Happy blog-o-versary

Last Saturday marked the five-year anniversary of my ordination; this week marks the five-year anniversary of “The Deacon’s Bench.”

Flipping through the archived scrapbook of memories, I found this warm appreciation of the diaconate by Rocco Palmo, who was an early booster of the blog.  Others began dropping by and mentioning The Bench — people like Amy Welborn and Julie Davis, the “Happy Catholic.” But from Day One, an even bigger influence was my Blogmother, the then-anonymous woman hiding behind the cloister wall who called herself, mysteriously, The Anchoress. As I like to tell people, I knew Elizabeth Scalia “back before she took the veil,” when we first bumped into each other at an online Catholic web forum called Catholic Pages, back in the infancy of the Internets (this was around 1997 or 98, I think).  She was an enthusiastic booster of The Bench in its early days, linking to homilies and imploring people “read this.” She’s the main reason why I developed any readership at all, and she remains the biggest reason I’m here at Patheos today, continuing to “ponder the world” from my homely wooden pew. She’s taught me much about blogging — but also about faith, loyalty, friendship and the power of the Holy Spirit to slap you silly when you need it.  Thank you, Elizabeth.

The other big reason the blog is still here, of course, is you: the men, women, students, deacons, priests, ministers, rabbis, believers, non-believers, doubters, seekers, fist-shakers, bible-thumpers, novena-prayers, tree-huggers, parents, teenagers, Internet geeks and assorted web surfers who found The Bench and then, to my amazement, kept coming back.  Here comes everybody!  Some of you were here when I was an upstart with just two postings on Blogger; others joined in during my stay at Beliefnet; more slid onto The Bench last year when I made the leap to Patheos.  All I can say is “thank you,” but that hardly seems sufficient.  But thank you, anyway!  :-)   Thank you for the gift of your readership, and the blessing of your thoughts, prayers, e-mails and comments (even the ones I’ve deleted!) You’ve taught me much, too — especially the value of humility.

If you’ve never seen it before, you might find the curiosity below of interest: not only was this the first posting at The Deacon’s Bench five years ago, but it was also my first homily, delivered at my Mass of Thanksgiving on May 20th, 2007.  (The pictures were taken by my sister.  The Marian dalmatic I wore that day was my wife’s ordination gift to me.)  The homily says something about where I was then — and where we all are today, all of us poised and praying in the days before Pentecost, waiting for that indescribable something that we can’t quite name.  Who knew it would be something as bright and warm and as fearsome as fire?  But the lesson holds: be careful what you pray for.

Meantime, as we say at ordinations and anniversaries: ad multos annos!

+++

There’s an old Yiddish saying: “If you want to hear God laugh, just tell Him your plans.”

I’m sure, this morning, He’s in stitches.

Not so very long ago, I would never have dreamed that I’d be here. And I know a few of you who are here who couldn’t quite imagine it either. But the last few years have taught me to expect the unexpected. As John Lennon put it: life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.

During this moment near the end of the Easter season, I can’t help but wonder what plans the apostles were busy making.

This Sunday, we’re cradled between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost. A few days ago, the apostles saw Christ disappearing into the clouds. And they’ve now gone back to Jerusalem – confused, confounded and maybe conflicted. They have no idea what will come, no idea what lies ahead. And so they go to the upper room, to close the doors against the world, and draw the curtains against the light…to wait and watch and wonder.

It is, in a way, a mini-Advent. They are anticipating something. But they don’t yet know what.

And at this moment, in this twilight zone of time, scripture speaks to us.

This Sunday, we hear Jesus’ words of prayer. It is a prayer for unity. A prayer for communion. A prayer for all those who follow Him – even the generations yet unborn.

He prays, in fact, for us.

“Father,” he says, “they are your gift to me.” What a breathtaking statement that is. Here, God’s gift to mankind says that mankind is God’s gift to HIM.

How desperately the world needs to hear that – a world that is too often terrified…or terrorized. A world that thinks that God doesn’t matter…or that seems to have forgotten just how much we matter to God.

This morning, I think about the apostles in their upper room…and I think about others who are also waiting, and watching, and wondering.

A young woman whose husband is serving in Iraq.

A father who was laid off from his job.

A grandmother undergoing a CAT scan.

