Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Deacon Named Phoebe

Reprinted from Deacon Greg Kandra's blog Deacon's Bench...

She pops up in one of Paul's epistles, and now an Anglican priest has blogged about her.

While debate continues about female deacons (or deaconesses), here's some interesting context:

As is often the case with these first century saints, we do not know much about them, outside of their names being mentioned in Paul's epistles or their names appearing ion the martyrologies of that time. Phoebe is mentioned in the letter to the Romans, and different translations list her as either a deacon, a deaconess, a minister, or a helper, from Cenchreae, a city near Corinth, in Greece. The actual Greek text uses the word diakonon; there is no distinction between masculine or feminine forms in that word. Some have tried to say that a woman deacon was not a member of an actual holy order, unlike a male deacon, but I don't agree, because Paul's list of qualifications for deacons in 1 Timothy chapter 3 mentions both men and women: Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not indulging in much wine, not greedy for money; they must hold fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them first be tested; then, if they prove themselves blameless, let them serve as deacons. Women, likewise, must be serious, not slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be married only once, and let them manage their children and their households well; for those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. I read that as applying to both male and female deacons, but I know that the Roman Catholic church still thinks that the term deacon in this context means co-worker in the missionary enterprise. Phoebe is also described as a helper of Paul and many others, and it is quite possible that she was a Patroness of the house-church in Cenchreae; she may have owned the house in which the Christians of Cenchreae met, and that she took legal responsibility for the activities there. Some scholars believe that Paul's mention of her in the epistle to the Christians in Rome was a letter of recommendation to the Christians in Ephesus; perhaps Phoebe was moving from Cenchreae to Ephesus.

The office of Deaconess was mentioned by St. Paul in the letters to the Romans and to Timothy, but we also have evidence of the office in a letter from Pliny, a Roman governor who was writing to the Emperor Trajan for advice on dealing with Christians. He mentions two women ministers among the Christians in Bithynia. The office of Deaconess is also mentioned in the Apostolic Constitutions of Hippolytus, and the office developed greatly during the third and fourth centuries, although it is quite different from the office Phoebe held. The Council of Chalcedon, held in the year 451, legislated that women could become deaconesses at the age of 40. A deaconess was to devote herself to the care of sick and poor women; she was present at the interviews of women with bishops, priests, or male deacons (so that the clergy wouldn't be alone with strange women) and kept order in the women's part of the church. Her most important function was the assistance at the baptism of women. For the first five centuries of the Church, people were baptized naked, and so, for the sake of propriety, male deacons couldn't baptize women. When adult baptism became rare and was eventually replaced by infant baptism, he office of deaconess declined in importance. The office was actually abolished by the Council of Epaon in the year 517, but in the Nestorian Christian communities in Syria, and later in India and China, deaconesses administered Holy Communion to women and read the scriptures in public.
You can check out more at the link, though it's worth noting that his approach is from an Anglican point of view. But the history he expounds is compelling.

It's worth remembering that, while the Church has closed the door on ordaining women as priests, that door remains ajar on the possibility of women deacons.

Read more:

Monday, September 20, 2010

Media: "Pope sheds ’Vatican Rottweiler’ image on Britain trip"

Reprinted from the Vancouver Sun - September 19, 2010

LONDON, (AFP) - British media Monday hailed Pope Benedict XVI for shedding his distant and authoritarian image on his historic state visit, but cautioned the Catholic Church still faced challenges in the nation.

The pontiff succeeded in presenting himself as a lovable, elderly figure — a far cry from the "Rottweiler" image, they said.

"What the visit accomplished above all was to unify Catholics and humanise a pope who has so often been perceived as cold, aloof and authoritarian," wrote Catherine Pepinster, editor of The Tablet newspaper, a British Catholic weekly.

"The fabled Vatican ’Rottweiler’ turned out to be a shy, warm and frail 83-year-old who perked up every time his security detail allowed him to greet people, especially youngsters and his own generation."

Before the first ever state papal visit to Britain, Benedict had been viewed as a "remote Teutonic hardliner," said the Times daily.

But he appeared in a different light entirely on the trip and remarks aimed at easing tensions between Anglicans and Catholics, such as on shared traditions and culture, played a great part in this transformation, it said.

"Ratzinger the rottweiler transformed into Benny the bunny," enthused the paper, using the name of Benedict before he became pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

"We all want to cuddle up to him and get him to bless our babies."

His four-day tour of mainly Anglican Britain, which took in Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and Birmingham, defied fears that it would be overshadowed by enormous protests or gaffes and the press in general regarded it as a success.

