On Saturday evening, 26 April 2014, the Sacramento Diocese Permanent Diaconate class of 2016 honored the class of 2014 – currently finalizing their journey of formation towards ordination – with a beautiful green (ordinary time) stole and a bracelet for our spouses. These gifts were not only thoughtful and useful; they also prompted reflection on the process of the past 5 years of formation. The class of 2016 invited us to take turns to individually share those thoughts, and offer advice to the class of 2016, who have another 2 years of formation that they are now facing.
Most of us expressed gratefulness for the process – the training, the guidance, the friendships, the opportunity to develop more completely as ministers and children of God, the (largely) positive impact on one’s marriage. Many of the spouses expressed similar sentiments, and even more thoroughly reflected on the relationship, familial, and marital aspects of the formation program.
By the way we were sitting in the room, I realized early-on that I would be speaking last. In my own pride and ego, I fretted about the content of my remarks – how could I be different, meaningful, funny, and really help tie things together as final commentator?
Indeed (this was different), I did profess my hesitation to open and try on the beautifully gifted stole, because I still question my worthiness to be ordained as a Deacon. This in itself led to a closer examination of my internal conflict when I met with my spiritual director on Monday, coming finally to the realization that I would never – by my own merit – be “worthy” of ordination; that worthiness – like all things – comes from God. It is God’s call, it is God’s gift. Worrying about my own worthiness is a futile exercise.
I also mentioned that, regardless of the final disposition of sacramental ordination (or not), the formation process itself is powerfully leading us into deeper relationship with God – which is what (we believe) God wants with each of us. In fact, that is the primary (if not sole) purpose of our ministry – to help others deepen their relationships with God. Ordination is a particular kind of Grace that enables the ordained to minister in a particular way; the goal is the same – deeper relationships with God and a more complete iteration of God’s Kingdom on Earth.
One thing I did not say – I meant to but was constrained by time and my own going-on about the first subjects – relates to Sacrament of Matrimony and the interaction with the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Many candidates and spouses mentioned how they would not have been able to complete their studies and practica if not for the support and direct action of their spouses. This is absolutely true for me as well. Additionally, allow me to specifically point to the sacramental nature of our marriages, and how the Grace of this sacrament is lived out in the formation process. We teach that a sacramental marriage is one into which God is invited by the couple to complete, generate, and share in the sacredness of the marital relationship. During formation for the Permanent Diaconate, the interactive relationship between these sacraments is especially and continually active. We 20 are fortunate in that our spouses are still with us, and are committed as much (if not occasionally more) as the candidates to the successful completion of the formation process.
In other words, Matrimony completes Holy Orders, and Holy Orders completes Matrimony. One does not detract from the other (ideally); they complement and add to each other.
Finally, we again express my intense gratitude, from my wife Chérie and me. for the gifts, but even more so for the support, prayer, and love of our fellow travelers on this formation journey. Adios, amigos y amigas.