Discernment: The deacon is a minister of God’s Word
By Deacon Guadalupe Rodriguez
Men sensing, discerning and recognizing a call to be permanent deacons should do so in light of the word, charity and liturgy as the Basic Norms for the Formation of Permanent Deacons recommends. The spirituality, ministry and service of the Word is something that a man in discernment should be in “intimate contact” with so as to help him better perceive and determine if God is indeed inviting him to the permanent diaconate.
Ministry and service of the word may already be happening, “both by study and by gradual exercise of the ministry of the word” at Mass. This is a very important part in the life of the deacon and in the discernment process. Experiencing authentic joy during lecturing, Bible study, Lectio Divina or catechizing is one of the indicators that a man may be “better disposed for the future service of the word.” A deacon is called to proclaim, instruct and exhort with the Word of God, as we hear in the words of the bishop to the deacon at ordination, “Believe what you read. Teach what you believe. Practice what you teach.”
The Basic Norms explains that a man in discernment “has already had a certain experience of listening to and meditating upon the Word of God,” so that he can hear with the ears of the heart if God indeed is calling him to a life of word, charity and liturgy. Of course this discernment is also done with the wife’s and pastor’s consent; however, it is the church who finally affirms, discerns and confirms the man’s suitability for ordination. The man’s part is to “strive to deepen their knowledge of the word, so as to hear its call.” This is done by praying with the Word of God and listening during Eucharistic adoration and praying quietly during the day. As it says in the Basic Norms, “It is He who calls them, accompanies them and moulds their hearts so that they can recognize his grace.”
Ordination, “imprints a character and communicates a specific sacramental grace” that helps the deacon, “For a worthy and fruitful proclamation of the Word of God” so that we do not read it but instead proclaim and preach the Word of God. More specifically, this is made possible because “The diaconal character is the configurative and distinguishing sign indelibly impressed in the soul, which configures the one ordained to Christ.” Furthermore the church states that ordination, “brings with it a specific sacramental grace, which is strength, ‘vigor specialis’, a gift for living the new reality wrought by the sacrament.”
I distinctly remember the shortcomings I had with speaking about the faith that have been transformed in the years since my ordination. Of course to fully develop, expand and unfold the graces we receive at ordination, we have to cooperate with much prayer and charity in our daily living.
Men who are sensing a pull or tug in their heart to the diaconate can begin by carrying a small pocket Bible to read it throughout the day. God speaks to us through the Scriptures. Pope Francis has mentioned carrying a Bible many times and he has even distributed them at the Vatican to thousands. “In any given moment of the day I take the Gospel from my pocket and I read something, a short passage. Jesus is there and he speaks to us in the Gospel!” Pope Francis said.
In 2012, the U.S. Catholic bishops wrote a document called “Preaching the Mystery of Faith,” which helps us understand how the priest or deacon should be connected with the Word of God. “As one whose duty is to proclaim the Word of God, the homilist must necessarily be a person with a deep love of the Scriptures and one whose spirituality is profoundly shaped by God’s Word. This entails being someone who habitually immerses himself in the language, stories, rhythms, speech patterns, and ethos of the Scriptures. The words of the Bible should be readily at hand and often on his lips; he should commit important passages of Scripture to memory and have a sure grasp of the narrative thrust of the entire Bible. His Bible should be near at hand, carrying it with him when he travels or perhaps staying linked to it by computer or other mobile technology.”
Sessions explore call to the diaconate
Information sessions exploring the vocational call, the qualities of a man suitable for formation, the church’s discernment process, the formation program, diaconal ministry, and implications on marriage will be offered in English and Spanish from
2 to 5 p.m. on the following dates and locations:
Nov. 15 at the Pastoral Center in Austin
Dec. 13 at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Marble Falls
Jan. 17 at St. Mary Parish in Brenham
Feb. 14 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Temple
March 13 at St. John the Evangelist Parish in San Marcos
April 10 at the Pastoral Center in Austin
Please note: A pastor’s written consent is required to attend any session.
For more information about diaconate formation, call (512) 949-2459.