I’m sure most deacons can relate to this.
My wife and I attended Mass this morning at The Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Queen of the Universe in Orlando—a popular destination for Roman Catholics on vacation, and a beautiful example of a church that manages to blend the old and the new with both reverence and joy. The music is always gorgeous and the liturgies consistently tasteful. And the place is always packed. It seats about 2,000, and is close-to-full every time I’ve been there, crowded mostly with visitors from all over the world who are spending a few days soaking up the sun and standing in long lines at the theme parks. It’s a diverse crowd.
Which makes what I experienced this morning both surprising and disappointing.
For Good Shepherd Sunday, the visiting priest gave a fairly straightforward homily devoted to vocations, and encouraged those who were even moderately interested in the priesthood or religious life to spend time praying over what God wanted them to do with their lives.
Then came the Prayers of the Faithful.
The lector—there was no deacon serving the Mass— asked for the prayers for “Priests, sisters and brothers who serve the church…”
I confess that I’m sort of used to this by now. When I serve Mass as a deacon and find prayers for vocations, I always pencil in “and deacons,” if they aren’t mentioned already (and they usually aren’t.)
But what threw me, I think, was the very obvious omission, particularly at a national basilica. In a prayer devoted to those “who serve the Church,” the author of these intentions completely overlooked the one vocation whose very charism is to “serve the Church.” It is also, not insignificantly, one of the most rapidly growing vocations in the Church, and one with which many in the congregation this morning probably had a more-than-passing familiarity. (Raise your hand if you’re a deacon who happens to be sitting in the congregation! Me! Me!)
But at this moment in the church’s history, 50 years into the restoration of the diaconate, deacons shouldn’t be forgotten, dismissed or just overlooked—particularly when it comes to men in need of prayers. (One bishop has even declared that we deacons will be leading the charge for the New Evangelization!) But this happens often. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve heard prayer intentions for vocations that just fail to mention deacons at all.
Let’s be honest: deacons are cornerstones of more and more parishes. The day is coming when deacons will outnumber all other vocations in many dioceses. (It has already happened in some places.) We need all the prayers we can get!
When you pray for vocations, folks, pray for vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and religious life.
If you are composing the Prayers of the Faithful, bear this in mind. Please. Priests and pastors, remember the person sitting beside you, kneeling beside you, raising the chalice, proclaiming the Good News. Remember the man who witnesses marriages, baptizes children, counsels couples, volunteers at the shelter or soup kitchen or hospital or prison.
Pray for him. Pray for more like him.
Pray, too, for committed vocations to marriage and lay ministry.
When you give thanks for those who serve the Church, thank the priests, deacons, religious sisters, brothers, catechesists and volunteers of all kinds.
Bishops, pastors, priests, rectors: pray for us!
And be assured: we will be praying for you.