A hermitage gets a deacon

This is something a little unusual, and worth noting: a monk ordained a deacon for a small hermitage in Texas.


Brother Martin Mary’s first visit to the Mount Carmel Hermitage in Christoval touched his soul.

A bright college kid from the Dallas-Fort Worth area with aspirations of attending medical school, Martin Mary spent an extended weekend at the tiny hermitage a decade ago.

“It was a retreat and I liked it while I was here,” Martin Mary recalled. “When I was driving back home it really came to me that I wanted to be here. I didn’t want to leave.

“From then on, this place was always in my heart and it was a calling from God. I was looking for something that was going to light me on fire, and this is what did.”

On a Saturday morning, Martin Mary’s spiritual connection to the hermitage made of West Texas rock grew profoundly deeper.

In the small church overflowing with followers, the Most Rev. Michael D. Pfeifer, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of San Angelo, ordained Martin Mary as a deacon.

“This a very joyful and special day for the entire church because we had the celebration of a deacon — that’s a special order of the church. It’s for the whole church,” Pfeifer said.

“This is the first time that a member of this community — since it was started 21 years ago by the good Father (Fabian) Rosette — has one of its members been ordained a deacon, which is the next major step to becoming a priest in the Roman Catholic Church.

“It’s a very unique occasion and very special for the hermitage, but for all of us, the church, because these are special ministers of the Lord.”

As a deacon, Brother Martin Mary will serve the five other monks when Father Fabian is away from the hermitage. In the past, the monks had to rely on a visiting priest or deacon to conduct Mass or church services when Father Fabian was away from the hermitage.

“The deacon is the one who will make sure that the brothers will receive Holy Communion by doing liturgical celebrations in the absence of the priest,” Father Fabian explained. “The deacon can also help very much in giving communion to the faithful and blessing religious articles.”

A deacon can conduct Sunday services in the absence of a priest using previously consecrated host.

For Father Fabian and the other monks, the celebration marked an important milestone at the hermitage. One by one, they joined in the new deacon’s celebration.

“Brother Martin is a wonderful brother, a wonderful monk,” Father Fabian said. “He is very, very confirmed in his own vocation. It is important that you know he is also doing this out of obedience. He is doing it to serve his community. He is not doing it for any glory to himself or to be higher than anybody else.

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  1. Deacon Norb says:

    When the Permanent Diaconate was restored in the modern era, way back in 1968, there was always the provision that celibate religious “brothers” could also move into the ministry. The idea was that they would have a pastoral ministry as Spiritual Directors within their own religious communities.

    Brother/Deacon Martin Mary is the first I have ever heard of to take that step — I am sure there are more but just do not know of any.

    I do remember one situation where a “brother” within religious community here in the Midwest was asked whether he might like to move on this direction. He declined. His reason ? He was upset that he would have had to go through the screening process and back to school for three more years of diaconal formation — just like all the “laymen” had to. I am not sure the idea that he was also a layman ever occurred to him.

  2. The prior of my local Augustian community is a permanent deacon.

  3. I know the Carmelites are not in the Benedictine stream of monasticism, but it’s worth remembering that the foundations of monastic spirituality are fundamentally attached to the lay state. Monastic prayer is rooted in the psalms, monastic work is (historically) manual labor. I knew an elderly Trappist who was a priest, but also the community plumber. Ordination is to serve the sacramental needs of the community and guests.

    All that said, congratulations to the new deacon. May he serve God and his brothers for many years.

  4. Just to point out that while it is true that having permanent deacons in a monastery is unusual, my understanding is that Br. Martin is now in fact a transitional deacon and will be preparing to be ordained as a priest as Fr. Fabian is getting on in years.

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