Where, Your Halo
Our intentional sharing of this diaconal call, this pilgrim’s progress.
(Note: This is the first in an ongoing series written for the deacons of the Diocese of Colorado Springs)
Dear Brother Deacons in Christ,
Oh! How blessed we are to, together, serve our invisible, our poor, our outcast! How blessed are we to bring them the Word of Christ through the clay of our bodies, as the least members of His clergy! How blessed each of you able to bring these lost sheep back to the full body of Christ through the gift of serving at Mass! Cherish every moment of love and sacrifice as the gift it is, for Christ may see fit to focus your ministry elsewhere, anytime. As servants, we bow in humility, and go where we are told, do what is asked of us, and of equal import, do not do what is not ours to do. For we are but one member of a body of many members, each with our own calling. How beautiful! When, in humility, we each answer our call, Christ coordinates our efforts and His grace in ways we sometimes are blessed to glimpse after the fruit.
We are blessed to be called to bold, humble obedience to Jesus our Christ, through our Bishop and the pastors He appoints over us.
We often hear of Acts 6:1-15 as the beginning of the diaconate, yet the clear need for it is mentioned by Jesus in the Gospels. “And Jesus said, ’Let the dead bury their dead'” (Luke 9:60). Of this, Saint Ambrose wonders, ”Since we have received as a religious duty the burial of the human body, how is it thus that the burial even of a father’s dead body is forbidden, unless you are to understand that human things are to be postponed to divine?” (Catena Aurea on Luke 9:60).
From this, we gain a clearer understanding of Acts, and why the Apostles, called to other things, higher things, by Christ, struggle to also answer Christ’s good and holy call to serve our poor. It was not out of pride of hierarchy or early clericalism, but out of their bold, humble obedience to Jesus our Christ. Saint Ambrose continues: “It is a great employment, but the hinderance is greater, for he who divides his pursuits, draws down his affections; he who divides his care, delays his advances. We must first set about the things which are most important. For the Apostles also, that they may not be occupied in the office of distributing alms, ordained ministers for the poor.” (ibid.)
Hence, the Church, the authority of Christ on earth, through the power of the keys given Saint Peter, and to a lesser degree all disciples, to bind and loose on earth and in heaven, created the least of clergy, the least of shepherds, we deacons, who serve as servants of shepherds to the lost, the invisible, the fringe, the poor of Christ’s flock, that the higher clergy may be free to focus, without neglect, on the calling of their office as shepherds as priests and bishops.
Thus, it is ours to serve our poor, at altar, and the Word, but out of first, in bold humility to Christ, following Christ, who then gives us our office of servanthood for the betterment of all His body.
Yet, how are we dead who bury the dead, poor, who serve the poor? Saint Ambrose addresses this as well. “But how can the dead bury the dead? unless you here understand a two-fold death, one a natural death, the other the death of sin” (ibid.). How then are we deacons to bury the dead, for we have yet to die a natural death and Christ does not call us into sin’s deadly clutches? Saint Ambrose again: “There is also a third death, by which we die unto sin, live unto God” (ibid.).
This third death is the death in which we are called to willfully, boldly, even against earthly wants and needs, serve our Lord by being Christ’s hands and feet to our invisible, our fringe, our poor, in loving sacrificial service to our shepherds into whose hands Christ entrusts us.
Ours, as all Christ’s callings, is not an easy one to answer, though it is simple. For all things simple are hard. We need the aid of Christ, including in the intentional fellowship of each other, to journey well together on this pilgrim’s progress amidst the fallen world. How do we intentionally fellowship, aiding each other as we each strive to run toward Christ? What does it mean to be boldly humble to Jesus our Christ? How do we ensure we are most fully serving Christ and not inadvertently putting lesser goods ahead of greater goods?
The answers to all these queries is simple and hard: know what Christ has revealed in His full revelation of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition and the lives and writings of the saints and to boldly, humble answer the call Christ has given us. To do this we must cultivate eyes of innocence to see as God sees by daily practicing the salvation arts: sacraments, virtues, prayer, mindfulness and logic. No easy call! How do we lean on and aid each other in answering Christ’s wild, abundant call to be His deacons?
Halos. Saints travel in groups, halos. What halo are you already part of? What halo are you called to start or join? The website www.CatholicHalos.org offers resources for exploring all these questions.
With abandon in Jesus our Christ,
Deacon Patrick Jones