Deacon of Courage

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Deacon Joe Donohoe reflects on the courage of St. Lawrence of Rome during an August 10th Deacon Day celebration at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Arvada.  He evaluates the practical aspects of how we can find the strength to proclaim the Gospel in a world that is entrenched with fear while challenging Catholic Deacons to live a life in keeping with the tradition of our Deacon brother of the past.

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Deacon Joe Donohoe reflects on the courage of St. Lawrence of Rome during an August 10th Deacon Day celebration at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Arvada.  He evaluates the practical aspects of how we can find the strength to proclaim the Gospel in a world that is entrenched with fear while challenging Catholic Deacons to live a life in keeping with the tradition of our Deacon brother of the past.


washing_feetBy Deacon Joseph Donohoe (deaconden.org)
Archbishop Chaput, Bishop Conley, Monsignors, Brother Deacons, families and wives of Deacons, and my brothers and sisters in Christ.  Thank you for coming tonight for this celebration.  In particular, I would like to welcome the pastors and priests.  On behalf of all deacons in the Archdiocese we thank you for your encouragement and support of our vocations.

On this special feast day of Deacon St. Lawrence, it seems prudent to talk about one of the four cardinal virtues of the Church—the virtue of fortitude or courage.  If you have read Lawrence’s stories, you know that courage is one of the saint’s most attractive and compelling characteristics.  Many a legend has been cited concerning St. Lawrence and his bold and courageous proclamations.  When his enemy’s demanded the treasures of the city; he presented them with the poor and outcast.  And while some of the stories of St. Lawrence are legends; undoubtedly, they are manifested based on the character of our holy Martyr and Saint.

In order to understand courage, it is important to define what the word means.   Our immediate thoughts might go to the battlefield and the many military members who faced fear and even death for a cause greater than themselves.   This is an ultimate example.  In the Catechism, we read that courage is “firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of good…Courage enables us to conquer fear.” (CCC 1808)  It is not just about battlefield bravery.

Archbishop Gomez elaborates on the definition of courage in his book, “Men of Brave Heart” and labels the failure to confront fears with courage as “deaths”. Examples of these deaths include; the fears of difficulties (if one takes the Church position on contraception; it will be hard on one’s self), the fears of opinion of others (what will they think if you tell them they are doing something sinful?), fear of being misunderstood (If I discuss submissiveness, they might think I’m Catholic), and fears of losing friendships or influence (annulments).  (p.166)

These fears validate that we live in a world where Covenants are broken and Commandments are discarded—all due to fear and the lack of courage. Indeed, the world is littered with these “deaths”.

We see fear when we witness society rationalizing “pro-choice” viewpoints with an attitude that if it doesn’t impact me, I don’t need to get involved.  Academia is at war with the Church and will criticize right judgment in order to validate their own sins and weaknesses.  The news media attempts to replace the Church as the moral standard bearer in fear of being held accountable for their own personal and collective actions.  

But there is hope.  In contrast to the fear the world promotes, there are incredible displays of courage within our own diaconate community.  This courage has allowed deacons to overcome fears and boldly proclaim the Gospel.

In the Archdiocese of Denver, deacons and priests take on harden criminals and help them confront their sins to the point of conversion.  Deacon Steve Vallero and his group are in the prisons everyday; bringing communion, praying with prisoners and helping them reconcile with God.  He could use more help.

Deacons Modesto Garcia and the migrant ministry, consisting of clergy and laity, dismiss the more secular definition of migrants by meeting with them and touching their hearts in the fields and camps; putting real faces to real people made by God.  He, too, could use your assistance.

Deacons Tony Rouco and his group connect with deacons who are homebound and sick.  They also contact the widows of our deceased brothers and offer assistance with each phone call.  When they need help, we should respond generously.

The Web group has instituted an evangelization tool, through the Deacon Den website, that allows deacons to get real answers to tough questions on the role and identity of the deacon—not watered down responses; but, answers that challenge.

These are only a few examples.  There are many more and more to come.  This year, we hope to move on a hospital ministry with Deacon John Wehrman.  He has an excellent program in Greeley and is looking at ways to improve our ability to respond to those who are sick and injured in other hospitals, with the consent and support of the local pastors.

Deacon Mark Salvato has started a Life Issues group addressing abortion issues, including post-abortive support in cooperation with the Right to Life office. This group is also involved with end of life decisions and engages faithful Catholics in good decisions during those critical times.  Once again, going courageously into areas that this world finds fearful.  

We often talk about the “Church Militant”; they’re not just nice words to say.  These words should mean something and they call the clergy and the faithful to action.  In particular, these words call Deacons, not to just participate individually with work inside the parish; but, to take on ministries collectively outside the parish—to get outside comfort zones, into the fields, the prisons, the hospitals; and yes, even into the city streets and the workforce; proclaiming Jesus Christ as the conqueror of fear and debunking false statements from others!

And so, for Deacons its time to put on the spiritual armor that is able to resists and hold our ground (Eph 6:13) against the enemy of fear.  These weapons St. Paul speaks of in Ephesians are for battle, not for complacency.

Along with the armor, deacons wear the red stole of the martyrs.  This red stole is not there by accident, it is a symbol of those who witness to the faith of the Catholic Church with courage and it is this faith that brings hope to a people living in fear. 

So, it is up to us to courageously bring hope to a world under siege. For those who wear the red stole, it is time to “get angry” with sin and give hope to a people in fear.  As St. Augustine once said, “Hope has two daughters.  Their names are anger and courage; anger at the ways things are and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are. “

How many of us can stand up today with the courage of St. Lawrence, face-to-face with the enemy–holding the treasures of the Church and say, “Here are the treasures—here is the single mother who decided to have her baby, here is the downs syndrome child who loves without reservation, here is the homeless veteran who struggles every day with bad decisions, here is the forsaken, the dying–this is what is of value to us and it is God who gives me courage to confront and conquer the enemy.”

It is when we can do this; that we are blessed.  Our reward will be the gift of receiving the love of God (which often comes through these treasures of ours), and which is a gift that is better than life itself” (Ps 63:4)

Glory be to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.


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