The National Diaconate Convocation, held here in Jubilee Hall on November 5, is quickly approaching. With anticipation building, the Center for Diaconal Formation is putting the finishing touches on what is sure to be a truly inspiring day of reflection for deacons, candidates and aspirants -- and their wives.
To make the wives' experience that much more memorable, the event will include a presentation exclusively for these incredible women, to be delivered by Dianne Traflet, J.D., S.T.D., Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Administration and Assistant Professor of Pastoral Theology here at Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology. Author of Edith Stein: A Spiritual Portrait (Pauline Media, 2008), Dr. Traflet gives numerous lectures, retreats, and days of recollection. She also serves on the Board of Trustees for St. Joseph's Seminary, New York, and Catholic Distance University, Virginia. She has been interviewed by a variety of print and broadcast media, most recently Eternal Word Television Network and Relevant Radio.
You are widely recognized as an expert on St. Edith Stein, the subject of your 2008 book. What is it about her that fascinates or intrigues you?
Everything about Edith's life and spirituality fascinates me. I've been studying her for more than two decades, and I always find new aspects of her life. I'm just never bored. I think that's because Edith helps me not only learn about her life, but about God's work on an individual soul. And, well, you can never get bored learning about God!
Edith's faith journey was a complicated one, but never superficial. She was born into a large Jewish family, and by her mid-teens, had stopped praying; her spiritual quest continued through her high school and college, in fact, all the way through her doctoral studies. Her journey is riveting-truly an adventure of prayer, friendship and love that led her, with God's grace, to the Catholic faith, and eventually to a Carmelite Convent.
Set against the backdrop of World War I and World War II, Edith's life also points to great suffering, hardship and loss. Edith, who would become Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, teaches us how to keep our focus on Christ and the Cross in difficult and trying times. She kept her faith, and witnessed to it, even in the midst of Nazi persecution-indeed, even to the gas chamber of Auschwitz. What a courageous and loving woman, a powerful witness to courage, strength and self-sacrificial love.
Last year, you were inducted into the Hall of Fame at your alma mater, Immaculate Conception High School in Lodi, New Jersey. What was that like?
Prior to my induction to my high school's Hall of Fame, I had the opportunity to ponder certain "pages" of my spiritual life that really started in a profound way in my early teen years. I remembered that in my freshman year, I read "Man's Search for Meaning" about Viktor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist and his imprisonment in a Nazi concentration c& his story had a phenomenal impact on my life-and perhaps is the reason why I really gravitated to Edith's Stein's life. She, too, searched for meaning, suffered persecution and was arrested by the Nazis.
Just as Frankl's story has stayed with me, so, too, certain images from high school: Mass in the beautiful chapel on the Felician campus, seeing the sisters in prayer and hearing their beautiful voices singing in the choir loft. Sounded like angels to me. I had the opportunity to not only learn more about my faith, but to see the meaning of a faith-filled, prayerful life, in the witness of the Felician Sisters.
Dr. Traflet gives a lecture at a recent diocesan lecture series, encouraging participants to pray. Photo by Rose O'Connor.
I have to say that I always learn from my students. I've been teaching for about 20 years, and there's never been a semester where I haven't been inspired. But there was one spirituality class about a decade ago that was particularly inspiring. Each and every student had suffered tremendous loss and trauma, and each had kept the faith, guided in profound ways by God through the darkness and pain. We read many inspiring stories of great saints that semester, but I would venture to say that the most inspiring stores were the ones lived by these courageous students.
It was completely humbling for me to accompany these men and women, even in a small way, as they sought to learn more about the mystery of God's love-a love they had experienced in profound ways in the depths of their broken hearts.
During the Convocation, you will be giving a presentation specifically to the wives of deacons, deacon candidates and aspirants. In your opinion, what role do these women play in helping to support their husbands in their diaconal ministries?
I wonder if some of the deacons never would have even considered the diaconate if it hadn't been for their wives' encouragement and prayerful support. I've come to know many of these women, and I have been inspired by their love of their husbands, their families and the Church, as well as their willingness to sacrifice, sometimes in very significant ways, for the good of their families and the Body of Christ.
How did you come up with the topic of your presentation, "Merciful Accompaniment: The Spiritual Journeys of Inspiring Women of Faith"?
First, I wanted to highlight the theme of mercy during the final month of the Year of Mercy. Second, I wanted to point to many great women of faith in Scripture and tradition and how they embraced a calling to accompany others in their struggles and faith journeys-sometimes in hidden, yet profound and powerful ways.
With the multitude of presentations you've given, retreats you've led, even media appearances you've done, what advice would you give someone preparing to speak publicly about the Catholic faith?
My advice is very simple: Remember to ask God as you prepare for a presentation, "Help me to touch a soul." And believe that God will indeed help-sometimes in unexpected ways that not only help an audience member or a retreatant, but you, too!
Categories: Faith and Service