About the Author
Deacon Steve Swope was ordained in 2008 and lives with his wife, Marie, in Newnan, GA, where he serves at St. George Catholic Church. He currently serves the Archdiocese as the chair of the Diaconate Scrutinies and Evaluation Committee, as a member of the Deacon Personnel Board, the lead Master of Ceremonies at the Archdiocese of Atlanta Eucharistic Congress, and on the Board of Directors of GWTW Partners LLC, which oversees the management of Gone With the Wind. Deacon Swope is a Catholic Relief Services Global Fellow Educator and a member of the National Association of Diaconate Directors.
Father Frank DeSiano, C.S.P., was ordained a Paulist priest in 1972 and has been involved in Catholic evangelization for over 30 years. He is a nationally-known speaker, often presenting for clergy at convocations or retreats. He has written widely in the areas of spirituality, discipleship, and evangelization. His most recent book is Reactivating Our Catholic Faith: Reflections to Get Real About Faith.
Deacon James Keating, PhD, is the director of theological formation at the Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton University in Omaha Nebraska. He is a deacon of the Archdiocese of Omaha, where he serves as director of the office of the Diaconate.
Deacon William T. Ditewig, Ph.D., directs the offices of faith formation, permanent diaconate, and pastoral planning for the Diocese of Monterey, CA. A frequent contributor to Deacon Digest magazine, he is a prolific author, adjunct professor of theology, and a theological consultant. Former executive director of the Secretariat for the Diaconate at the USCCB, Deacon Ditewig is a retired commander in the United States Navy.
Read an Excerpt
Serving with Joy
Lessons From Pope Francis for Catholic Deacons Today
By Deacon Greg Kandra, Deacon Steve Swope, Father Frank DeSiano, Deacon James, Keating, Deacon William T. Ditewig, Silas S. Henderon
Abbey PressCopyright © 2016 Saint Meinrad Archabbey
All rights reserved.
Pope Francis: The New Evangelist
by Deacon Greg Kandra
Have you ever seen anything like this before?
That question kept coming to mind one evening in September of 2015, as I sat watching the extraordinary appearance of Pope Francis on a special edition of ABC's television program "20/20."
No pontiff had ever sat down for television cameras like this; none had ever taken questions from an audience in this manner, via live satellite; none had ever engaged the faithful in such a simple, direct, utterly disarming manner, and to such powerful effect. Throughout the hour, again and again many who stood to ask questions, or watched from their seats at three separate locations around the country, were overcome by tears. You sensed this wasn't just because of the emotion of the moment. It was also the realization that they were part of history.
Though it seemed to adhere to the conventions of popular programming — part talk show, part town hall meeting — the program managed to avoid feeling overly familiar for one simple reason: it was the Pope! This just wasn't something you see every day. And this Pope, in particular, wasn't speaking the way we are used to hearing Popes speak. The pontiff spoke poignantly and passionately, as a pastor to his flock, about the necessity of courage, and the need for love, hope, and prayer. In one of the most improbable but thoughtful exchanges, he even talked about soccer.
That occurred when a 19-year-old named Ricardo Ortiz, a soccer player, brought up problems with poverty and immigration; Ricardo himself, it was explained, had to take care of his family after his father became sick. Ricardo was later denied a scholarship because he was not a U.S. citizen.
The Pope's response, in part:
We are all responsible for everyone, and to help ourselves in the way that each one can ... Speaking in soccer terms, I would say that the match is played between friendship in society and enmity in society. Each one has to make a choice in his or her heart, and we have to help that choice to be made in the heart.
Reading over the transcript of that response, I'm struck by another compelling aspect of this program: You just don't hear people talk like that on American network television.
And his audience is larger and more diverse than just those who watch television. At last count, Pope Francis had over 22 million followers on the social media site Twitter — second only to President Barack Obama. Yet, Francis is considered the most influential person on Twitter; he receives an average of 9,000 re-tweets per post, roughly 10 times the number of President Obama. The potential impact of this is overwhelming.
This leads me to think something else is at work here — something unexpected and utterly new. This surprising Pope from Latin America has not only jolted the Church; he has made possible a media moment without precedent. And he is challenging us to rethink how we proclaim the gospel in the modern world. At its heart, this is what The New Evangelization should be — utilizing the tools of the modern world to proclaim the gospel in new ways.