"This was a much more successful visit than the Roman Catholic hierarchy had dared to hope," said the Daily Mail newspaper.

"The crowds were larger than had been forecast, if not as big as they were when the charismatic Pope John Paul II came to this country 28 years ago."

The Sun added: "The pontiff’s visit proved much more substantial than anticipated."

Despite the widespread praise for the trip — and astonishment that the pope had pulled off a visit here so smoothly — some looked at the Catholic Church’s long-term relationship with Britain and saw problems ahead.

Pepinster fretted that the institution was not making conciliatory moves towards Catholics on the liberal wing of the Church.

"Gay Catholics and women will still be asking: ’How does the Vatican and Pope Benedict see us and our role, not in society, but in the Church?’," she wrote.

The Guardian daily said that Benedict had not managed to bring believers and atheists any closer together in a country that was increasingly secular.

"The rapprochement required today is not so much between Protestant and Catholic as between the religious and the rest, and Benedict leaves without denting that divide," it said.

For most in Britain, the visit merely amounted to "an anachronistic curiosity."

"To connect his spiritual kingdom with the United Kingdom, the pope would have had to engage with modern realities, and the country would have had to listen," it said.

The Independent was more positive, suggesting that the visit may have at least brought Catholicism to the attention of a country that is for the large part uninterested in religion.

"He may have left Britain just a little more broad-minded than he found it," said the paper.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Archbishop-Elect Peter Sartain Speaks

September 16, 2010

The following is the text of Bishop Sartain’s statement during a press conference held at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center in Seattle this morning.

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Last Tuesday, September 7, 2010, I received a telephone call from Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, who informed me that our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, had appointed me Archbishop of Seattle. As I wrote to Pope Benedict in my letter of acceptance, I am honored and humbled by the appointment, and I give myself to God and to the good people of western Washington with all my heart.

I am a native Tennessean, as were both my parents. I was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Memphis in 1978 and served that diocese until 2000, when I was appointed Bishop of Little Rock, Arkansas. In 2006, I was appointed Bishop of Joliet, Illinois, and have served there since that time. The dioceses of Memphis and Little Rock, considered “home mission” dioceses because of their small Catholic populations, are very different from the Diocese of Joliet, which is located in northern Illinois and encompasses a good portion of suburban Chicago in a part of our country with a substantial Catholic population. The Archdiocese of Seattle is different still, and I am excited at the prospect of getting to know all of you and enjoying the extraordinary natural beauty of this place. The last time I was in western Washington was to go salmon fishing with a group of friends about 18 years ago – and no doubt those same friends will be eager to visit me often. Since the Diocese of Little Rock encompasses the entire state of Arkansas, traveling vast distances in ministry is very familiar to me, and I will consider it a joy to travel this beautiful state.

This archdiocese will be new to me, and I will have much to learn. By God’s design, however, the Gospel I am sent to proclaim and the sacraments I am sent to celebrate are the same in Tennessee, Arkansas, Illinois, and Washington. That is because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever – and in every place. And all of you are beloved to God – and therefore beloved to me. Ten years ago I took as my episcopal motto the phrase “Of You My Heart Has Spoken,” from Psalm 27, verse 8. For many years that verse has been a constant refrain in my prayer, because it has been a simple way to express my longing for God. But it has taken on added meaning in my priestly and episcopal ministry, because my heart also speaks to me constantly of the people I am sent to love and serve in the name of Jesus. And so I can say to all of you: Of you my heart has spoken.

I love being pastor, and I look forward to my ministry as shepherd of the Church in the Archdiocese of Seattle. I especially welcome the opportunity to get to know the priests, deacons, religious women and men, and the dedicated laity of the archdiocese, because I know you will teach me about the countless accomplishments of the Church and the opportunities now before us. This archdiocese traces its roots back to 1850, and I have much to learn about its history, its faith, its growth, and its heroes and heroines.

I have already mentioned my gratitude to the Holy Father for appointing me Archbishop of Seattle. Today I would also like to express my deep thanks to Archbishop Alexander Brunett, who has extended a warm hand in welcome. Archbishop Brunett, today I want to particularly say to you that as you grieve the death of your brother, Bill, less than a week ago, all of us are with you, your sister-in-law Joan, and your entire family in loving support. May God fill you all with his peace, which surpasses all understanding. I consider it a privilege to follow in your footsteps and build on the marvelous growth you have overseen in the past 13 years. We will be both brothers and friends.

In the near future we will determine the date for my installation as Archbishop of Seattle. I know from fond experience that many people will be involved in planning that liturgy and other activities surrounding my installation, and I would like to thank you in advance. Likewise, I would like to thank the members of the media who joined us this morning. Since September 7, I have prayed daily for the people of the Archdiocese of Seattle, and I ask that you remember me in your prayers as well.

