I don't want to break my arm patting myself on the back, but this past year was amazing, awesome, and awful. Last fourth of July weekend I began writing my Integrated Pastoral Research project (i.e., my thesis) in earnest. I finished the first draft on the Friday before Memorial Day. In September I learned my wife was pregnant again. Our beautiful new son was born a week ago today. In December I found out that my Dad had cancer. He passed into eternity a month later, in January. My oldest daughter graduated from the Choir School at the beginning of June. In the meantime, in addition to my full-time job, at which I put in around 44 hours per week, all the stuff at home and for my kids, I have been putting in an average of somehwere around 20-25 hours a week running and/or overseeing all of the aspects of our parish religious education program. Apart from birth and death, all of this has been par for the course for the past 6 years.
God is so good and I am so blessed to have a lovely family, a great job, and to serve His holy people as a deacon. I am also mindful that a healthy portion of my diaconal service, tied as it is to the altar, is my life with my family and the witness and service I provide in my daily life, building bridges between the church and the world. I wrote about this recently, beginning with some observations by Walter Cardinal Kasper:
Kasper goes on to note that it is precisely because he is married and lives with his family, while most often working in the world, that simply relating to people in the concrete circumstances of his daily life constitutes a major part of the ministry of many permanent deacons. The cardinal also points out that because diaconal service is different from and complementary to presbyteral service, a deacon should not compete with the priest(s) in his parish by seeking to grab as large a slice of the pastoral pie as possible. After all, Kasper goes on to observe, before parishes can gather around the altar of God to celebrate the Eucharist, the parish, made up as it is of people, “must first be built into a collective community.” Going all the way back to the seven men set apart by the apostles, in addition to bridging the gap between the church and the world, such community-building within the church has always been a necessary part of authentic diakonia.
Along lines similar to the ones laid down by Cardinal Kasper, [Fr.] Latcovich concluded that “what a deacon does (in terms of ministry) is not as important as who a deacon is.” This simple but profound insight is all the more important because it cuts across all the images that arise from the concrete situations of all permanent deacons, be they married, single and never married, widowed, and even those few who have suffered the pain of a divorce. Most important of all is the witness a deacon gives to the one he ultimately serves, Jesus Christ