But the Holy Father is taking this concept to another level. I think in Pope Francis we are seeing more than just The New Evangelization at work; we are witnessing The New Evangelist.
In his encyclical Redemptoris Missio, Pope John Paul II sought to define "The New Evangelization," and wrote:
People today put more trust in witnesses than in teachers, in experience than in teaching, and in life and action than in theories. The witness of a Christian life is the first and irreplaceable form of mission: Christ, whose mission we continue, is the "witness" par excellence (cf. Revelation 1:5; 3:14) and the model of all Christian witness.
The first form of witness is the very life of the missionary ... The missionary who, despite all his or her human limitations and defects, lives a simple life, taking Christ as the model, is a sign of God and of transcendent realities. But everyone in the Church, striving to imitate the Divine Master, can and must bear this kind of witness; in many cases it is the only possible way of being a missionary.
Can anyone doubt that in Pope Francis, we are seeing a missionary whose first and primary role is as a witness? He is teaching by showing, evangelizing by example. But there is a larger story being told.
I would suggest that he is showing us, in ways large and small, how to be witnesses. I'd like to propose three lessons in how to witness — and evangelize — from Pope Francis, using as examples his groundbreaking visit to the United States in the fall of 2015.
First, in order to be a witness, you need to see. You need to keep your eyes, ears, and heart open.
One of my favorite moments of the Pope's trip to the United States occurred when he had just arrived in Philadelphia, and he climbed into his little Fiat and started to head for downtown. As he waved at the thousands of people lining the runway, he suddenly, frantically, told his driver to stop. Was something wrong? No. Far from it. In fact, he'd seen something. Or to be precise: he'd seen someone. As the car pulled to a stop, he quickly climbed out, and made his way over to the rope line. Soon we saw what had caught his eye: a little boy in a wheelchair, his mother by his side. The Pope bent down to kiss the boy, exchange a word or two, and offer a blessing.
It was so sudden and unexpected. The mother could only stand there in gratitude, weeping. The exchange lasted barely a minute, but it was instructive and profoundly moving.
Here, in this simple and spontaneous gesture, Pope Francis was showing us what it means to go to the peripheries — literally. He sought out someone who didn't have a chance to be close to him; instead, the Pope went to him. I am reminded of Jesus spotting Zacchaeus up in the tree — another marginalized figure who couldn't get close to Jesus, so Jesus made the effort to get close to him, even inviting himself to stay in his home.
Jesus did it. Francis does it. Do we? Do we seek out the forgotten? The crippled? The hurting? The lonely? The overlooked? Do we keep our eyes open to witness, to truly see, the world before us?
Second, being a witness for The New Evangelization involves "encounter." That is one of the Pope's favorite words. And it can be transformative. "Encounter" was a critical part of that moment at the Philadelphia airport, but a few days earlier, the pontiff made that idea explicit — and gave it moral weight — when he visited New York City. In his homily at Madison Square Garden, the Pope said: "We need to meet others where they really are, not where we want them to be."
That teaching was made manifest during one particularly powerful "encounter," when Pope Francis met with prisoners during his visit to Philadelphia. He spoke to them of the moment at the Last Supper, when Jesus washed the feet of his apostles. (How many of us remember when the Pope himself has done that — significantly, adjusting his stole so it wouldn't get wet and turning it, as a result, into a deacon's stole?) During his meeting, the Pope told the prisoners:
Life means "getting our feet dirty" from the dust-filled roads of life and history. All of us need to be cleansed, to be washed. All of us are being sought out by the Teacher, who wants to help us resume our journey. The Lord goes in search of us; to all of us he stretches out a helping hand.
This is fundamentally yet another aspect of the New Evangelizer: he or she conveys the message personally. The gospel isn't just proclaimed from a pulpit; it is lived in the world.
That message of encounter, of the extended hand, leads me to the third aspect of Francis' witness, and a critical component of the New Evangelizer: Hope. Pope Francis has cast himself as a herald of hope, in what he does and what he says. He touched on this theme during his homily at Madison Square Garden:
Knowing that Jesus still walks our streets, that he is part of the lives of his people, that he is involved with us in one vast history of salvation, fills us with hope. A hope which liberates us from the forces pushing us to isolation and lack of concern for the lives of others, for the life of our city.