Bishop J. Peter Sartain
Archbishop-Elect of Seattle

BREAKING NEWS: Western Washington Catholics Have A New Spiritual Leader

Catholic News Service is reporting Archbishop Alex J. Brunett of Seattle officially retires; Bishop J. Peter Sartain of Joliet, Ill., named as his successor.


Bishop Sartain was born on June 6, 1952 in Memphis, Tennessee.

On July 15, 1978 he was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Memphis.
He was appointed as Bishop of the Diocese of Little Rock on January 4, 2000 and was ordained on March 6, 2000.

Bishop Sartain attended St. Meinrad College in Indiana, studied at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas in Rome, and earned a licentiate of sacred theology from the Pontifical Athenaeum San Anselmo in Rome in 1979.

In addition to his pastoral experience as a parochial vicar and as a pastor, Bishop Sartain also has considerable administrative experience, having served as Director of Vocations, Chancellor, Moderator of the Curia, Vicar for Clergy, and Vicar General. He has also been a chaplain, academic dean for the permanent diaconate formation program, and a member of the Advisory Council for the Institute for Priestly Formation.

He currently is a member of the Administrative Committee of the
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Monday, September 13, 2010

"Welcome Home!"

I had a dream job. No doubt about it. But after eight years, the dream job was spiraling into a nightmare.

In September of 2008, as the economy went on a roller coaster ride, my position managing two Seattle radio stations became even more demanding. I was asked to take on the role of another manager whose position had just been eliminated. The situation would be remedied in 2010.

The new corporate reality was unveiled the exact same week we began our deacon formation journey in earnest with the beginning of intellectual formation weekends at Palisades Retreat Center.

How could I keep up with the increasing demands of a job I loved and demands of the deacon formation program? The deacon couple who interviewed us for the program six months earlier asked the exact same question about my job prior to the role change.

Somehow the grace of God intervened and I held it together for the year.

But help would not arrive in 2010. A continuing challenged economy brought no relief. The job began to take a toll on my physical, emotional and spiritual well–being. A storm raged in my soul. Why had my dream job become such a place of desolation? I prayed for guidance.

Guidance came threefold (in true Trinitarian fashion): 1) a question asked by one of our deacon formation educators 2) terrific guidance from a gifted spiritual director 3) a pastoral internship at the L’Arche Community on Capitol Hill.

The rhetorical question asked in the classroom during a deacon formation weekend was about Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee, “Do you think the calming of the storm was an actual physical event (or did Jesus just still the worry in the hearts of the disciples)?” As I prayed for a solution to the turmoil in my heart, the comment washed over me like a flood and a personal storm was silenced. Peace was restored.

Six weeks later, as I was about to meet with my spiritual director, I learned of the senseless slayings of four police officers in Parkland, Washington. As I called our radio station’s newsroom to hear about our coverage plans, it hit me. My heart was no longer in my job. My time at the radio station was over. A change had come over me and this was not where I was supposed to be. I shared this with my spiritual director exactly one week before I became a deacon candidate.

Two days later, on a day that started with a 3 a.m. wake up call that the cop killer had been shot and killed, I dreaded my weekly visit to the L’Arche Community that evening. I was physically and emotionally exhausted from a busy couple of days of intense news coverage.

L’Arche is a beautiful community built around “core members” with mental disabilities. It is the embodiment of the Kingdom of God here on earth. The internship had been a Godsend on many levels. For months it had been my shelter from the storm, but on that day the most extraordinary thing happened.

As I rushed to L’Arche after a 14-hour workday and sat down for dinner, “core member” Nancy turned to me and said, “Welcome home!” I felt the most overwhelming sense of peace and serenity as I battled back tears. I was finally “home.” L’Arche taught me so much about what a life-giving experience from God feels like.

Two days after going through the Rite of Candidacy at St. James Cathedral, I received an email from the General Manager of an all news radio station in Canada asking about my availability to consult his radio station.

I was running a successful consulting business when my company was hired to design the radio programming format for what became my current job in November of 2002.

In January of this year, I officially stepped down as manager of the stations to focus on my consulting business… and my ministry. The radio stations remain clients. I’ve been blessed with an abundance of work in the U.S. and Canada. I’ve also been blessed with more time for studies and ministry work. And I no longer have to use important family time for this.

God has a purpose for all of our lives and leaves us signs along the way. We just need to open our hearts to hear the “quiet whisper” that will lead us home.