Decerning the permanent Deacon


#1

I really would like to hear from permanent Deacons.

I am a convert of over some 5 years, originally agnostic with a heavy family background in the Southern Baptist Church. I can fight the NKJV with the best of them (^_^) (funny though when the Mormons stop by and I pull out a Catholic Bible about midway thru the conversation - although they’ve been trained to counter the Catholic faith (heavy Catholic population where I live) - and do a good job until I ask them to pin down the “great apostasy” made a copy of the apostolic succession of the Pope that we use in RCIA, the guy said he had no idea we could trace the succession like that!) , about middle age, 4 younger children and a wonderful wife of close to 25 years (even if we don’t agree on everything, I’m blessed to have her!).

I rejoined my Parish’ s RCIA team as a core member the year following my conversion and had been involved with that ministry since; and have undertaken teaching within the Parish Religious Education program the last year. These along with the other normal stewardship, lector, usher, I could stand in as an alter server (might look like a first year though (^_^) ; however, I’ve helped to train my daughter to serve and will my sons when they are old enough).

So yes I’m new to the faith in one sense and, I think, starting to get a fairly good grasp on at least the pillars of the Church (they hold the roof up ( :rotfl: ). I am fairly close friends with one of the oldest Deacons in the parish and he was instrumental to my conversion. We’ve talked many times about where I am in my faith and where I want to go… There are a lot of, personal revelations that occurred during and after my conversion. I wont say miracles… I just think that God took the time to answer a few prayers. Deacon and I have discussed these, along with Fr. and they seem to think that I should consider becoming a Deacon.

For me, this is a HUGE step… and of course, even if I were to call and start the ball rolling this very second, in my Diocese its a minimum of 5 years thru the program; thus, certainly not a rash/hasty step either. Honestly, I’m not really sure that I am or would be worthy of such a role within the Church. I see the way my friend is as a Deacon, very calm, very kind, very gentile. I’ve seen him upset with people, and he doesn’t lose his temper… he just smiles, and answers in a very calm way, never stays angry, people that are angry - are calmer with him, people in sorrow seem to gain strength from him … everyone I know that knows him for more than 10 seconds admires him… there’s a peace within him that feeds that peace I felt within myself that Easter Morning… I know that I would like to bring that to other people and I do believe that our Lord has given him that gift, in both who he is as a person and what he is as a Deacon.

Knowing that my wife would be very involved,. I’ve already asked her… she says that she’ll back me 100% if this is the role I want to pursue - the children would be 12ish and the oldest almost out of high-school by the time I could be ordained.

so the question I have for the Deacons out there, what was your motivation? How did you decide that the Diaconate was part of your vocation?


#2

I can’t contribute so please accept my apologies for posting, but I am very interested in the replies and wanted to subscribe to this thread.


#3

Praying to the Holy Spirit to give you guidance & direction in yout discernment.


#4

I am probably in the minority where it comes to your age and the age of your children being a factor in your acceptance into formation or not. I believe we need younger men in the sacred order of deacons. I think it is a great witness to your family, church parish, and your co-workers to make this journey while very active with life’s already exciting adventures. Most will tell you to wait until your children are at least out of high school, I won’t. We need more young men in the diaconate. I am the second youngest in my diocese at 48 years old; one of my classmates is a year younger.

I started formation in the beginning of ’06 and my children were 13 and 10, both sons. While we were in formation we took in a 15 year old girl, no relation we just reached out to a troubled teen and she is still with us although she is now married. In other words, we took in two teens in the end! They have come a long way and are doing quite well. Anyway, our kids are now 19, 22, and our “adopted” daughter is 20. I have no regrets for bringing them through all this at their age. This formation process changed them as much as it changed me. The process of formation changed my extended family. No regrets what so ever!

This is something that you and your wife need to sit down and discuss filly and if she is in fact 100% behind you I would suggest entering formation. Remember, just like in the seminary, the entire formation time up to the moment the bishop lays hands on you is discernment. My wife and I decided to go through with ordination a mere week before the ceremony at the canonically required ordination retreat. I’ll never forget the moment, the two of us kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel and the two of us signed the required document to consent to the ordination. Besides the birth of our children and adoption of Mandy our daughter, I would say this is the defining moment of our marriage.