The New Evangelizer does not preach condemnation or fear; the message is not one of trepidation or hellfire. The New Evangelizer, like the New Evangelization, is steeped in boundless hope. The message of our age needs to be one of possibility and renewal, of conversion and mercy.
But hope comes as a particularly bold and audacious message at a moment when many in the world would prefer to cling to despair. It's countercultural in a cynical age, when we are divided and polarized. It's radical at a time when people will routinely call you a "hater" simply because you disagree with their point of view.
But being heralds of hope means our hope is not some vague optimism or greeting card sentimentality. It means a person: Jesus Christ. It means seeing others with his eyes. It means seeing beyond shortcomings and frailty, to behold possibility and potential.
It means seeing — and that means witnessing.
And we are seeing just that with this Pope, in exceptional ways. Watching him on television on that autumn evening, watching how he captured the world's attention and conveyed his radical message of the gospel with such disarming simplicity, I couldn't help but feel that the faith was somehow being brought back to its very roots. The New Evangelizer is reminding us of the Old Evangelization — a disciple sharing his story, leading by example, bringing good news of great joy to all who are willing to listen.
Have you ever seen anything like this before? I wondered.
I imagine they saw something like this in Galilee. We are blessed to be seeing it once again.CHAPTER 2
Servant of the Church of Mercy: The Permanent Deacon
by Deacon Steve Swope
God has greatly blessed the Church with our last three Popes, each of whom has made significant contributions to the Church despite their radically different personalities, charisms, and spirituality. Pope Saint John Paul II, in the spirit of Vatican II, taught us about our faith, essentially what we believe. Pope Benedict XVI devoted much of his pontificate to teaching us the theology underlying our faith, explaining why we believe. Now, Pope Francis is teaching us what it means to put our faith into action, in effect, how we are to live our beliefs.
The hallmark of Pope Francis' teaching on how we put our faith into practice may be summed up in one word: mercy. In Misericordiae Vultus (MV), which announced the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis exhorts us to be a Church of Mercy saying, "Jesus Christ is the face of the Father's mercy. These words might summarize well the mystery of the Christian faith" (1).
As deacons, we "[are] called to gaze more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father's action in our lives" (MV, 3). This attentive gaze means we are to reflect on the reality of mercy and contemplate what it means for the Church and our vocation.
The concept of mercy may too often be distilled down to the remittance of deserved punishment or the extension of forgiveness. This interpretation of mercy is far too simplistic. Saints, mystics, popes, and theologians over the ages have taught that the Church's understanding of mercy goes much deeper. St. Thomas Aquinas said, "Mercy takes precedence over all other virtues," while Meister Eckart wrote that "God's highest work is mercy and the highest work that God ever performed in all creatures is mercy."
Pope Saint John Paul II reflected that, "the Church lives an authentic life when she professes and proclaims mercy — the most stupendous attribute of the Creator and Redeemer." More recently, in his book Mercy, William Cardinal Kasper stated that, "Mercy expresses God's essence ... therefore, we must describe mercy as the fundamental attribute of God."
What an astounding concept, that mercy takes precedence over all other virtues, including faith, hope, and love. How can mercy be the most stupendous and fundamental attribute of God when we have all been catechized to believe that God is love? Is God mercy or is God love?
In truth, God is both.
God is fully and totally love and his extension of unmerited love to us is His mercy. The very act of God loving us (which is totally unmerited) is an act of supreme mercy. God's great gift of love is accomplished through an act of mercy. The Church must express this same mercy in her life and in all of her works for "mercy is the very foundation of the Church's life" (MV, 10).
The deacon's vocation of service to the Church demands that we inculcate mercy into our ministry and lives, and in doing so, inspire others to be "merciful as the father is merciful" (Luke 6:36). To do this, we must understand the constituent components of mercy.
The first component of mercy is reflected very well in the Hebrew word Hesed (pronounced 'Ch-sed'). Hesed literally means "unmerited loving kindness, friendliness and favor" and contains within it the desire that all humans live lives of dignity and happiness. Dignity means that every person will have those things which permit them to live in humane conditions with access to the necessary means for sustaining life. Dignity also includes just treatment and receiving what is due to any person simply by virtue of their humanity.
In the context of Hesed, happiness does not mean fleeting sensations of well-being or pleasing emotions, but rather a clear understanding of self and of reality and an understanding of one's place as a child of God. It extends also to feeling joy at the accomplishments, qualities, and talents of others. Merciful, loving kindness is more than warm thoughts or feelings; it must be accompanied by a sensitivity to others and a determination to do whatever is necessary for them to attain authentic dignity and happiness.
The second component of mercy can be described by the Latin word misericordia, meaning to feel great pity and compassion in the heart for the suffering or misfortune of others. Misericordia is the form that mercy takes when confronted with the suffering of others. This heartfelt compassion extends well beyond those who suffer common misfortunes in life. In a very particular way, it encompasses all of the poor; those throughout the world who lack the basic necessities of life such as food, security, fresh water, shelter, clothing, education, and medicine. Like loving kindness, misericordia cannot simply be a "feeling." It must have a transformative power that prompts us to action. It demands that we strive to take every action possible to remedy the suffering of others. Through charity we can eliminate suffering superficially and temporarily, but only justice can permanently eradicate suffering by addressing its root cause.
These two components of mercy — loving kindness, which desires all humans to experience dignity and happiness, and heartfelt compassion, which focuses on the eradication of suffering — are evident throughout the life and ministry of Jesus. In all of his interactions, with friends, strangers, and even foes, Jesus' words and actions always reflect one or both of the components of mercy.
Given the true nature of mercy, it is apparent that Pope Francis isn't directing the Church toward some new interpretation of the Gospel. The Holy Father is calling us all together — laity, religious, and clergy — to reawaken our consciences so that we may live the one authentic Gospel of Jesus and understand the foundational and essential role of mercy.
As deacons, we have a special responsibility in communicating mercy to the world. The life of a deacon is intended to be a life of service, and naturally there are many different ways to serve, depending on our gifts and skills. However, regardless of what our individual talents might be, we should all strive to serve by demonstrating authentic mercy in our lives and ministry and, hopefully by doing so, inspire others to do the same.
There are many ways for a deacon to express loving kindness in his ministry. Perhaps the best way is to approach every aspect of ministry with joy. We should know that our entire ministry is something in which God has personally entrusted us, fully cognizant of our gifts, limitations, and sinfulness.
Realizing that the Holy Spirit, using our strengths and despite our weaknesses, truly guides and animates our ministry, is a great source of joy. The proclamation of the Word, assisting at liturgy, and preaching, all solemn acts, are opportunities to express happiness for God's loving mercy. Too often we see deacons, priests, and even bishops look glum and pained during liturgy. All liturgies, particularly the Mass, are opportunities to rejoice!
Merciful, loving kindness is also demonstrated when we develop a higher sensitivity to what we see and hear in our communities. Many people do not live lives of dignity or happiness; in fact, some may be on a trajectory that leads far away from dignity and true happiness. Our task is to meet them where they are with patience, understanding, and love, guiding and encouraging them without judgment or condemnation.
Showing heartfelt compassion is easy when the one in need is a local widow, homeless person, or victim of domestic abuse; but, our compassion is not meant to be localized. We live in a suffering world where over half of God's children, our brothers and sisters, struggle to simply live day to day. Ours is a world in which tens of thousands of children die daily for want of the basic necessities of food, water, and effective sanitation. Merciful compassion demands that we never close our eyes to their needs. Further, we should feel compelled to bring those in need to the attention of others by showing the reality of their lives and the inherent good in serving them.
Deacons are intended to inspire the People of God to live out their baptismal vocation, showing them the joy of service and giving them the encouragement and courage to reach beyond themselves, so that they extend themselves in showing mercy to others.
Excerpted from Serving with Joy by Deacon Greg Kandra, Deacon Steve Swope, Father Frank DeSiano, Deacon James, Keating, Deacon William T. Ditewig, Silas S. Henderon. Copyright © 2016 Saint Meinrad Archabbey. Excerpted by permission of Abbey Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Pope Francis: The New Evangelist by Deacon Greg Kandra,
Servant of the Church of Mercy: The Permanent Deacon by Deacon Steve Swope,
Breaking Down the Categories: The Power of Mercy by Father Frank DeSiano, C.S.P.,
Accompanying the Laity in Evangelization by Deacon James Keating,
Pope Francis as Servant Leader: Servant of the Servants of God by Deacon William T. Ditewig,
About the Authors,