A teenage girl, listening for the car in the driveway and wondering if her father will come home sober – or even come home at all.

Each of us at some moment in our lives has known that upper room. That place of uncertainty. We can measure its walls. We have all walked its floor, locked its windows, and prayed that no one will find us — just like the apostles in this dark valley between last Thursday and next Sunday.

And yet in this mysterious void, we are reminded how much we are loved.

“Father, they are your gift to me.”

Those are words to give us reason to wait, reason to hope.

The message of these days before Pentecost is one of the hardest to accept: it is simply to trust. Trust that God’s promise will be kept, that he will not leave us orphans. Because when we feel abandoned and alone…when we flee to our own upper rooms…THAT is when God often makes Himself known.

He doesn’t always do it with a roaring wind or a burning bush. He may do it with a friend who listens…a child who suddenly masters a two-wheeled bike…or a wife who holds her husband’s hand and calms his fears when the rent is overdue. God’s spirit is in all those things – a small slice of Pentecost, his way of reminding us: we are His gift. And he continues to give us Himself. In each other. And in the Eucharist.

When I was a kid – and my sister can vouch for this – every gift had to be acknowledged. Our mother made sure we wrote our thank you notes. The day after Christmas, if you didn’t have the notes done, forget it. You were in trouble. Well, this is a Mass of Thanksgiving – and in a way it is a thank you note to God.

In Teilhard de Chardin’s “Mass of the World,” there’s this beautiful line: “One by one, Lord, I see and I love all those you have given me to charm and sustain my life.” Many of those who charm and sustain my life are here today – my family, friends and colleagues from CBS — and my gratitude and love go deeper than I can say.

I thank God, too, for people I’ve never met…so many who have filled these pews, and who have prayed me to this place.

But if anyone understands the power of prayer – and how God intercedes in our lives — it’s my wife, Siobhain. She has worn out so many rosaries on my behalf. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank God for bringing her into my life. When I was doubting and disbelieving, she prayed. When I lost courage, she prayed. When I wasn’t sure I could complete this journey, and make it to ordination, she prayed even more.

And here I am: definitive proof that you should be careful what you pray for.

This Sunday, as we wait for Pentecost, let us join our prayers with the apostles who were waiting in Jerusalem…and with all those in the world today who are waiting, and praying, and pleading. Carry their intentions with you to communion. Pray with them and for them.

And, if you can, please pray for some men whose waiting is finally over: all of the newly ordained deacons, embarking on this new chapter of our lives.

For myself, this new deacon prays that you’ll be patient with me. I pray that you’ll pick me up when I fall, and help me find my way when I’m lost. The road won’t always be smooth. There is a lot to do. And I have a lot to learn.

But I have learned this much: God doesn’t want us to spend our lives in the upper room.

Open the windows. Let in the light. Have faith. And trust.

Because Pentecost is coming. Grace will abound. Wait for it. Look for it. And listen for it.

Because, when you least expect it, you just may hear the beautiful sound…of sacred laughter.

  • http://www.greyabbey.net DcnDon

    Happy Anniversary on both counts, Greg!

    God bless.

  • http://breadhere.wordpress.com Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

    As an early fan of the original blogspot and as someone who has followed along the way, I say ad multos annos indeed! Blessings to you dear Greg.

  • Klaire

    I ditto Fran. I loved the original blog, and even though I stayed on via the next two,( kicking and screaming), I have to say I think the moves were all for the better.

    I truly appreiciate your blog Dcn. Greg, as well as the plethora of diverse readers and commenters.

  • http://awashingtondccatholic.blogspot.com/ awashingtondccatholic

    Ad Multos Annos!

    Congtats Deacon Greg!

  • Jeanne

    THANK YOU for your work on this blog!!!!

  • Pingback: The Deacon Turns Five

  • http://breadhere.wordpress.com Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

    That is very well put Klaire!

  • Steve P

    Well, it hardly seems sufficient from our end either, Deacon Greg, but “Thank You!”

    Your writing, sharing and hosting has helped to challenge me, expand my faith and knowledge of the Church, and occasionally shake my head at how uncivil we can be toward one another. But I’m glad to have you here, and blessed that the Lord has chosen this tool to extend your ministry far beyond your own parish and diocese.

