Sunday, January 26, 2014


A lot of people ask me what my calling to the diaconate was like.  Well, it went something like this: 

          God: Michael

          Me: Huh?

          God: Michael!

          Me: Who’s there?

          God: MICHAEL!

          Me: WHAT!

          God: It’s me, God.

          Me: Riiight.

          God: I want you to become a deacon.

          Me: Riiight. What’s a deacon?

          God: A deacon is an ordained minister of the Church who exercises the three munera of word, liturgy and charity.

          Me: What’s a munera?

          God: Munera is the plural form of the word munus, which means . . . . Oh, never mind. Deacons are the servants of the Church who teach, assist at liturgy and perform charitable works.

          Me: You want me to be a servant?

          God: Yes.

          Me:  Riiight.[1]

OK, my call to the diaconate wasn't anything like that at all.  I wish it had been; it would've been a lot easier to figure out.  But once I did figure it out, I knew it was right.  I was hooked.

          I attended a men’s retreat this past weekend where the theme was “Fishers of Men,” referring to the calling of the Apostles in the Gospel reading from Mass this morning.  So I've been doing a lot of thinking over the past few days about my call to the diaconate.  What was it like?  How did I know?  Well, I never heard a voice from heaven calling my name; I wasn't struck blind and interrogated by the Lord; I wasn't even visited by an angel in my sleep.  It was very subtle and it happened over a long period of time.  It was a silent nudge.  It was gradual awareness.  It was a growing conviction.

          The silent nudge – As I reached my mid-thirties, I began to experience a growing sense that I needed to give something back.  I felt that I had to do something positive with my abilities as pay back for the many blessings I had received.  Up to that point, I expected that I would enter public service.  I’d prepared for it for much of my college, graduate school and early professional career.  I loved politics.  There had been no question since my high school years of how I would give back.  But after I was married and had two children, I slowly came to realize that I wasn't really cut out for politics.  I was too thin-skinned; I avoided confrontation.  My shortcomings blew in my face like a cold north wind forcing me to take a different tack.  This was a painful discovery for me.  I felt lost.  I no longer had plan, but that nudge was still there, and it was getting stronger and stronger.
          Gradual awareness – Around the same time, we moved from Northern Virginia to New Jersey.  Although I knew basically what deacons were, and I even knew one deacon – a friend’s uncle, I had never been in a parish that had a deacon.  I never saw a deacon in action on a regular basis.  My new parish, though, had one deacon, and I slowly began to see, through his wonderful example, what the ministry of deacon was all about.  I cast my net wide for information about deacons.  I searched the internet.  I read books about deacons.  I began to ask questions.  I gradually became aware, over a period of about two years, that the same abilities that I thought were leading me into politics, might serve well in diaconal ministry.

          Growing conviction – As my interest in the diaconate grew, I started talking about it with my wife, my family and friends and colleagues at work.  Most didn't know what a deacon was (the conversations were a lot like the fictional conversation between me and God, above).  But after I explained what deacons do, everyone, without exception, told me that I’d make a great deacon.  [NB:  I just got choked up as I wrote that last sentence.]  The support was incredible.  It was powerful.  I’m absolutely convinced that the Holy Spirit was speaking to me through all of these people.  But I still questioned this calling all the time, even during formation.  Diaconal training takes a lot of time (five years from start to finish); it involves interviews, psychological testing (yes, I passed), background checks, classes, homework, papers, exams and a lot of Church bureaucracy.  I’m often asked, “How did you know that you were called to be a Deacon?”  The answer is that I didn't really know until the Bishop laid his hands on my head at ordination, but whenever I questioned the calling, the answer always came back “yes.”
          We’re all called by God to be “Fishers of Men,” to spread the Good News of a God who loves us unconditionally and more than we can ever imagine.  There are countless ways to fulfill this calling, and it’s up to each of us to decide which way or ways are best for us.  God didn't make me be a deacon, and he wouldn't have been upset if I had chosen not to follow that particular calling.  God gives us the gift of free will, so he gives us choices, all of them good.  It’s up to us to choose.  Finding what’s right for us may take time, and it may be difficult.  But I can assure you from my own experience that when you find your calling, you’ll know it’s right.  You’ll dive right into it.  You’ll be hooked.

[1] A tip of the hat to Bill Cosby’s Conversation Between God and Noah, found here on YouTube.

1 comment:

God is listening . . . comment accordingly.