A wonderful reflection on this vocation from recently ordained Deacon Jay Cormier in America:
As my wife, Ann, and I went through the formation process for deacons, we shared our questions and doubts: “Is this the right thing for us? What if I get assigned to a pastor who does not really want a deacon? What if I am asked to take on something I cannot do—or have no interest in? We do not see enough of each other as it is. What if I…? What if we…?”
Finally, a priest whose wisdom and friendship I have cherished since my undergraduate days said to me: “Jay, if you’re doing this because you think you might be able to do some good, if you think you might be able use your gifts for the whole church, then do it. But if you’re doing it for yourself, for what you’ll get out of it, stop now. You will only be disappointed in the end. And, frankly, we don’t need another self-absorbed cleric in the church.”
…At Mass and liturgical functions, I wear a big, monastic-style alb that was given to me at candidacy. The first time I wore it, I could barely move. I felt I was swimming in this sea of cloth. I still sometimes feel lost in it.
And that is a good thing, I have learned. I should disappear in it. Anyone who ministers in the church should “disappear” in his or her work. We take our cue from John the Baptist in the fourth Gospel: “Christ must increase, I must decrease…” (Jn 3:30).
When I celebrate a baptism or a wedding, it is God working in this moment, not me. God speaks when I preach faithfully; God is present when I lead a community in prayer. We ordained people might possess an authority or competence that comes from learning and experience, but the truth is that as a deacon I have no power. And neither does anyone else who is ordained. God has the power. I do not baptize; I pour the water and voice the prayers. God is acting in our words and gestures.
Every day in the parish I become more aware of the everyday “small-s” sacraments we all take part in. The grace of God is present in the generosity and kindness we offer, in the forgiveness we extend, in the justice we sacrifice for. Aprons, work gloves and sneakers can be the vesture of ministers; cooking pots, storybooks and rakes are all sacred vessels when they become instruments of the love of God in our midst. Such is the power of God who works in all our ministries. My big alb reminds me to make room for him.