As far as my motivation? I truly felt the calling to something before I knew the permanent diaconate existed. I just didn’t know what I was being called to. Our associate pastor while walking next to him through the church parking lot while doing something, I don’t recall what, asked me why I didn’t become a deacon since I was so involved in the church. At that very moment I was assured by the Holy Spirit that that was what I had been led to for the past few years.

When that happened I spoke with my wife about it and she flipped. It was not a good night in the bedroom that night! But after some time and a lot of discussion, we decided yes, I would enter. The first conversation was in ’03 or so; I entered formation in ’06.

It’s not a decision to be taken lightly, it is very hard work; and I don’t mean just the studies, I mean the obedience and the humility. If the program is run right you will be completely different when you finish and people around you will let you know it. Some will run from you, others will flock to you.

Once again, no regrets and I suggest you enter in to completely discern the calling. If it is God’s will it will happen; if not, you will leave the program knowing it was not for you.


#5

Pray on this and continue speaking about it. I very much appreciate Deacon Gary’s comments above; he is someone who has a lot of good and instructive things to say about the diaconate. I myself have had a lot of what the deacon mentions happen to me. I am discerning just as you are, so my prayers are with and for you. Shalom.


#6

Nacho: I knew I wasn’t alone… please help carry the cross :slight_smile:

Tawny: Thank You. I’ll need them I think.

Lapey: Very much along the same lines as my close friend. He also pointed out that if he had waited for the kids to be out of school he more than likely would never have been a Deacon. Just happens that the program was being offered at the same time he was considering the vocation.
I think Wife and I are going to go have a datenight for this talk.

shawnbm: Last time I asked our Lord about this, I was keeping a holy hour… two weeks later he sent us our youngest, which I took to mean wait a year or two more.

I appreciate everyone’s prayers…
I’m going to sit back here the next few days and read what comes in, so please don’t take a lack of response as a loss of interest… just needing to take this in a very slow and deliberate way.


#7

I am also curious about responses as I too am discerning. I have had various encouragements that lead me to believe God may be calling me as well, some profound, some ordinary.

Random suggestions from my wife and friends mostly. I once had a deacon say to me, ‘you remind me of myself at your age.’ Recently a K of C friend of mine who is in formation pulled me aside at random and said, ‘we need more young deacons, why don’t you come with me to an informational meeting.’

I also had a profound experience at adoration in a lectio divina sort of way. I was there after the death of a young cousin of mine (car accident). I had had no consolations from God for 5 years, seemingly no responses to prayers, financial difficulties, joblessness, etc. I was praying for my aunt and uncle who lost their son; praying God would console them or give them some sign that my cousin was ok. Flipped open the Bible to Maccabees-purgatory. Asked for a sign for my family, opened the Bible and it was where Christ says ‘no sign shall be given except the sign of Jonah.’ 2 for 2 with seemingly direct answers. So I asked The Lord what He would have of me in relation to my family, how do I support them. Opened the Bible again to St. Stephen’s speech in Acts - I took it as a call to the diaconate. 3 answers or coincidence?

Recently as the desire has grown stronger I’ve been praying over the theology of the diaconate? What is it? I understand the theology of the priesthood, but not the diaconate. We were traveling this past weekend for a friend’s child’s baptism. Sure enough the priest spoke about St. Philip (deacon, not apostle) and the charisms of deacons. A deacon performed the baptism and we talked about my discerning.

Concerns I have? I’m an introverted intellectual, feel I can handle the doctrine, teaching and preaching part, but I’m not sure how good I would be at the pastoral part. I don’t have a bubbly personality and fear people would misinterpret me as too serious or lacking affection.

Also, I fear that if something were to happen to my wife, I’m married as a remedium concupiscentia. My kids are currently 6, 4, 2 and one on the way, so I worry about being there for them. I also worry that if I were to preach, I am orthodox and would like to preach on contraception or homosexuality etc, my kids would get backlash.

Finally, I’m not sure I’m holy enough for sacred orders.

Any deacons on here who had similar concerns?


#8

I mirror Deacon Lapey’s comments.

Two quick points, maybe 3.

You say you don’t feel “worthy” to be a Deacon. Well, guess what? You aren’t and you never will be. Neither am I, nor is Deacon Lapey, nor is any Deacon in the world. None of us can ever be worthy. I can very strongly empathize with you on this point because about 7/8 of the way through formation, I had the strong desire to drop out because I felt I could never be worthy. I discussed it with my spiritual director who had me take it to the priest who was coordinating the program. HE is the one who told me that none of us could ever be worthy, himself and his brother priests included. God prepares those he has chosen, he doesn’t necessarily choose those who are prepared.

I actually never initially really felt called to the diaconate. My pastor approached me and suggested I pray about it. I pretty much dismissed him. Then after a baptism preparation class that my wife and I help present, our deacon came to me and said he thought I would be a good deacon and thought I should apply. Again, I pretty much dismissed it, and figured the pastor put him up to it.(I learned later that they hadn’t spoken about it) About a week later I was in my men’s group when one of the guys said he thought I would be a good deacon. At that point, I went into the church, knelt before the tabernacle and said outloud: “OK I hear you.”

I had a frank discussion with my wife that night and her response was: “well it took you long enough to figure this out”. Still, as I said above, I was never really sure until I felt the cold marble of the Cathedral floor against my cheek.

We have four (4) children. At the time the oldest was 15 and the youngest was 10 (yeah, I know, my wife is a living saint). I got a really affirmation when one of my friends who also had a son my son’s age, and was also in formation, told me that the boys were talking in the back seat of the car on the way to a soccer game. His son asked my son (about 11 years old at the time) what he though about me and this “deacon thing”. My son replied that he was “actually really proud of my dad”.

Discernment is a two way street. Pray. When you have finished praying about it, pray some more. Then . . . pray some more. If you think you even “might” be called, talk to your pastor. Do you have a spiritual director? If not, get one, and talk to him about it - frankly, openly, share everything, don’t hold back. If you stil think you might be called, go ahead and apply. At that point, the Bishop, through his representatives, will also discern whether you are called. He may decide “not”. On the other hand . . . you may find in 5 years that you are changed man, a different person, and member of the ordained clergy. That’s when the work really starts.

God bless you in your discernment.

Pray

Then pray some more.


#9

#10

I very much enjoy this thread as I am in discernment for the diaconate as well. I have read many of Deacons Lapey and Jeff’s posts over the last year or so and they offer cogent analysis and sage advice, the number one being that we need to pray and then pray some more. I question whether I would make a good deacon and my story is remarkably similar to Deacon Lapey’s and Deacon Jeff’s in terms of clergy and others coming up to me and suggesting I consider this. I pray about it daily and question whether I am worthy, but then I recall that none of us is worthy of much in our lives anyway. Getting out of thinking about me and into what does God want for me is a lifelong process for me–at times I feel I am better at taking myself out of the center of the picture and at other times, … :shrug:

Blessings to you, and peace.

Shawn


#11

First, thanks to Deacons Gary and Jeff for their insights.

I am in a similar boat as many here (i.e. youngish * with several younger kids). I keep praying to Christ and St Stephen to help me know if I am called to the diaconate rather than some delusional fantasy that I should be a deacon. Also, it seems many discourage younger men from pursuing the diaconate until their children are older or until they are close to retirement so they have more time for their ministry.

