Discernment: Diaconate -- developing the humble heart of a servant

By Deacon Paul Lavallee
Guest Columnist

When we talk about the spirituality of a deacon, or of the man considering the diaconate, we must consider two things: the call of God and how the man responds to the inner stirrings of his heart to that call. 
If God calls a man to the diaconate, his spirituality will reflect the same love that Christ the Servant has for those who are the poor, outcast, imprisoned, hungry, ignorant of Christ, lost and forgotten. The only way a man can realize such a deep love of “the least” of Christ’s brothers and sisters is, of course, through a lifelong relationship with the Trinity in his prayer life. 
A man discerning and living the call of the diaconate should “deepen his prayer life ... with special emphasis upon participation in the Eucharist, daily if possible; daily celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, … lectio divina, devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints, and regular reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation,” says the National Directory for the Formation, Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States. Again, the response to God’s call is to embrace a deeper prayer life – not as a duty, but in humble receipt of the graces that result. 
When a man “begins the path of formation for the diaconate, generally he has already had a certain experience of the spiritual life, such as recognition of the action of the Spirit, listening to and meditating upon the Word of God, the thirst for prayer, commitment to service of the brothers and sisters, willingness to make sacrifices, the sense of the Church, apostolic zeal,” says the Basic Norms for the Formation of Permanent Deacons. 
The man called to the diaconate is formed to become a reflection of Christ the Servant. His relationship with Christ is nurtured and nourished through prayer, which moves him to tend to the wounds of the person left on the roadside by thieves. It emboldens the man to seek always to serve and not to be served. It transforms the love in his heart to be in solidarity with the struggles of those from whom the world demands service.
In essence, the deacon’s spirituality calls him to be “clergy living a lay life so as to give witness to the servant mystery of Christ. This mystery is united to and flows from the altar but also reaches into the very fabric of ordinary life,” writes James Keating in “The Heart of the Diaconate, Communion with the Servant Mysteries of Christ.”
It is because of the deacon’s spiritual life that he can fully receive – and, in fact, represent – the people who offer their gifts to Christ at each Eucharistic celebration. In his deepened spirituality of service to the hungry, imprisoned, homeless, ill and lonely, the deacon can truly hold the cup of suffering of Christ the Servant, standing alongside the priest who raises Christ’s body at Mass. For it is with him, in him, and through him that the deacon responds, with a true and humble servant’s heart.


Session explores call to the diaconate

A meeting for men who are interested in exploring the call to the diaconate and their wives will be held April 10 from 2 to 5 p.m. This is the final information session 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. It will be offered in English and Spanish at the diocesan 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 or e-mail diaconateformation@austindiocese.org.