    Many blessings to you and your lovely wife (I know I’d spell her name wrong, so I won’t try) on this dual anniversary.

    In Christ,
    Steve

  • Steve P

    Ooops– went back and saw it in the homily… Siobhain. Yup, I would have spelled it wrong. Sorry!

    sp

  • http://jscafenette.com Manny

    Congratulations Deacon! Your blog has become a must visit for me.

  • Lawrence Cunningham

    This blog was recommended to me by some deacons in training whom I had the honor to teach in their theological training. It is among my favorite Catholic blogs because it informs, can be whimsical, and is quite evenhanded. Well done and ad multos annos.

  • Notgiven

    Happy Anniversary Deacon Greg…ad multos annos! Congratulations! And, thank you!

  • HMS

    Deacon Greg:

    Thank YOU for the gift of your ministry, in particular, the Deacon’s Bench, which I cam across quite fortuitously when googling some information about the names of the deacon saints associated with the Chilean mine catastrophe.

    Your post today is a great reminder of how important it is for all of us to be grateful and more to express our gratitude.

    “In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

    And please I urge that in The Deacon’s Bench you:
    “Do not quench the Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 5:19)

  • pagansister

    Am so glad I found you, Deacon Greg on Beliefnet and followed you here to Patheos. I appreciate your allowing me to give my opinions on a Catholic blog, as a non-Catholic. Your blog teaches and informs and makes me laugh also. Thank you for everything. Congratulations on both your anniversaries.

  • Diakonos09

    Happy Double Anniversary and thank you for your great service to us!

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/diaryofawimpycatholic/ Max Lindenman

    Happy blog-o-versary, Deacon! I’ll be celebrating mine next week. I’m proud to call myself your colleague, and pleased to hear you share my high opinion of, and sense of indebtedness to, Elizabeth Scalia, the Griselda Blanco of the Catholic blogosphere.

  • aaa jjj

    it that allowed in for deacon’s wives be part of the procession? very strange.

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    AAA…

    My wife was the lector for the Mass. My pastor insisted that she walk beside me — and I’m glad that she did.

    For the recessional (shown in the last picture), as I left the sanctuary the congregation (to my astonishment) burst into applause. As I passed the first pew, I impulsively reached out to take my wife’s hand, and we left together, hand in hand to the strains of the “Ode to Joy.”

    I only happens once or twice a year, but if I’m serving on the altar, and she’s the lector, we still leave together, hand in hand.

    DGK

  • http://www.bede.org Stefanie

    Omigosh, 5 years already — Deacon Greg, I’m not sure if I found you first or Elizabeth first or Rocco, but whatever, the three of you are my first 3 stops on the internet every morning (right after Matins & Lauds prayers) –I change the order of who-is-first each day, just to be fair –and frequently throughout the day/night.
    Be assured, you are included in my Lauds prayers (under the ‘benefactors’) because you are surely that. As a lay catechist and RCIA director, I often go to your well for inspiration and appreciate your phrasing overall and the quick touch of whimsy in your light-hearted posts.
    As Papa Ben recently said at his birthday dinner with the College of Cardinals, “St. Augustine said that all history is a struggle between two loves: love of oneself even to the extent of defying God, and love of God, to the extent of defying oneself, in martyrdom. We are in this fight and in this fight it is very important to have friends….And as for me, I’m surrounded by friends of the College of Cardinals: they are my friends and I feel at home, I feel confident in this company of great friends who are with me, all together with the Lord.”
    Thanks for your friendly blog, Deacon!

  • François-Robert Laliberté Fournieer

    Congratulations my “confrère” deacon! You are read here in Quebec by a proud French Canadain deacon of 29 years ordination. We are living a very roough time here sice 4 months1 Today 150,000 persons, students in strike, walking in the sreets, breaking windows ect… We are near a revolution and our goverment is losing the control. Police Officers work 16 houras a day, since 3 months in Montral. All this for a raise of $137.00 per year for students (college) . Fees are of $ 4,335.00 a year for University. After deduction of income tax, of both goverments, fees are really of $1,367. Find me a state lower than that. They want all free!!! Pray for us, we need it barley since 40 yeats up here.

  • naturgesetz

    Congrats on five years of diaconating and blogging. Happy anniversaries to you!

  • Timmay

    Congrats Deacon! And what a beautiful Homily.


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