So three questions I had are:

[LIST=1]
*]Does anyone see a trend in younger men discerning for the diaconate?
*]How does one discern if they are called rather than just following what others suggest they do? (I’ve been asked by a couple deacons and friends when I would enter formation)
]For those that felt the call to service, but not necessarily to pastoral work, what kinds of ministry did you do before hand?
[/LIST]
The third question is really around trying to get my foot in the door. Many of the ministries in my area are closed groups that are hard to get involved with. I’m fairly passive so when rejected or ignored I tend to wander on to look where else I can serve rather than force the issue. My wife and I both work with our deacons on marriage prep and teach NFP, but that doesn’t seem like enough. I guess I’m wondering how involved is a diaconal candidate expected to be when entering into formation? Are there certain ministries that they are expected to be involved in?


#12

Deacon Jeff,

Thank you for the words of encouragement! I am most likely going to pursue this. Your words are certainly helping me with my ‘doubts.’ I’ve recently had the thought that this is the reason I was made and strangely enough, the diaconate seems to make sense out of some of the seemingly senseless, at the time, hardships I’ve endured. Anyway, the formation committee/Holy Spirit will decide that for me. Now I just need some life obstacles to work out (finish my current degree in time for the next formation class and the ability to get my wife to part time or full time stay at home mom. It was one of her conditions as we’ve talked more seriously about this.)

Again, thank you and God bless you for your counsel!


#13

I’ve felt called since I was about 35. I’m 42 now. I spoke with my pastor about it, and he said he thought I would make a fantastic deacon. Another priest friend almost begged me to consider this path. I don’t tell you this out of pride. For me, there is a huge obstacle, and it’s a financial one. I simply cannot afford the education required. It’s unfortunate, and something I have a lot of resentment over. Basically in my diocese, if you cannot afford a master’s degree from a private university, you’re not going to be ordained a deacon.

I guess this is God’s will?


#14

Peace be with you, z_0101.

The call to the Diakona is not one that should be debated, voted and then decided. This call is similar to the call to priesthood. A Deacon IS ordained and not just commissioned. The desire to be a deacon should come from within you. This desire should fill you up that “nothing else matters”.
When I felt this desire, I started being a deacon in my own home. My prayer life increased (from bear minimum to intense), my involvement with the parish increased and my direction in life was changed (from career to ministry).
Take the time to figure out where this desire is coming from. Is it really from deep within your heart (where God speaks to) or from those around you?
My prayers are with you. Andrew.


Dominus vobiscum.


#15

Some dioceses are moving towards the higher education model for deacon formation. I am not a strong believer in this model. I understand its merits but I don’t see the need. In most programs we see a diverse background of education of the men who apply; to me this is much more important than whether or not a person has a piece of paper. I have seen some very smart and extremely educated priests not be able to relate to people and therefore has absolutely no pastoral benefit for the faithful. Those typically end up teaching seminary.

In my class we started formation with 14 men. The education levels of the group could not have been more diverse. There was a layer with multiple master’s degrees all the way to a native American who didn’t finish high school. The latter was the chief of his local tribe, no kidding! If I were to send one man into battle walking with the people I would pick the Chief and not the layer, no offense to the layer he is a very dear friend of mine.

Most of us were high school graduates and we came from all walks of life. Nine of us were ordained, not including the Chief unfortunately, he had too many duties as chief to complete the work. He had to drop out with about a year left.

My point is this, if you have a bachelor’s degree you have more education than most deacons. There are other places to serve, have you considered checking with your neighboring dioceses to see if they would accept you? If God is calling you to the diaconate, don’t allow a arbitrary boundary to block that calling.

First thing that must be discerned, is God calling you to ordained ministry? He may be calling you to something different. If you do not have a spiritual director go seek one out. Find a priest who is trained and certified for spiritual direction and see him regularly for help discerning this. Most of all, make sure you and your wife discuss this openly and fully and often. She may be ready to move as well, you never know.


#16

Thanks very much for the supportive words, Deacon Gary. And to the original poster, I apologize for hijacking your thread!


#17

A few thoughts from across the pond…

There have been some very good points raised so I will only reiterate them but a few quick points from somebody currently in formation for the diaconate in England:

  1. It is not the individual’s will but God’s that is being discerned. This may be through revelation St Paul style, but may be in the quiet breeze like Elijah after the earthquake. Therefore be prepared to listen to what God is saying to you in prayer and in life.

