PROVO — Deacons and their wives from throughout the Diocese of Salt Lake City gathered Oct. 1-3 at the Provo Marriott Hotel & Conference Center for fellowship, prayer and continuing formation.
The retreat presenter was Fr. John Thomas Lane, SSS, a vowed religious presbyter of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament. Fr. Lane is a liturgical consultant, writer and workshop presenter. Currently he is pastor of the Roman Catholic Community of Saint Paschal Baylon in Highland Heights, Ohio; among his previous assignments for his order was serving as director of liturgy for the Diocese of Salt Lake City from 1992 to 1996.
During his presentation at the diaconal retreat, titled “Deacons, the Beatitudes and the Eucharist,” he went through each of the Beatitudes in depth, linking each to an element of Eucharistic theology and frequently referencing documents written by Pope Francis, such as the Bull of Indiction for Misericordiae Vultus (The Face of Mercy).
As he introduced each Beatitude, Fr. Lane led his audience in the corresponding verse from the hymn “We are the Light of the World.”
Regarding the second Beatitude, “blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted,” he said, “Our world does not want to mourn. We must have constant entertainment, pleasure, diversions, escape.”
For example, he noted that although the United States withdrew its armed forces from Afghanistan “only a month ago, but it seems like a year ago. … The Afghanistan war – people didn’t even know it was still going on; people didn’t know soldiers were coming home in body bags. It was ignored, because we ignore sickness, we disregard the pain and we fail then to deal with the Paschal Mystery in our lives, in our world, never learning from the dead, never truly mourning for what’s going on.”
The challenges that ministers have, he said, “is that we should never forget those who are mourning and those who are suffering. They are always with us and around us, and they are struggling. Most of us struggle to put on a happy face.”
Ministers are “the empathetic people who help those who mourn fight against the pain, to fight against the injustice and to mourn with the mourners,” he added, pointing out that they are to offer pastoral care “of” the sick, not “to” the sick. The title is important, he said, “because we’re all sick,” and therefore all should be a part of the suffering.
As he closed the presentation on the second Beatitude, he gave those present a few minutes to pray for those in their lives who are in need of care.
He also gave reflection questions for the deacons and their wives to ponder. For example, for the Beatitude “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” he asked, “What does justice really mean to you right now? What thirsts do I want to be fulfilled?’
The baptismal call of Catholics “calls us to walk in the footsteps of Christ,” Fr. Lane said. “We’re carrying that candle of light, to shed our light on everyone so that all can see … and to care especially for the most vulnerable.”
After his presentations on the Beatitudes, Fr. Lane gave an update regarding the status of several liturgical books that are being revised. For example, there will be a new English version of the Liturgy of the Hours probably in 2025, he said, while a book of blessings in Spanish has been sent to Rome for approval. In addition, a new translation of Holy Communion and worship of the Eucharist outside of Mass is in the works, and the final text of the Order for Christian Initiation of Adults (a change in name from RCIA) is being finalized to be voted on by bishops in November.
The full day of presentations on Saturday concluded with a “Stump the Liturgist” question-and-answer session, where Fr. Lane addressed written questions that had been submitted.
Among the questions was whether, during the doxology, there is a gesture for silent prayer that is encouraged for the people to do. Fr. Lane said that the liturgical book doesn’t call for a gesture, but some dioceses do prescribe one, such as the orans position (with hands raised) while the words “for the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours” are recited, then the hands are dropped.
Another question was whether the deacon is to bow when the priest kneels after the Agnus Dei. “No, the deacon has no gesture at that moment. You just have to stand there and look holy,” Fr. Lane said to laughter from the audience.
Yet another question was how many times the bells should be rung during the liturgy. Fr. Lane said the current (1970) edition of the Roman Missal says bells “may be rung” but it’s not required; if they are rung, it should be with decorum, he said.
Regarding a question about whether a movable baptismal font should be placed at the front entrance of the church, he suggested that a permanent place be made for the font.
“It’s the gateway to our Christian life, and while yes, we’re Christians on the move, on a journey, I don’t think it’s wise to have this very important theological symbol be movable and we just wheel it out when we need it,” he said.
Following the Q&A was a Taizé evening prayer that included a remembrance of the diocesan deacons and their wives who have died. Afterward was the retreat banquet.