This weekend we celebrate our Mothers, and I wish all our mothers “Happy Mother’s Day!” Pope Francis reflects about mothers: “The gaze of the Mother, and the gaze of every mother. A world that looks to the future without a mother’s gaze is shortsighted. It may well increase its profits, but it will no longer see others as children. It will make money, but not for everyone. We will all dwell in the same house, but not as brothers and sisters. The human family is built upon mothers. A world in which maternal tenderness is dismissed as mere sentiment may be rich materially, but poor where the future is concerned.
On this Mother’s Day, I would like to discuss the role of women in our church. The church itself is often looked upon as a mother, in her function of nourishing and teaching the faithful. The church is a mother because she has given birth to us in baptism. Pope Francis has created a new commission to study the ordaining of women as deacons in the Catholic Church, the Vatican announced April 8, 2020. We are now a year into the study, and let us pray that the Holy Spirit will guide and direct our Pope and the magisterium to make the right decisions. Pope Francis' openness is really important because the dignity and giftedness of women need to be recognized and uplifted in our church. I think that this conversation about the women’s diaconate is something every Catholic should know about and probably discuss and bring to prayer.
Deacons are ordained ministers who perform many of the same functions as priests. They preside at weddings, baptisms and funerals, and they can preach. They cannot celebrate Mass. Married men can be ordained as deacons. Women cannot, though historians say women served as deacons in the early Christian church. The question of the ordination of women as deacons has emerged as something of an ideological battleground for the Catholic Church in recent years. Although Pope John Paul II said in his 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis that "the Church has no authority whatsoever" to ordain woman as priests, many church historians have said however that there is abundant evidence that women served as deacons in the early centuries of the church.
Phyllis Zagano, a senior research associate-in-residence and adjunct professor of religion at Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York is one of the world’s foremost experts on the history of the diaconate. She answered the question, “Could there be a place for women in the permanent diaconate?” The following is an excerpt from America Magazine, “The most famous example of a woman deacon comes from Scripture. In fact, the only person in Scripture called “deacon” is named in Paul’s Letter to the Romans, where he addresses the deacon—the woman deacon— Phoebe. And in the sixth century, the German princess Radegund, for whom many churches in Western Europe are named, was consecrated with laying on of hands as a deacon. Around this same time, many women performed sacred tasks such as baptizing and anointing for other women precisely because it was seen as improper for a man to touch or see women in this context.”
In the month of May, we honor Mary as Queen, and many parishes and schools commemorate May Crowning as a special devotion. If you join the rosary these days, you will notice the statue of Mary, crowned with special flowers by our St. Stephen community. For centuries, the Catholic Church has set aside the entire month of May to honor Mary, Mother of God. Not just a day in May, mind you, but the entire month. I invite you to give Mary a special spot in your prayer corner. It can be a statue or picture, but place there some representation of our Blessed Mother. Make it appealing and a real tribute to her beauty and virtue. And if you are able, join us for rosary in the evening at 5.40pm. As a community, we will sing a hymn to Mary every weekend. Every Thursday at 5:40 pm will be Rosary in the church followed by 6 pm Mass.