A Changeless Diaconate for a Changing World

The more fundamental reality is that we will never be in a ‘post-Christian’ society

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Deacon Dominic CerratoIt’s undeniable. Our culture has radically changed over the last 60 years, and, sadly, it’s not for the better. One of the ways to trace this downward trend is to look at the kinds of television shows that were produced from the 1960s to the present. As a kid, I remember watching shows like “Leave it to Beaver” and “Bonanza.” These, and a host of others, embodied wholesome Judeo-Christian values, values thoroughly consistent with our Catholic faith. Parents never had to worry about what was on TV as, whatever it was, it supported and reinforced their values.

In the mid-1960s, even as a boy I began to notice subtle but significant shifts in attitudes, attitudes that had been bubbling beneath the surface some decades earlier. Television became more overtly sexualized with shows like “Love American Style” and “Laugh-In.” As we moved into the ’70s and ’80s, sex outside of marriage seemed to become the norm, “shacking up” became a new form of marriage, and all of this while families seemed to crumble all around us. Today, cable shows and streaming services, which are slowly replacing broadcast television, take up this moral decay and advance it with shows and movies on same-sex “marriages” and homosexual relationships.

Culture is more than television, but television, because it’s dependent on ratings, provides a pretty accurate litmus test. This, and ever increasing secularism, have led some to suggest we’re living in a post-Christian society.

I suspect there’s some truth to this, but it is a truth that needs to be qualified. While American culture as a whole may reject some if not many of our beliefs, the deeper, more fundamental reality is that we will never be in a “post-Christian” society. Recall the final words of Our Lord at the end of his earthly ministry when he said, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). This means that, regardless of how the world goes, Christianity will endure not by our own merits, but because of the promise of Christ and the grace he bestows.

This all means that Jesus Christ is the one still on point in an ever changing often chaotic reality. No matter what this world may bring, no matter how hard Satan and his demons work against us, if we keep our gaze fixed on Our Lord, we can find the stability we need to live and the love we need to thrive. This is as true today as it was when Jesus walked the earth. Writing in the 11th century, St. Bruno, a Carthusian monk, observed, “Stat crux dum volvitur orbis” — that is, “While the world changes, the Cross stands firm.”

As deacons, by virtue of our ordination we act in the person of Christ the Servant. We’re called and given the grace to become him, to “incarnate” him, not simply in the exercise of our ministry, but in the whole of our lives. To be sure, we do so in a human way with all the weaknesses associated with a fallen yet redeemed nature. Fortunately, Our Lord doesn’t ask us to be perfect, only the willingness to be perfected. Because of this, his grace makes up for us in the places we fall short. In this respect, like Christ himself, we can become to others that still point in an ever changing and often chaotic universe.

My brothers, when the world seems to crumble around us, we can, if we remain faithful to our call, provide the stability others need to persevere and even thrive amid hardship and suffering. We can become the Risen Christ to them even as they reveal the Crucified Christ to us.

DEACON DOMINIC CERRATO, Ph.D., is editor of The Deacon and director of diaconal formation for the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois. He is the founder of Diaconal Ministries, where he gives national presentations and retreats to deacons and diaconal candidates.

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