My dear friends, my dear brothers,
Having already had the opportunity, some time ago, to speak about the ordinations of the exorcist and the acolyte, I would like today, in a special way, to insist on the ordination that two of you will receive in a few moments: the diaconate.
And I think that what will be said about the diaconate will also be useful for those who will receive the ordinations of exorcist and acolyte.
In the prayers that are said on this occasion of ordination to the sub-deaconate, reference is made to the deacons chosen by the apostles. For if it is sure by the tradition of the Church and by the teaching of the Church that there are sacred orders, it is certain that among these orders there is also the diaconate.
The subdiaconate came later, as well as the minor orders. But, you will recall the account in the Acts of the Apostles in which it is shown that on the occasion of a dispute between recently baptized Christians, a community that was growing - but that had to be ordered - disputes arose between those of Hebrew origin and those of non-Hebrew origin, all those who came from the diaspora. Because those who were - it can be said - in a way foreigners in Jerusalem, felt that their widows were not considered and did not receive the care they should have received. So they complained to the apostles. And they told them: This situation can no longer continue. You need to resolve this dispute. And the apostles met and decided to form deacons, so that, they said, we would not be caught up in tasks that were too time-consuming and that we would not be able to devote ourselves to prayer and preaching.
And so they decided to choose deacons who would be - they said - filled with the Holy Spirit. They asked the assembly to suggest the names of those they knew as being filled with the spirit of wisdom and the Holy Spirit. And they chose Stephen in the first place. Stephen, according to the Acts of the Apostles, was he, filled with the Holy Spirit, filled with faith: plenus fidae and Spiritui Sancto. And it is added, a few lines further on, that he was also filled with grace and wisdom: plenus gratia and sapientia.
So these are the qualities that deacons must have. And later, you will hear during the ceremony that will be held before your eyes, that the Church asks the bishop to lay his hands on the heads of those who receive the diaconate, saying to them:
Accipe Spiritum Sanctum: “Receive the Holy Spirit in order to be strong”.
That is, to receive the strength of the Holy Spirit, a strength that was found in a particular way in St. Stephen. Plenus fide and Spiritu Sancto. For strength is manifested in faith: Estote fortes in fide, One must be strong in faith”.
Why is faith the source of strength? Because faith shows us things as we do not see them in a human way, in a natural way.
Faith is precisely the light of the Holy Spirit that enlightens us and which, through the sensitive things that surround us, through human things, through temporal things, makes us see the heavenly things. The great realities, the only realities that are worth it, the real realities.
As we live in a kind of mirage, as we live in a kind of myth through our ignorance, through our blindness, through the consequences of original sin, our eyes are closed to the true realities. The eyes of our minds are closed to the real realities.
Faithful, says Saint Paul: Faithful acumen tum rerum non apparentiæ. Faith is the argument, it is the proof, it is the vision in a way of things that are not apparent, so that we do not see with our eyes from our body. And that is why so many people think that there is nothing beyond earthly life, that there are only the things we see, only the things that appear.
You can’t believe in things that aren’t apparent. And yet, that is faith. And how many people who even have faith, who have a diminished faith, have a faith that is somehow extinguished, a poor, devitalized faith, why?
Because they don’t believe in things that are not visible. And yet it is well said in the Creed: factorem cœli et terræ, visibilium omnium et invisibilium. And these “invisibilium” are much more important than the “visibilium”. It’s nothing what we see; it’s nothing. These are things that will disappear, these are things that flatter our vanity, that flatter our senses, but that is not the reality. Reality is in God. It is He who is first of all, all, even of these things that we see.
Ah if we had the vision of the angels, if we had the vision of the chosen ones, as we would see that all these things that are here below are only an effect of the power of God. We would see the Creator’s entire influence in creatures and we would understand that we are nothing and that God is everything.
Then we would understand that the science that discovers wonderful things for us here on earth, this science cannot hold and can only exist, can only exist by the omnipotence of God at all times.
That is what faith is. And not only does faith make spiritual realities appear to us, but it makes us appear much more than all of this: supernatural realities. What God has discovered from Himself through His Son, through Revelation. Because natural things are very little compared to supernatural things.
