≡ Menu

Decisions, decisions, decisions

I’ve been spending much of my time not posting here lately as you may (or may not) have noticed.  It’s not that I have run out of things to say (please, no laughing) but rather that I’ve been crossed in so many directions I just couldn’t get my thoughts together long enough to even make a few coherent posts.  It has not been just the same work and economy and family concerns that just about everyone is dealing with these days, I’ve had something completely dominating my thoughts for some time now.

I’d mentioned here some time ago that I’ve been wrestling with the question of my vocation and that I’ve felt a call to something, perhaps to the Diaconate.  While, as I said in that post, some of it was pushed by recent posts it really had its genesis in the simple (and, yes, somewhat simplistic) hagiography of St. Dominic.  Reading that book, as I told my friends on Plurk, was like an epiphany – I finally knew to what end God had given me those gifts He has and the drive to share what I’ve learned.  Just as St. Dominic wanted to draw back Catholics who had fallen from the fold and convert those who had not come to know Christ.  As a convert I know the difference having Him and His Church in your life can make, and it’s one I simply can’t help but want to share.

Becoming a Deacon seemed to fit in perfectly, particularly given the chance to preach a homily now and then to an audience that, to be rather blunt, wasn’t going anywhere.  It would draw me to a life dedicated to seeking and finding the lost and the lonely, defending the Eucharist and defending the flock.  There was, quite simply, a perfect fit.

All that said, about a month ago I attended an informational meeting on the Permanent Diaconate in the Diocese.  Never until this meeting did not becoming a Deacon as soon as the Diocese would allow cross my mind, but as the meeting went on I began to wonder if what I’d been thinking of as discernment wasn’t in fact a process of talking myself into something.  It wasn’t the long process or the arduous hours or the commitment or really even the rather intense selection process the Diocese puts men through (and let me say it is truly an intense time, multiple interviews, psych screenings and a series of decision points at any one of which it all may end – they don’t go out of their way to make it appetizing, that’s for sure).  Somehow what I’d pictured and what was being portrayed just were not quite aligned.

Still, I went home and thought I’d chew it over and that my uneasiness would clear up once I saw the application which was released a few days later.  The day the application was made available I pulled it up and started reading it.  All 44 pages of it.  To my surprise the questions that bothered me weren’t the ones I’d expected.  The medical forms, the credit check, even the ten-page autobiography didn’t bother me, but two simple questions really struck me: 1) “Do you have a spiritual advisor” (um, uh, errr, no) and 2) “Have you been on a religious retreat in the last five years” (um, uh, err, no).  I’d been spending all my time convincing myself and those around me that I was ready for and called to being a Deacon – and not much of any time trying to figure out if that was actually true.  Still, I’m a stubborn guy and I figured I could figure a way to make it work – making things work is just what I do.

As this post is already too long I’ll save you the rest of the tortured path I’ve taken.  Suffice it to say that, for now, I’m not going forward with my application to the Diocese.  Again, it’s not the time or the work, I simply came to realize that I’d been going at this for all the wrong reasons and without taking the proper time for discernment.  I was being, frankly, selfish and not selfless.  Almost anyone will admit that someone with a Roman collar automatically gets some level of deference in a theological discussion, even when the clerical shirt isn’t black.  I’d been looking at that and the ambo as a chance to do what I wanted to – to do what I wanted to, not what God and His Church needed me to do.  I was, simply, looking at it as a way to get some level of authority on the cheap, and that is without a doubt a terrible reason to do anything.

So, merging the fact that I hadn’t done any of the spiritual preparation I ought to have done before starting this august venture with the fact I was going into it for less-than-exemplary reasons what I had to do becomes rather obvious.  For now, for the next three years until the next class prepares their applications, I am going to dedicate myself to figuring out who I am, where I’m going and why.  I feel a renewed sense of urgency and a renewed energy to that calling I heard when reading of St Dominic’s work.

At the same time there is also a certain release from having to worry about saying or doing something that might tweak someone on the selection committee, a concern that has all too often kept me from saying things that need to be said.  I can look at it now and say that if I am indeed called to the Diaconate it will be me that is called and not a marketing projection I put up to squeak through a review.  Faith, Hope, Trust.  Now to find that Spiritual Director…

One last thing I must say.  When I sat down and told my wife what I was thinking both before and after she never hesitated and never wavered saying only, “We’ll support you in whatever you think you have to do.”  I cannot possibly overstate how important it is to hear that.  Indeed, in many ways, Domine non sum dignus.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • keith December 16, 2009, 9:10 am

    I think it’s important to realize that a “no” answer to both of those questions doesn’t disqualify you, or make your discernment to this point invalid. I made my first retreat in my life only a year before I had completed my application to the seminary (and 10 months before I received it) and that retreat was completely self-directed.

    My first “directed” retreat was a two-day affair the very weekend that my Vocation Director asked me if I wanted an application. I didn’t have a spiritual director of any type until a month before that retreat.

    That said, these are good things, and I wouldn’t enter into formation for the Permanent Diaconate without first doing them. However, don’t think because you haven’t, you can’t. If that were the rule, I wouldn’t be 24 hours away from the halfway mark in my seminary career. 🙂

    Merry Christmas!

    • frival December 16, 2009, 9:04 pm

      No you’re definitely right that it doesn’t disqualify – it was something that made me realize I hadn’t taken the steps I needed to in order to know whether this was right. I certainly haven’t in any way closed the door on this idea, but the time line the Diocese forced for making decisions made it pretty much impossible for me to perform the kind of discernment I need before the application deadline.

      Unfortunately they didn’t really make it quite as easy as it could have been, but that’s partly because of the volume of applications they expect (~3-400) and the class size they’re targeting (~30). The good news is that another class will be formed three years from now and another three years from that, so I have time to get my spiritual life straightened out between now and then. I just want to be sure that if I’m doing this, I’m doing it right.

Leave a Comment

Next post:

Previous post: