Already I'm hearing from some deacons who are all upset that our new Pope, Francis, has only made one reference to "deacons' since becoming pope. I've seen all kinds of speculation about the diaconate in Argentina and how the former Jorge Mario Bergoglio just didn't have the chance to get to know his deacons, and on and on. OK, I get it: in the short time he's been pope, he hasn't mentioned us much.
Far more important, in my opinion, is the fact that this man IS a deacon in everything he is modeling and teaching us. Even as Archbishop, he consciously made the decision to change his stole before washing feet: he reconfigured his stole into the diaconal mode. That's a conscious decision, telling me that he wanted to be sure that his actions would be seen as diaconal in form and in substance. THAT's a big deal. UPDATED: The latest news from the Vatican offers the photo from today's ceremony at the juvenile detention center, and it appears that the Holy Father is continuing his tradition of rearranging his stole to be worn as a deacon. I'm adding that photo below.
Not unlike previous popes, Francis speaks from his own experience and that, frankly, is generally priestly. But is it such a stretch to take his absolutely wonderful Chrism Mass homily -- focused intentionally on the priesthood -- and adapt it to deacons? I think not. Here's the full text: for the most part, you could simply replace "priest" with deacon, and "dalmatic" for chasuble, and you have a perfect exhortation to deacons.
From his appreciation of carrying the people on our shoulders and in our hearts, to his emphasis on "unction, not function," there is a strong diaconal message for all people, and certainly a model for those of us humbly honored to be a part of the Order of Deacons.
Like his namesake Francis of Assisi, our Francis "gets" the diaconate, thinks like a deacon, and acts like a deacon -- whether he "names" us or not.
Welcome aboard, Holy Deacon Francis!