Answering God’s call
Becoming a deacon involves long process which ends with ordination
When one receives a call from God, one must try and determine whether it is truly God’s calling.
Ask someone to describe a calling from God and chances are words will be few, for God communicates in a way that surpasses human understanding. Ask how they knew it was a calling from God and the answer may be much briefer, sometimes just one word — discernment.
Discernment is the process by which men and women in the Catholic Church recognize their calling.
I am a cradle Catholic, born and raised in a faithful Catholic home where both my father and mother practised their faith regularly. Both were very active in our church. As I grew and moved away, I remained an active member of the church. Being a member of the Armed Forces meant we moved often, but always found a home in the church.
Being active was a way for my wife and I to meet people and become part of the community and being a musician, I played in choirs and became involved in other ministries. To think that I would be called by God to serve as a deacon wasn’t something that had entered my mind. I was happy being a “good” Catholic.
That changed a few years ago when I felt God’s call in my heart to become a deacon. It settled with a thud. I had only met one deacon and really had no idea what it was he did. At the time, our parish had never had a deacon so how could I think this is what God had in mind for me?
When I told my wife she asked me, “What are you going to do about it?” and I replied with one word, “pray.”
I prayed, but my prayer was that God would take this away from me because I was quite happy being the type of Catholic I was. For a number of years that’s where the call stayed, in my heart, while I was praying it would leave or I simply ignored it.
But I learned that God is more patient than I am stubborn. I started to learn more about what it meant to be a deacon. There was now a fine deacon in our parish and this sense of being called started to seem like it was something I might, and I stress might, want to do. This time I prayed with a more open mind, entertaining the possibility that this truly was a calling from God.
Soon, I was asked by my parish priest if I would be interested in becoming a deacon, I told him I would consider it. The next week our deacon also asked me. He wasn’t aware that my pastor had asked me the week before. Sometimes God is subtle and sometimes He is not.
So after thinking and praying for some time, I decided I would begin the process of truly discerning whether this was God’s will for me.
The first part of the official discernment process is the application phase and this takes place over six months and consists of several different elements. The paperwork, criminal record check, proof of sacraments and various other housekeeping items are first.
Also in this formal phase is education. What exactly is a deacon? What traits do deacons require? What roles do deacons fill in the church? To discern God’s will we must understand as much as possible what it is He may be calling us to do.
In the fall I will be starting the final part of the discernment process with 12 fellow deaconate candidates. The formal four-year program will hopefully end in ordination to the role of deacon in the Catholic Church. This period of discernment consists of classwork in various areas of study and talking to God in prayer,
Discernment is not an easy task, nor should it be taken lightly. It will, in most cases, be life changing. We will not only learn about God’s will for us but also learn much about ourselves. It may be a difficult and unsettling process but the outcome is worthwhile.
Discernment is different for everyone. The time frame can vary greatly. For priests and deacons, it can be quite long and leads to ordination. For other roles, however, it may be much shorter. Also, some as- pects may change depending on the nature of the calling, but regardless of the calling, an open mind, heart and prayer are necessary.
God has great plans for us, so the challenge for all of us is to listen to God’s voice and discern what it is He is calling us to be. Grace and Peace.