  2. Formation is a time of change. It will shape you in the way God wants for your ministry so it’s not about if you are ready now. Remember straight after his conversion St Paul went to the town of Arabia and messed it up big time.

  3. As said, discernment ends with Ordination. If you proceed and don’t get there it will not be time wasted, but part of God’s development of you.

  4. What is your motivation? If it is to look like Father then be careful you don’t want to wear longer phylacteries and be greeted obsequiously in the market square. Or is it about having a genuine desire to serve the people of God, bring people to Christ for the first time and bring people back to Christ. Can you become, as an Ordained member of the Catholic Church, the persona Christi as the Servant King?

  5. Take the journey with family. Your wife is important and if there is any doubt about her support then this needs to be dealt with in a prayerful non-confrontational way, but it is important to get to the reason why she may have concerns. There needs to be strong marriage for you to be able to minister and be a witness to the teachings of the Church. Children’s responses will vary but if you proceed be seen to be giving them the time that you gave before.

  6. Be prepared for it to change your life. You become a different person if you are being called. Ultimately as you progress through formation you may know in your own heart as to whether it is what God wants of you, but be humble to acknowledge what God’s agent in this, your bishop, has to say.

  7. Talk to your parish priest, use a spiritual director, speak to the director for the diaconate or vocation in your diocese.

  8. Keep a prayer log and reflect on its contents.

  9. When you read / hear the Beatitudes and Matthew 25 do you recognise these as the bedrock of your purpose in life, because these are at the heart of the commandment to love neighbour as oneself

  10. Trust in God. After prayer and reflection, do you love him with all your heart, your soul, strength and mind?

11… Enjoy the process. It might be a journey of a few steps or it might be a journey that takes you on a rollercoster of emotions, challenges and opportunities, but ultimately takes you to a place that none of us are worthy to accept - Ordination as the Servant of God as Christ on earth

I hope that helps. Finally please pray for me. This Sunday (6 June) I shall be instituted with the ministry of Acolyte and, God willing, look forward to Ordination next year.


#18

Well, a few things to think about here.
I think that perhaps I’m like the “dumb OX” and need the more direct approach than a quite wind and voice in the dark; however, there were and are private revelations that I have had and are very hesitant to discuss outside of my wife, the Fr. and Dcn. that were involved with my conversion to the faith. (I wouldn’t call these miracles, just events that I can’t explain via co-incidence or scientific reasoning) and it is partly due to these events that have lead to the conversation about becoming a Deacon.

  • I can and have done the counseling part, sometimes not with the success that I would have desired for the person… but as it’s said, you can’t make a horse drink - you can only lead it to the water.
  • A larger role in the Mass… I must admit, I do have that desire… I am a lector in our Parish now because of the desire to have a larger role in the Mass. Is it pride, I don’t think so, every time I am to proclaim the readings I have a tinge of stage fright. Not so bad when the Pews are empty; however, my only prayer while reading is that they hear God’s voice and not mine… nobody is going to make a fuss if God stumbles on a word or two ( :smiley: ). Even if I progressed no farther than an acolyte, that would be great in that there have been occasions where an acolyte would be helpful for a Deacon or our Priests during a communion service or other functions.
  • as far as teaching the faith… I’ve been an active member of our RCIA team for many years and recently took on a role with our parish religious education (think CCD).
  • I’ve lost count of the number of times people have asked me to pray for them or someone close that was ill or in trouble. Which always seems strange to me… I’m a convert, most know this, and yet, I’ve started to have to keep a small flipbook to write intentions down in… really don’t know when this started!? Never thought of myself as being that holy! However, I take these with me to my holy hour.

however, it’s very late for me here and I’m afraid I’ve started rambling… just really wanted to express my thnx and let everyone here know that I hadn’t abandoned the thread… just in a lot of deep thought. (42)

anyway back to the tea time of the soul… or what I’d like to call, sleep, if the little ones will let me… where do they get all of that energy and how can I store it for work?


#19

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