Fifty years ago, on November 21st, 1964, Vatican Council II promulgated Lumen Gentium (“Light to the Nations”), the dogmatic constitution of the Church. A number of Catholic writers offer their perception of the significance of the document.
Fr. Brian Mullady, O.P., presents some of the highlights in National Catholic Register’s Daily News (http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/lumen-gentium-at-50-is-anyone-listening/). The universal call to holiness resonates with the consideration of the ways that the individual and groups of people, especially the family and the parish, are sanctified by their faithfulness to Christ Jesus and his Sacred Body as Sacrament and, thereby, as Church.
George Weigel, as he often does, offers a unique take, arguing that Lumen Gentium and the Council were essential components of the fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago (and 25 years after the document was promulgated). Read his column at: http://www.aleteia.org/en/politics/article/vatican-ii-and-the-berlin-wall-6403147723440128.
There is one more thing in Lumen Gentium that most reflections on its significance overlook: the call for restoration of the permanent diaconate with ordination of both celibate and married men. Fellow deacons, once again read the pertinent paragraphs that heralded our eventual ordinations:
29. At a lower level of the hierarchy are deacons, upon whom hands are imposed not unto the priesthood, but unto a ministry of service.” For strengthened by sacramental grace, in communion with the bishop and his group of priests they serve in the diaconate of the liturgy, of the word, and of charity to the people of God. It is the duty of the deacon, according as it shall have been assigned to him by competent authority, to administer baptism solemnly, to be custodian and dispenser of the Eucharist, to assist at and bless marriages in the name of the Church, to bring Viaticum to the dying, to read the Sacred Scripture to the faithful, to instruct and exhort the people, to preside over the worship and prayer of the faithful, to administer sacramentals, to officiate at funeral and burial services. Dedicated to duties of charity and of administration, let deacons be mindful of the admonition of Blessed Polycarp: “Be merciful, diligent, walking according to the truth of the Lord, who became the servant of all.”
Since these duties, so very necessary to the life of the Church, can be fulfilled only with difficulty in many regions in accordance with the discipline of the Latin Church as it exists today, the diaconate can in the future be restored as a proper and permanent rank of the hierarchy. It pertains to the competent territorial bodies of bishops, of one kind or another, with the approval of the Supreme Pontiff, to decide whether and where it is opportune for such deacons to be established for the care of souls. With the consent of the Roman Pontiff, this diaconate can, in the future, be conferred upon men of more mature age, even upon those living in the married state. It may also be conferred upon suitable young men, for whom the law of celibacy must remain intact.
It’s time thank God for the gift of this ministry, built upon the foundations of Baptism and Confirmation, and the call to holiness they impart. Most of us are gifted with the support of a wife and children. Let us, the married deacons, realize that the primary people we serve as deacons are our wife, our children, and our children’s children. Some of us are given the gift of celibacy at ordination — the ability to love all we serve without the “complication” of intimacy. Others of us are called to celibacy with the loss of one’s wife. I cannot imagine life without my wife, so I can only guess at the challenge of unexpected loneliness.
But, in all cases, let us call upon our God to be with us in good times and bad, so that we can effectively serve him as modern-day Levites and successors to “Stephen, a man filled with faith and the holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism” (Acts 6:5).