The good people at AMERICA magazine asked me to write a few hundred words on how I thought the Second Vatican Council was continuing to impact the Church, and I decided to write about deacons:
A date most Catholics do not know may be one of the most important anniversaries on the church calendar: June 18, 1967. That was the day Pope Paul VI, following the recommendations of the Second Vatican Council, issued “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem,” which laid out “General Norms for Restoring the Permanent Diaconate in the Latin Church.” That document and what followed it had a seismic impact. Nearly 50 years later the earth continues to move. There are some 31,000 permanent deacons worldwide, over 17,000 of them in the United States. They are increasingly a part of the Catholic landscape, in ways that are vibrant, vocal and visible. Deacons run religious education programs and food pantries; supervise adult Christian initiation teams and bereavement groups; facilitate Pre-Cana classes and annulments. They make regular appearances in the pulpit; some parishes have “deacon weekends,” where they preach at all the Masses. In many dioceses, they have assumed leadership responsibilities that once belonged exclusively to priests. More and more, when families flip through photo albums of weddings and baptisms, the vested figure smiling in the background, offering a blessing and a toothy grin, is not the parish priest. It is the deacon. The deacon has also become a presence in the life of the universal church. Three points spring to mind…
Read what they are here.
And read what a few other people — from Dolores Leckey to Gerald O’Collins—have to say on the legacy of the council, too.