IT just dawned on me when I finished setting up this blog and viewed it for the first time. This is my final year of formation to becoming a deacon. In fact, as the countdown widget shows in the upper right corner of the blog page, it’s actually just nine months to go before our diaconal ordination.
For this, I found myself wondering and reflecting on the things I gained for the last six years. I also reflect upon the changes I have undergone in this diaconal journey.
As the maxim says “grace builds on nature.” When I first started considering the diaconate, it was in the sense an answer to the question of how can I serve the Church more. Since childhood, the Church has always been a part of me. When I was recruited as a junior member of the Legion of Mary, I was immediately drawn to the joy of having that sense of community; of belongingness outside my own family and clan. I found another “family” where the bonds are not based on blood relations but on the sharing of the same belief, of the same expression of religious piety; and of the same inner urge to serve. I even thought that the feeling I was having was a call to the priesthood. But that was dashed immediately when I first fell in love and realized that I want to raise a family and that I’d love to have kids of my own.
So I must admit, the initial attraction of the diaconate was that it represents an alternative to what I thought to be a vocational calling for the priesthood. For me then, the diaconate “is the next best thing.” Imagine my surprise and discomfort when I heard our program director told the enquirers during the orientation meeting to reconsider our decision of pursuing the program if we think deacons are “almost a priest”.
That is why, for six years, I’ve been asking myself: WHY DO I WANT TO DO THIS? For me, the reason should be the right one or else I am just wasting the Church’s resources and time, my time and my family’s sacrifice–especially my loving and supportive wife.
The discernment process was very helpful to me to crystalize my intention and refine or redefine my understanding of the diaconate. And with the help of our director, our resource persons and formators, my teachers, and even my fellow enquirers and friends, I was able to discover–or rather rediscover–the reason why I am committing myself to this ministry. And it is the same inner urge or calling as in my childhood: to follow Jesus and to serve; to be the icon of Christ who serves; to let others see Christ in me and therefore be able to lead them to God.
And all this time, I really feel God is with me. Sometimes to encourage, sometimes to test my resolve and my trust in Him–like a precious metal being purified by fire but definitely guiding me in every way. I always tell people in the program the palpable presence of God in my discernment. Everything seems falling into the right place at the right time. When a seeming problem starts to manifest, a solution also presents itself at just about the right time.
Even during my lowest state; when I was beginning to doubt due to problems, disappointments and concerns of daily living, He comes to me as a comforter as if saying: “These are the problems of the people you are going to serve. These are the sorrows of the people you are going to help. You have to carry the same cross they are carrying to be able to understand them; to be able to help them.” Pope Francis aptly described the diaconal ministry when he likens the Church to that of a field hospital.
For the last six years I have learned to put my trust in God being constantly reminded by his Words: “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Mt 6: 25-26)”
To begin this final year of formation, I once again say the same prayer I said when I started this journey: “Here I am Lord! Send me!” I only pray to God for His continued presence in our lives and His grace to make me a worthy servant for His servant church.