This Saturday, June 24, 2017, eleven men will be ordained permanent deacons for the Archdiocese of Washington. I know what they must be feeling because 9 years ago, on June 28, 2008 then Archbishop, now Cardinal, Donald Wuerl ordained 16 of us as deacons at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. There was this feeling of unworthiness for having been called to this Holy Order to serve in this ministry in the Church, and at the same time a feeling of joy that despite that unworthiness (there are many who are more qualified in terms of talent and qualities out there) the Lord gave me this special calling.
Holy Scripture describes the basic qualifications of those who would be deacons, thus:
"Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for gain; they must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then if they prove themselves blameless let them serve as deacons. Let deacons be the husband of one wife, and let them manage their children and their households well; for those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith which is in Christ Jesus." (1 Timothy 3:8-13)
The coming anniversary is another occasion to examine how I have been fulfilling this calling. "Deacon" means servant, and deacons are supposed to serve God by serving the Church, the People of God.
"Deacons share in Christ's mission and grace in a special way. The sacrament of Holy Orders marks them with an imprint ("character") which cannot be removed and which configures them to Christ, who made himself the "deacon" or servant of all." CCC 1570
How much have I really been a servant, a servant of the Lord? Only the Lord can answer that. I do not know how many people and in what ways I have touched them by what I have said and done, as an instrument of His love and grace, to draw them them closer to the Lord.
The goal of a deacon is to bring people closer to the Lord . . . by whatever he says or does . . . by his service . . . by the way he lives his life. It does not encompass being at the altar and giving homilies on some Sundays, or visiting the sick, or giving help to the needy alone. It is being like Christ, because the sacrament of Holy Orders configures him to Christ. It is Christ he should preach about daily . . . if necessary, using words, as St. Francis of Assisi (who chose to remain a deacon) said.
To those who are reading this: As I pray for you, please pray for me and my brother deacons, that we may be true servants of Christ, true servi Domini.#