My new blog neighbor, Lisa Hendey, posted the following today:
This past weekend, I learned an important lesson while giving my keynote address at the Archdiocese of San Antonio’s Catholic Formation and Leadership Conference.
I’ll admit I was nervous going into the talk. I’ve spoken to crowds this size in the past, but there’s something about sticking the word “keynote” into the title of a talk that ups the ante. And this — probably unbeknownst to my hosts — was my very first “keynote”. So yes, I was nervous.
At some point later, I may share the content of my talk with you. But for now, all I need to say is that at the beginning of the talk I did my patented “Saintly Smackdown” whereby I ask different groups in the room to show themselves. I called for the converts, the youth ministers and catechists. I called for the priests and nuns — and we actually gave a rousing ovation to one precious Sister who was baptized in 1928. I called out the Bishop and thanked my hosts and moved along with the rest of my speech.
I forgot to call out the Deacons.
Immediately following the talk, after dismounting the stage with a sigh of relief, I turned to walk to my table and came face to face with a very frustrated gentleman.
“You forgot to mention the Permanent Deacons,” he said with a wag of his finger. My eyes went to the Deacon lapel pin on his collar and I stared like a deer caught in the headlights. “We’re always forgotten,” he scolded.
What could I say? I apologized profusely and, a bit rattled, promised to never let it happen again. I was busted, wrong, and culpable. There was no excuse.
Actually, some of my favorite Catholic guys serve in or are preparing for the Permanent Diaconate. There’s my dear friend Deacon Tom Fox and Patheos’ own Deacon Greg Kandra. I know another dear friend who is involved in studies for the diaconate — a multiyear commitment. And behind many awesome permanent deacons are their wives, who participate fully in the vocational process. So I should have known better.
Funny thing is, deacons are sort of the theological afterthoughts of the Catholic Church — I’ve lost track of how many times my pastor has made a speech and said later, “Oh, I left out the deacon!” But in a sense, we minister all the time to those who are somehow “left out” of things—the poor, the hungry, the overlooked—so it’s almost fitting to be overlooked. More than once, a bride has requested a priest to do her wedding instead of me (because, you know, it’s just better with a priest) and I know a lot of deacons who will tell you they can sense the disappointment when people see them arrive, instead of a priest, for a wake. But I long ago came to the conclusion that this just goes with the territory. And it’s a blessed reminder that we are called to serve, not to be served; while a little recognition is always nice, it’s not what it’s all about.
But thank you, Lisa, for caring enough to mention it, and for giving a shout-out to all the guys out there (and their wives!) serving Christ and his church in innumerable ways.
Meantime, as for myself…whenever I start to feel neglected, I like to remember the example set by the first deacon: if you’re doing your job correctly, the most you can expect is to be pelted with rocks.