Story by P. Bernhard A. Eckerstorfer, O.S.B.
On the eve of the 3rd Sunday of Advent, Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, consecrated our Brother Anselm Demattio to the diaconate. Anselm is currently pursuing doctoral studies in liturgy at the Pontifical Athenaeum of Sant’Anselmo. Therefore, the ordination took place in the Basilica on Rome’s Aventine Hill, with Abbot Primate Gregory Polan, the mother of the new deacon, and Abbot Ambros with some confreres from Kremsmünster present.
In his homily, the cardinal, originally from Switzerland, described St. Joseph, the focus of the 4th Sunday of Advent, as the “archetype of the ecclesiastical ministry”: “For like Joseph, the ministry in the Church is also a steward of the mystery of God, a steward and guardian of the sanctuary that lies in the manger.” Thus, “the figure of St. Joseph can also help us to understand what a deacon is, to which our Brother Anselm is ordained today. The Gospel shows us that Joseph is all ears for the voice of an angel of the Lord, who enlightens him about what God expects of him. … To such a person, who listens to God’s word, cooperates in his work of salvation and thereby becomes a blessing to others, the deacon is also and above all ordained.”
The specific place of the deacon in the Church’s liturgy is the proclamation of the Gospel, Cardinal Koch said in his homily, delivered in Italian. “This is not a random and purely external assignment of roles in the superficial sense that in worship everyone has something to do. Rather, this place makes visible what constitutes the core center of any mission assumed with the ordination to the diaconate: The deacon is called to be an evangelist and to function as such.” Thus, he said, the deacon is “totally at the service of caritas and mercy, bringing the love of Christ into the situations of need and suffering of our world.” He must, he said, “live love as Jesus gave it in the flesh in service to the weak, poor and suffering.”
Cardinal Koch stressed that the deacon writes into the Church’s book “that faith and life, service to God and service to man belong indissolubly together.” With the Eucharistic gifts, he said, the deacon also places on the altar the concerns of people and the needs of today’s world. “And transformed and strengthened by the Eucharistic presence of Jesus Christ, he brings them from the Eucharistic altar out of love to the people.” Koch described the deacon in this sense as a bridge builder (pontiff) between faith and everyday life. From the liturgical ministry, he said, it is clear that “the deacon cannot simply be an ordained social worker.”
In his homily, the Cardinal of the Curia concluded by referring to the fundamental diaconal dimension of the ecclesial ministry, which may also unfold in the Benedictine habitat of the candidate for ordination. The diaconate is not simply a stage of passage to the priesthood, “but the permanent content of the priesthood itself.” In clear words, Kurt Koch continued: “For a priest who would cease to be a deacon would also cease to fulfill his priestly ministry according to his ordination. A bishop who would not remain a deacon would no longer be a Catholic bishop. Even a pope who would not be a deacon would no longer be a true pope. The ordained deacon recalls to the whole Church that the diaconate is a dimension of every ordained ministry, and it is so because the Lord himself became a deacon, and as a deacon he always encounters and gives himself to us anew in the Holy Eucharist.” For the new deacon, the diaconal mission would lead, above all, also into “the heart center of his monastic community.” Thus, Father Anselm would be challenged, as a deacon, to “deepen himself anew and completely in the mystery of his monastic vows and monastic life, and to represent Jesus Christ as archdeacon in the monastic community.”
The Collegio community of Sant’Anselmo wishes to extend its gratitude to Cardinal Koch for his “service of caritas” to our community in our joyful celebration. We also assure Brother Anselm of our continued prayers and support during his journey of faithful service to the Church.