To Be Or Not To Be
Hamlet, Act III, Scene 1: “To be, or not to be – that is the question.” by Michael Houtchen
Three and a half years ago I asked myself those same immortal words of Shakespeare – To be or not to be – To be a Permanent Deacon or not. That was the question. But what makes me worthy to be an ordained minister of the Catholic Church? Nothing. Nothing but a loving God, who said I should. Nothing, except the undying urge to help others, to serve others, and in the process, maybe make this world a better place. That was one of the reasons God came to earth in the form of a man, to serve and not to be served. By the way, all the baptized are called to serve, in their own way of course. After weeks of discerning and prayer, and with the encouragement of close friends, I signed up. As I said, that was three and a half years ago, and what a three and a half years it has been.
One weekend a month, eleven months of the year, we have met for formation and classes. Formation to help us decide if it’s God’s calling or our own self-gratification. God’s calling – good. Self-gratification – bad. Classes to make us richer in the faith (Scripture), richer in the history of the Church, richer in the teachings of the Church Fathers (Tradition).
We are together, sixteen of us, from Friday evening, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning. Three long days of butt-numbing chairs and hurriedly scribbling notes that would be unreadable in the days to come. And from these unrecognizable scribbles – essays; essays from theologies: Ecclesiology, Christology, Mariology, and Moral Theology. Essays from classes in Philosophy, Spirituality, Church History, Old Testament, the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke), Acts, the Johannine Literature, which includes the Gospel of John, Canon Law, Trinity, Salvation, and Paul’s Letters and Epistles. By the way, in case you didn’t know (I didn’t), an Epistle is nothing more than a long letter. From all these classes you would think I’m a really smart guy; don’t bet on it. We’re cramming all this knowledge into our brains; most of it will leak out through our ears while we’re asleep.
Classes are important. You wouldn’t want stupid Deacons. But according to Bishop Medley, classes are only one part, a small part, of being a deacon. From the Diocese’s website on Permanent Deacons, not once does it mention book learning as the goal of the Permanent Deacon:
“The deacon is called to serve the Bishop, and his Priests, by becoming more intimately associated with, and involved in the life of the poor, the marginalized, the forgotten, the abandoned, the silent, and the voiceless. The deacon is asked to give his voice to the poor so that their concerns may be heard by the whole Church, especially the Bishop. Intimately united to the ministry of the Bishop and the Priests they [Deacons] are called to serve the Church, giving their lives in service to their brothers and sisters, the People of God.”
Truthfully, I don’t believe I will be approached by a lot by people with questions on Theology. It could happen I guess, but I doubt it. Most of the time it will be questions about faith and life. “I’m not getting a lot out of Church.”, “I don’t feel God is listening to me.”, “My children don’t want to come to Mass.”, “What am I going to do about my mother’s dementia?”, “I need help. My husband’s Parkinson’s is getting worst.”, “I think my spouse is cheating on me.”, “My son, my daughter, is addicted to . . .” And the worst – “Why did God let my small child die?” My fear – Will I be able to come up with a comforting pastoral answer and guidance? Will I make matters worse? Hopefully, I will be able to guide them to someone who has the answers. I tell you this; I’m going to depend on God to guide me, A LOT. I’m going to depend on prayer.
So, I have another year and a half to go before ordination. Another year and a half of formation and head-crushing classes. And the day I’m ordained, it will not be the end, but only the beginning.
My next class is later this month; it’s Moral Theology 1, part 2. If you’re interested, please let me know and I’ll wander back this way and give you an update. As I’m writing this, I feel like giving you my slant on the Deacon Wife.