By Deacon Arnold Gustafson, Director, Office of Permanent Diaconate
Deacon’s wife. Widow of the Church. Matruska or little mother of the Church. Lady in waiting. All of the above have been terms used to describe the wife of a deacon over the centuries, in cultural communities, and coined more recently to represent ministries and qualities of a deacon’s wife.
Contrary to its connotation, “widow of the Church” refers to the deacon’s wife as an icon of the sacrament of marriage. She is a constant reminder to us, the deacons, the Church community and the community at large, that she is the Beloved of her husband as he is to her. She exemplifies the gift of self-donation, first to her husband; second, to her family; and third, to the Church community. She is not a “widow” because the deacon, her husband, appears to spend more time in Church related activities. Instead, she is the example of commitment as she appears by his side at Church functions or assists him in sacramental preparation or silently gives support to his own special gifts. Her love for her husband is indicative of truly mature Christian love. She is “widow” in the sense that she helps to maintain the balance needed for the deacon to serve family, work, and Church.
Matruska or “little mother of the Church” gives us the image of the deacon’s wife as nurturer and life-giver. She nurtures her husband and family in the way of the faith. She may offer her own gifts in service to the Church: through parenting classes; preparing part of a bereavement meal; teaching not only her own children but other children the faith; or offering her gifts of prayer in time of need. The deacon’s wife is an example of Mary’s love for the Church and so she may be Matruska, little mother of the Church.
I coin the term “Lady in Waiting”, suggested to me by my wife, Diane. Many times, the deacon’s wife spends her time listening to the concerns of parishioners, sharing anecdotes, and giving emotional support as she waits for her husband after Mass, as he begins or concludes sacramental preparations, or as he solidifies a retreat with staff members. And she does this as she “waits” as ladies did in medieval times. She is a great listener, a woman of gifted patience and a wise bearer of her own God-given gifts.
We recognize the contribution that the wives of our deacons have given over the years. Behind every good deacon is an even greater and often sacrificing wife, if he is married. These women are the “support beams” and shoulders the deacon leans on; the women who share the burdens, the confidences, and the ministries. To both deacons and their wives I share these words of St. Teresa of Avila: “Christ has no body but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours.” The deacon’s wife exemplifies the potential for perseverance.
Diocese of Manchester
The Catholic Church in New Hampshire
153 Ash Street, Box 310
Manchester, NH 03105-0310
Fax: (603) 669-0377
© Diocese of Manchester