Two books can help deacons understand, reinvigorate their calling
"Our Life of Service: The Handbook for Catholic Deacons" by Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers. Ave Maria Press (Notre Dame, Indiana, 2021). 174 pp., $.17.95.
"How Beautiful The World Could Be: Christian Reflections on the Everyday" by Frederick Christian Bauerschmidt. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2022). 230 pp., $22.99.
Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers is an author of multiple books, an international speaker and founder of DynamicDeacon.com, who reflects upon and proclaims the role of the deacon in his book, "Our Life of Service."
For those who are deacons in the Catholic Church, this book will reinvigorate their call to serve and to recognize the dignity of their calling, which is still underappreciated and misunderstood 50 years after the diaconate was reinstated in the Catholic Church.
Throughout the book, fellow deacons Greg Kandra, Larry Oney, Dominic Cerrato and Thomas J. Fox share their journeys as deacons and provide valuable insights into the life of a deacon.
For those men who may be contemplating and discerning a call to the diaconate, this book will provide an excellent catechesis as to the role and life of a deacon.
For example, understanding what the church teaches about the purpose and role of this ministry within parish life and in the world, the main responsibilities of a deacon, how the commitment to the diaconate involves married deacons' wives and other family members, and the particular challenges deacons face as family men and within the church are discussed and reflected upon.
A particularly important chapter, "Serving the Word" focuses on the gift and charism of teaching and preaching, which is not limited to preaching at Mass. "The permanent deacon has the opportunity to preach in various liturgical and ecclesial contexts," Burke-Sivers writes.
"These include, but are not limited to wake services, the funeral liturgy outside of Mass, baptisms, wedding celebrations outside of Mass, liturgies of the word outside of Mass, Sunday celebrations in the absence of a priest, during the Liturgy of the Hours and other prayer and liturgical services." Practical tips are provided for preparing and delivering a homily.
The second half of the book is dedicated to those that the deacon must serve including his wife, family, parish and the greater community. The section on serving your wife is extremely important to understand for it is a partnership where the wife needs to be in agreement that the call to the diaconate is from the Lord. She will be called on to support this call and her concerns need to be "heard and validated" for the deacon to be a man of God and a man of the church.
This is a must-have book for those discerning a call to the diaconate and one to inspire those who are already deacons. Throughout the book there are various quotes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, code of canon law and the saints; the call to evangelize is a constant thread woven throughout.
Frederick Christian Bauerschmidt is a professor of theology at Loyola University Maryland and a permanent deacon of the Archdiocese of Baltimore who offers a book of meditations on everyday life and how the Gospels message is infused in the day to day.
In "How Beautiful The World Could Be," he writes, "We human beings are creatures of time and space, we have no choice but to find ourselves at a particular place in a particular moment."
Bauerschmidt finds the truth of Scripture refracted through the lenses of current events from the past decade including the coronavirus pandemic, the seasons of the liturgical year and momentous individual occasions like baptisms, weddings and funerals.
His advice and examples will help preachers and teachers to regard St. Paul's advice to be persuasive "in season and out of season." Deacons and all who read these reflections and meditations will be joyfully reminded of how beautiful the world is when seen in its larger context, "illuminated by the light of eternity."
Each chapter and individual reflection begin with Scripture verses corresponding to the feast days in the liturgical calendar, which will assist those who preach. In one chapter corresponding to the Easter season he writes: "Resurrection unfolds slowly and in often hidden ways; the new life rises in us not on our timetable but on God's."
The author is attuned to the current trends in popular culture, politics and the biblical narrative, which will provide the reader with a unique perspective in which to view the Gospel and offer food for reflection and ideas for preaching.
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Also of interest: "Women Religious, Women Deacons: Questions and Answers" by Phyllis Zagano. Paulist Press (Mahwah, New Jersey, 2022). 56 pp., $4.95.
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Wright is principal of Koinonia Academy in Plainfield, New Jersey.