Witness to Truth

Deacon couples catechize through the Sacrament of Matrimony

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As deacons’ wives, we have the crucial role of giving our husbands the support they need to carry out their duties as a religious. However, if not directly involved in his ministry, there might be times we might struggle with at least some doubt. Were do we fit in? Are we really making a difference? We might be wondering whether anyone really notices us when we’re sitting in the pew while our deacon husbands are on the altar serving at weekly Mass or giving the homily. I know I’ve had those feelings and asked myself those questions from time to time. On occasion I see myself as more of a spectator than participant. While I have my own full-time ministry, my husband and I are still discerning how or if I might become more involved in his diaconate work, and he’s been ordained for more than six years.

That said, recently I’ve begun to think differently about this after a great conversation with a dear and very wise friend. He is a regular guest on my radio program, and someone also well-versed in all things Catholic, including the topic we’re examining in this issue of Deacon Digest: bioethics. With his help I’ve learned — surprise, surprise — that there is a strong connection to this topic and deacon couples. I hope what I’ve learned from him will serve as a source of encouragement for you.

We might not realize it, but our witness as deacon couples are greatly needed and very powerful in this upside-down world. It’s a witness not just to the institution and Sacrament of Matrimony, but also a witness because the world needs a Catholic response to its repeated rejection of the dignity of the human person made in the image and likeness of God.

When we look at the subject of bioethics, we think of the challenges our Church is facing in regards to the cultural pressures to accept abortion, euthanasia and artificial contraception, among other actions that attack core Catholic teaching. So what does marriage — in particular, our marriages as deacon couples — have to do with all of this? Plenty, says Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, especially when we consider that bioethics from a Catholic perspective has to do with the connection between medicine, science and morality.

“Bioethics in our day is very much about integration and overcoming the fragmentation between science and morality, between technology and responsibility, and between accomplishing goals and respecting principles. In this respect, the deacon exercises a particular ministry through particular activities, but it is in the married deacon’s marriage and family life that the Church’s message can shine forth most clearly,” Father Pavone said.

“Our culture has become so completely disconnected from moral principles and from basic common sense that the witness to Church teaching can only be carried out when we are fully rooted in strong, healthy relationships. Either the world has gone crazy or we have gone crazy. When those are the two options we face, we need each other to keep us grounded in reality and sanity — the foundations for the very teachings the Church proclaims.”

Pope St. John Paul II said, “As the family goes, so goes the nation and the world in which we live.” With this beautiful quote in mind, I realized that although I will continue to discern whether God wants me to do more at the parish level with my husband, my most important role is to put God and our marriage first.

“In other words, the faithful union of deacon and spouse, the openness to welcome new life, and the mutual fidelity, love and service is precisely the context — and the lesson — that modern bioethics needs most,” Father Pavone said.

Thanks to Father Pavone, I’ll try not to take my role as a deacon’s wife for granted, realizing that when you come right down to it, whether the world ever understands, everything flows from God’s plan for marriage.

TERESA TOMEO is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio, and the author of “Beyond Sunday: Becoming a 24/7 Catholic” (OSV, $14.95). She is married to Deacon Dom Pastore, an ordained deacon in the Archdiocese of Detroit.

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