With the success of the Year of the Priest under Pope Benedict, I humbly suggest to Pope Francis (or whomever is reading) that we should have a Year of the Deacon. If anything, the diaconate is suffering from under-attention far more than the presbyterate, so the same motives that made the first so successful and timely apply at least double for this suggestion!
Plus, given that Francis of Assisi is often said to have been a deacon (though this is apparently in some dispute, whether he was ordained at all), it seems all the more appropriate that a bishop of Rome with that name initiate a year to honor and build up these Icons of Christ, Diakonos.
Naturally, it should be done ecumenically, rather than unilaterally. Especially as the discernment of the nature of the diaconate is a shared ecumenical challenge and opportunity. Invite all the heads of communion to declare the same, and have an ecumenical gathering of deacons as part of the celebrations.
I propose that the Year of the Deacon start on the feast of Deacon St. Lawrence of Rome, 10 August 2014 and conclude on the feast of Deacon St. Stephen of Jerusalem, Protomartyr, on 26 December 2015. The highlight events of the year could take place on 30 October 2014 to recognize the 50th anniversary of the vote on Lumen Gentium, which included the call for the restoration of the diaconate to its full and proper place in the Catholic Church. These were the two saints invoked as patrons for the restored diaconate by Pope Paul VI in Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem.
Would it not be a grand sight, to see St. Peter’s filled with deacons and their wives from around the world, celebrating the liturgy with the bishop of Rome? Dioceses offering catechesis on the ancient office of the deacon, its institution, and the symbolism of the Last Supper as iconic for the diaconal office; a surge in vocational promotions efforts for the diaconate; a special synod on the identity of the deacon, including the question of women as deaconesses (or just as deacons)?
He could even take the opportunity to introduce his new archdeacon…
What else could be done during such a Year of the Deacon? Ideas?
AJ: Many blessings to you from your old home base in Seattle. Thanks so much for this great idea that would help us all understand more deeply the spirituality and ecclesiology of diaconal service in the Church. Pope Francis has never mentioned deacons even once in his time as the Bishop of Rome but that’s not so important. Most importantly, he lives out the life of a true deacon in his compassionate actions towards and love for the poor and outcast in our midst. I doubt we’ll ever have a year of the deacon but let’s all look to Pope Francis for a clear vision of the call that we all share to be a diaconal people, a servant clan, in our world. I hope we can connect and talk more the next time you’re home. Again, peace.