God willed by an absolutely incredible, extraordinary grace, to make us his sons; to make us penetrate into the Holy Trinity; to make us penetrate into its mystery, into the mystery of God that could have been hidden from us for all eternity. God could have kept his mystery to himself for all eternity. And even angels, all spiritual creatures could never have entered the Holy Trinity.
And now God, through an extraordinary mystery of grace - as He created us - has discovered His Holy Trinity to us by making us His children. From now on, I will no longer say of you that you are my slaves, my servants, but you are my friends. From now on Our Lord treats us like His children and therefore reveals to us the things of His Fatherhood, the heavenly Fatherhood, something that will make us happy, our admiration, our happiness for eternity
This is what faith gives us.
And it is because we are founded on these things that we must have the virtue of force, the gift of force and that we must not fear the things that are happening here on earth.
See how Stephen behaved, what he said to those who accused him, who were somehow jealous of his power, jealous of the fact that he possessed the Holy Spirit. He was among those priests, scribes, Pharisees who attacked him - as Our Lord was among those to whom He spoke in the temple - those who heard him were amazed by the answers of Our Lord, by this child of twelve or thirteen years old - just as they were amazed by Stephen’s answers. It is the same Holy Spirit.
Of course, the Holy Spirit, Our Lord possessed him as God possesses the Holy Spirit, which Holy Spirit is God and that he was God. Saint Stephen had only a participation of course infinitely weaker than that of Our Lord. But Our Lord allowed St. Stephen to be filled with the Holy Spirit. And see how these people who saw Stephen’s power, who could no longer answer what he said, however, they did not believe in him. It is even written in the Acts of the Apostles that at one point they saw Stephen’s face as the face of an angel. They were therefore witnesses to the Holy Spirit who lived in Stephen. They saw it and they didn’t want to believe it. And this is precisely what Etienne blamed them for.
While you have had testimonies throughout history to show that Christ was God, that the Holy Spirit was in Our Lord, that the Holy Spirit was in the prophets, you persecuted the prophets, you persecuted Our Lord Jesus Christ. So you resisted the Holy Spirit: you will resist Spiritu Sancto. You have resisted the Holy Spirit. And they could not forgive Etienne for that. And so they martyred him and made him disappear.
Well, my dear friends, you who are about to receive the diaconate, be also filled with the Holy Spirit.
And I would add as a conclusion that you must be, you, these arguments: acumentum rerum non apparentiae. For if faith is the proof of the existence of things that are beyond the visible, you, as persons consecrated to God, you, as filled with the Holy Spirit, you who will henceforth have to preach the Gospel, or manifest the Gospel, manifest Our Lord Jesus Christ to men, you yourself must be that argument, you must be that proof and people, seeing you, must think that there is something more than those who are apparent. May you be a source of faith for others, in all your behaviour, not only in your words, in your attitude, in the holiness of your life, in the conviction with which you will speak, in your prayer, in all your attitude, that those who see you are led to believe that there is something beyond what we see. And that this something is God. It is God who is everything.
And may their love of God therefore grow, may their faith in God grow when they meet you. May this be your ideal, may this be your desire, may your life be an opportunity for the people that God will now make you meet, may Providence make you meet, may your life be an opportunity for these people to know Our Lord Jesus Christ better and to love Him more.
So your life will be beautiful, your life will really be what you want it to be for yourself now certainly.
Let us all ask together, during this ceremony, for you too, my dear friends who will receive the minor orders, for the two deacons, we will ask that the graces of the Good God come down in abundance in you, so that you may truly be the witnesses of Our Lord Jesus Christ, strong, courageous witnesses and that thus the Good God will one day give them the reward of their courage, the reward of their testimony and the reward of their sufferings and trials, for if Our Lord has been persecuted, if St. Stephen has been martyred, there is no reason why we too, who are witnesses of Our Lord Jesus Christ, can hope to live a life without suffering and without pain.
We must follow Our Lord, carry His Cross with Him and therefore we must think that if we receive trials, we are only following our Master.
We will obviously ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is the mother of the Priest par excellence, who also suffered, who followed Our Lord to Calvary, we will ask her to be like her also the witnesses of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost.