The homily of Timothy P. Broglio, Archbishop for the Military Services, USA, during the celebration of the Diaconate Ordination of Stefano Zamagni.

Reverend Fathers,

Members and Friends of the Fraternity of FSCB,

Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Caro Stefano,

 

“O Roma felix quae duorum Principum es consecrata glorioso sanguine! (O blessed Rome, which was consecrated by the glorious blood of the two Princes!)”   from the hymn of First Vespers of this Solemnity stenciled on the door post of the seminary I attended overlooking the ancient city of Rome.  It is a vivid reminder of the price paid for the eminence of that city, where our faith is confirmed and we are led by the Bishop there.

It would be difficult to imagine a more fitting solemnity for the ordination of a servant of charity, unless of course it would be 26 December, the feast of St. Stephen, the Protomartyr and Proto-Deacon, not to mention the feast day of the candidate.  The word of God charges us this afternoon to consider gift, witness, and ultimately charity.

The Acts of the Apostles recounts the release of the Apostle Peter from a maximum security prison.  It is a miraculous act to set him free not so that he can escape, but so that he can serve.  Gifts are given so that we can use them to build up the Body of Christ.  Ministry means service which enables us to fulfill the needs of the faith community.

Perhaps diaconia in the Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo also includes serving at table, but it is certain that your role as deacon in the Church will include witness. Peter and Paul were charged to preach the Gospel in environments that were both Jewish and pagan.  They were challenged to fill the world with the good news about Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Some would say that we minister in a post-Christian world.  If that is too strong, we are certainly plagued by a vicious virus, materialism, and secularism; all of which demand a thoughtful response.  You probably will not win a popularity contest, because you speak the truth.  Today you are ordained to be a faithful servant to the truth and to your mission.

In the current tension of this country, you are about to be ordained into a hierarchical order established to solve an ethnic conflict.  Always be a minister of truth who fosters reconciliation.

Sometimes the Word obliges us to criticize and warn, always to serve the truth in building up the Reign of God.  Often people will not be well-disposed to hear a message which questions their illusions and securities. Jesus is witness to that fact and we celebrate this ordination in the context of His one life-giving sacrifice, which nourishes us. We must continue to struggle to make that message of truth intelligible to people today. The Servant of God Luigi Giussani reminded us that the Church “is life and must offer life, and welcome the experience of men and women in the embrace of her context.”[1]

Stefano, you receive the gift of service today.  A part of that service is the important task of drawing the men and women of today into the experience of Jesus Christ, never by watering down the truth, but always by seeking ways to make it intelligible to our contemporaries. As Pope Francis said this morning: “Just as the Lord turned Simon into Peter, so he is calling each one of us, in order to make us living stones with which to build a renewed Church and a renewed humanity.”[2]

The dialogue in the Gospel helps us to understand the dynamic of witness.  It is easy to respond about what we hear, what others say, common wisdom, but the Lord asks the Apostles and each one of us: “who do you say that I am?”

Peter the brave spokesperson had the courage to commit himself: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  This is the profession of faith for each one of us and from baptism and confirmation we have the mission to share it. Each one is an envoy.  Everyone has a participation in this mission (the form, destination, and the means change according to specific vocations), but no one is dispensed from the charge.  Every Christian will find strength and courage in the presence of Christ with us and specifically in your example. He frees us from what restrains our efficacy: Peter from prison; Paul: “the Lord helped me and gave me strength.”

One dramatic witness you offer is the promise of celibacy that you have made and which you will renew in the ordination rite.  Archbishop Aquila recently told deacons he was about to ordain: “The priesthood is not functional, it is sacramental. And so, too, is celibacy. You give witness to the truth and to the world that the virtue of chastity can be lived. In this sex-crazed culture [in which] we live, it needs more than ever that witness to the gift of chastity and to how to live that virtue and the incredible freedom and joy that it gives you.”[3]

You know we are feeding sheep so that they might participate in eternal life.  Celibacy is a striking sign that we are on a pilgrimage and the ultimate goal is beyond this world with all its attractions and good things.  Your celibate commitment will call attention to that goal and our journey.  The fact that this solemn promise confuses some and seems incomprehensible to others is almost a proof of its importance in today’s world.  It is another way of giving authentic witness.

Stefano, you will be an important witness to the truth about Jesus Christ and His invitation to life without end.

The passage from St. Paul’s Letter to Timothy highlights the importance of charity, the essence of diaconal ministry. Paul knows that he is on the point of undergoing a final agony that will take place at the Tre Fontane in Rome. However his preoccupation continues to be for the sheep and for the successors who will have to continue to serve the Church.

Without a doubt, the circumstances of this ordination already make clear your commitment, Stefano, to give yourself to others. First, you should have been ordained in your homeland and then by a bishop named Stephen (Bishop Steven J. Raica of Birmingham, AL) – more suited for diaconal ordination. I hope that the replacement with a sanctuary dedicated to St. John Paul II and with an archbishop ordained deacon, priest, and bishop if not in Italy – at least in a small state surrounded by Italy – will be of a little consolation.

I also greet with affection your parents and siblings and friends in Turin who follow through digital media. I understand their unease and I want to point out that the Eucharist knows neither the distances nor the separations of time. We are all united in this saving act of the love of the Lord. I also congratulate them for having transmitted the gift of faith and now for the gift of a son and brother at the service of the Church.

Many years ago, when I was at the service of the Secretariat of State of the Holy See, I would sometimes speak with Mons. Camisasca and I visited the house of formation in Via Boccea at least once. I never thought I would be called to ordain a deacon for the Fraternity. I am grateful for it.

The charism of the Fraternity, drawn from St. Charles Borromeo, is very suitable and current for the diaconal ministry today: the continuity of prayer, the tireless missionary openness, the boundless passion for Christ and for the people, and the concreteness of temperament. We need all this.

I conclude in English for fear of the earthquakes caused by the possible reversal of Dante’s remains for offenses against his beautiful language.

This Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul reminds us of commitment and the dramatic witness that empurpled the walls of Rome. May they inspire your diaconal and sacerdotal ministry. As the exhortation for ordination to the diaconate reminds us: “Hold the mystery of faith with a clear conscience. Express by your actions the word of God which your lips proclaim, so that the Christian people, brought to life by the Spirit, may be a pure offering accepted by God. “[4]

[1] Luigi Giussani, Perché la Chiesa, p. 270.

[2] Francis, Homily for Sts. Peter and Paul, 29.VI.20.

[3] Samuel Aquila, homily for the ordination of deacons, 22.II.20.

[4] Rites of Ordination, order of Deacon.

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