I am in the process of discerning (have been for several years now) and am pretty sure the priesthood is not for me. When I asked my spiritual director if I could have a legitimate call to the diaconate, he acted as if that wasn't a legitimate vocation. I know that I am too young to actively apply for the permanent diaconate, but my future seems to be in marriage and service to the Church as a deacon. Was my spiritual director wrong for putting down the diaconate? What are your thoughts: is the permanent diaconate a call equal to priesthood, marriage, and religious life?
Any call from God is … a call from God!
The question is not which vocation is better, it’s which vocation is God calling you to.
Of course the permanent diaconate is a vocation!
I’m in the process right now of entering the formation program at our diocese and so I’ve done a little research.
I know people have looked down on the diaconate as if deacons are wannabe priests, or retired folk with nothing better to do, or as if it’s a badge of merit for being a good man in the parish.
These are wrong.
The primary role of a deacon is service and charity in the person of Christ, especially for the poor. The deacon’s other major roles are: to serve the Bishop.The deacon is also* the *Minster of the Word: such that if a Deacon is present even the Pope is not to read the Gospel! Also the deacon is an ordinary minister of the Eucharist.
Here’s the document, in case you don’t have it:
CONGREGATION FOR CATHOLIC EDUCATION
CONGREGATION FOR THE CLERGY
BASIC NORMS FOR THE FORMATION
OF PERMANENT DEACONS
DIRECTORY FOR THE MINISTRY AND LIFE
OF PERMANENT DEACONS
LIBRERIA EDITRICE VATICANA
VATICAN CITY 1998
Perhaps he was merely indicating that the vocation of the deacon is different from that of a priest. Some people don't exactly have a way with words. Perhaps you should talk to the vocations director to better understand the difference between the particular callings.
The different vocations are equal in dignity even though separate in practice. I would caution against regarding the diaconate as a sort of consolation prize for one who passed on the priesthood. Once you have determined the priesthood is not your vocation, discernment for the diaconate has to start at the beginning. If a man wants to marry, discernment should not even start until he has settled into marriage. This is because the discernment of a married man is just as much discernment of his wife.
One way of looking at it is:
at this point, you can’t properly discern a call to the permanent diaconate. Therefore, your current discernment is whether God is calling you to marriage (in general) or to celibacy (in general).
Once you make that determination, you can delve a little more deeply: if marriage, then you can later discern for the diaconate; if celibate, you can discern between single lay life or priesthood (with the footnote that ‘single lay life’ can later give rise to the discernment for permanent diaconate).
So, maybe what your director was saying was simply that this is not a proper discernment for you at this point?
I’m puzzled by the spiritual director’s position. Was it really that he felt there simply is no call to the permanent diaconate? Or was it really that he didn’t believe your motivations for considering the permanent diaconate were right, or something like that?
There’s also the issue of marriage and the diaconate. While married men certainly are currently permitted to be ordained as deacons, this obviously was not always the case and still to this day if a deacon’s wife dies he is not permitted to remarry. There has also been some discussion in canon law circles about whether continence (sexual abstinence) ought to be followed even in the case of married deacons, according to the most literal reading of canon law possible. Put together, an argument could be made that marriage and the diaconate are not ideally compatible and the married diaconate is more of a concession than a positive vocation which a currently single man should seek out or would be specifically called to. Or not- it’s very debatable, but I could see someone taking that position.
I believe my SD’s position was based on the idea that the Permanent Diaconate was a subset of the vocation to marriage. While this is true to a certain extent, I really think that people can be called to it even before they are married. Certainly much discernment must go into marriage (which is where I’m at now, and dating a wonderful girl for 4 years), but I know that I am called to service in the Church which could be very much in line with the Diaconate.
That’s unfortunate, if your spiritual director thinks so. The diaconate is a call to Holy Orders. Properly, deacons are not a subset of married men but of men (both married and celibate men are accepted to the diaconate). A celibate man even has a simpler discernment (presuming he intends to remain celibate), since he doesn’t have to consult a wife. A man who intends to marry, however, would be best served by deferring discernment until he has been married for a while. It may be that the woman he marries is unwilling to share her husband with this particular vocation.