June 1967. What were you doing then?
Lyndon Johnson was president. People were listening to “Groovin'” by the Young Rascals, and “A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum. The Who played their first concert in the USA at the Monterey Pop festival in California. The Dirty Dozen was released in the USA, and newspapers proclaimed “Red China Explodes 1st Hydrogen Bomb.”
But for the Catholic Church, the biggest bombshell coming out of Rome, was that Pope Paul VI issued a letter making a dramatic change to one of the sacraments.
On June 18, 1967, he officially renewed the diaconate as a permanent level of Holy Orders.
Following the conclusions of the Second Vatican Council the Holy Father directed the appropriate changes to canon law which would permit the diaconate to be renewed as a “particular and permanent” order, and opened the diaconate to be conferred on married as well as celibate men. The introductory paragraphs about the renewal:
Beginning already in the early days of the Apostles, the Catholic Church has held in great veneration the sacred order of the diaconate, as the Apostle of the Gentiles himself bears witness…It is not to be considered as a mere step towards the priesthood, but it is so adorned with its own indelible character and its own special grace so that those who are called to it “can permanently serve the mysteries of Christ and the Church.”
(Pope Paul’s moto proprio Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem)
What followed that decree is a history of service and sacrifice that is continuing to have a profound and lasting effect around the world. The diaconal vocation is growing at an exceptional rate and shows no signs of slowing down.
“The population of permanent deacons shows an increase in 2015 of 14.4% compared to five years previously. The number of deacons is improving on every continent. In Oceania, they have increased by 13.8%. In America and Europe, where about 98% of the total population of deacons is found, they have increased in the relevant period by 16.2% and 10.5% respectively.”
The Holy Spirit has been busy.
Deacons this day owe a deep debt of gratitude to Paul VI and the pioneers who made this possible. The Catholic Church has been immeasurably enriched by so many who have given so much to serve the people of God. Where would our parishes be today without the selfless sacrifice of deacons, their wives, their families and the pastors and bishops who support them?
We are grateful to Deacon John McKeon who was with us this past Sunday to a personal experience of the Permanent Diaconate and wish him blessings in his ministry.
Should you perceive that God is calling you to the permanent diaconate speak with Fr. George or contact the Archdiocese of Newark through Deacon John at firstname.lastname@example.org.