My brothers and I have just completed our second year of diaconate formation. Our aspirancy period has ended. We get the summer to reflect and further discern our future. At the end of July we will face our second scrutiny. If we are found worthy our diocese will invite us to Candidacy. This is where the Church publically declares her intention to ordain us at the end of our formal formation. We will have to make a choice. If we decide to go forward we will be publically declaring our intention to be ordained.
This is no small decision. In a world that doesn’t believe or understand the supernatural many do not get why this is such a big deal. I have a friend who is a Baptist deacon. His formation period was two weeks. Mine is a total of seven years. When a man is ordained in the Catholic Church the Bishop passes along his authority through the laying on of hands. The Bishop received this authority through the same manner, passed down through the ages from one man to another back to when Jesus did it to the original Disciples. Like baptism, receiving Holy Orders puts an indelible mark on the soul. It is permanent. It cannot be undone. If we publically declare our intention to be ordained and we accept the invitation to candidacy we will be forever marked as men who were found worthy of candidacy. Even if we never get ordained that will be a mark in our permanent record.
When I was originally discerning the diaconate and in the past two years of aspirancy I thought I was being called to serve. God wanted me to serve as a deacon. Upon further reflection I do not believe this to be the case. If all God wanted me to do was serve there are plenty of places to do so without being ordained. There are many great humanitarian organizations in and outside of Church that are in desperate need of good people to help. No, God is not calling me to serve. God is calling me to be ordained.
Holy Orders are one of the seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church. A Sacrament is a conduit through which the Lord delivers special grace. If God is calling me to Holy Orders then he wants to use the Sacrament to deliver a special grace to me. Graces and gifts are given to us to help us complete a mission that the Lord wishes us to do. If God wants to give me a special grace it is to strengthen me for a mission he wants me to embark on.
Like Abraham, Mary, or Jesus before me I am being given an option. Are you willing to trust me and let me do my will in your life without the need to know what or why right now? Are you willing to be ordained so that I may use you for something special later? Often these questions come with great suffering and trial and the grace is given to provide one with strength to see the mission to completion. Knowing that is what makes this one of the hardest decisions I will ever have to make. Do I have the faith of Abraham to do as the Lord asks no matter what that may be? Do I have the conviction of Mary to say yes to the Lord’s invitation? Do I have the strength of Jesus to say, “Thy will, not mine, be done.”
That is what my brothers and I must discern this summer. That is the decision we must make. Our response cannot be lukewarm. We either have to go all in or walk way.
Pray for us, that we be open to the voice of God over the next couple months and discern correctly. May the Holy Spirit lead us and guide us to make the right choice. This is no small decision.