold a special place in the support system that each Deacon needs for nourishment and perseverance in his ministry, both from the human and the spiritual perspectives. With you being a positive element in the family structure of each one of these ordained men, their ability to serve God as ordained ministers is greatly enhanced and enriched. And yet, it can seem at times, that you are made to feel of lesser importance, even that your sacrifices for your loved one’s ministry are not always realized by those whom he serves. In a few words, that you are not appreciated for being the family and friends of the Deacon, with all that that means.
In this context, I am reminded of the scenes in the Gospels when the Lord seems to human eyes, in an almost scandalous fashion, to minimize the bonds of the relationship of family and friends. When He says in response to being told that His mother and friends are waiting for him, "Who is my Mother?. . .Who are my brothers and sisters?" and answers that the one who does the will of the Father is mother, brother and sister to Him, we almost feel a little hurt for the Blessed Mother. It seems as though she is being pushed aside and not given her proper due. But the opposite is, in fact, true.
The Lord clearly identifies those who do the will of the Father as being His intimate family. In point of fact, no one embodied doing what the Father wanted more than the Blessed Mother in her "Thy will be done" at the moment of the Incarnation and her continual "fiat" all the way through the dark days of the Cross to the brightness of the Resurrection. In fact the Lord is exalting His Blessed Mother as the one, "par excellence" who has done the will of the Father and He calls us to imitate her if we want to be part of his intimate circle. He never loses sight of the priority of "doing the Father’s will" at all times, at all cost, and neither did His mother.
Thus when in man’s eyes it can seem that our role is being minimized and not paid attention to, it is very important to remember that in God‘ s eyes the opposite is true, and it is Him Whom we serve, not man. It is His judgment that is eternally important, not man‘s. He knows well that you as spouses, families and friends of these men called by Him to be Permanent Deacons, must, like the Blessed Mother Mary, lock many things up in your hearts. But know that the God Who sees all, does see, know and love you for doing the Father’s will and rendering vital assistance to the presence of Christ, the Servant Deacon, in your particular Church communities as you play your vocational part in building the "civilization of love".
Having said all that, we are honored this afternoon to have His Eminence, J. Francis Cardinal Stafford in our midst. As you know, he is the President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, was formerly Archbishop of Denver, Colorado, Bishop of Memphis, Tennessee and Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore in the United States.
You may not know that over half of the Permanent Deacons in the world are to be found in Dioceses in the United States of America. Cardinal Stafford has had many Permanent Deacons in the Dioceses in which he served; he has been a faithful promoter and supporter of the ministry of the Permanent Diaconate since its restoration. There is no one more qualified to speak to you as one who has walked the path of life with Christ the Servant Deacon and His family and friends.
Cardinal Stafford's Conference
*** AFTER CARDINAL STAFFORD’S CONFERENCE ***
On behalf of all of us, I wish to thank His Eminence, Cardinal Stafford, for his fine presentation to us this afternoon. He has brought to our attention the qualities to be found in the family of the permanent Deacon, and reminded us again, of the great debt we owe to you, the primary support group of the ordained Permanent Deacon.
Your Eminence, again, our heartfelt thanks.
Now we proceed, without delay, to the next item in our program, the Penitential Procession and entrance of the Holy Door. Thank you all for your presence here and may God bless you.