Becoming A Deacon
What does God want of me?
The question is not really, “Do I want to be a deacon?” Rather you must ask yourself, “What does God want me to be? How am I responding to God’s personal call?” Through our baptism, God calls each of us to be active in our faith journeys. A vocation (from the Latin word vocare—which means “to call”) is an invitation from God to a particular and specific ministerial lifestyle. An authentic vocation to the permanent diaconate receives confirmation from three sources—God, the individual and the Church.
How do I know if God is calling me to diaconal ministry or a more committed walk with Jesus as a lay minister?
This question is what discernment is all about. As you consider inquiring about a diaconal path consider that Christian discernment implies a life of faith and a sense of one’s relationship with God. Discernment requires a heart ready to listen and respond in prayer and reflection. Discernment also requires an open mind and heart prepared to learn about the diaconate and to decide what choice in your life will bring the greatest joy to God, the world and yourself.
The process of prayer and reflection that helps you make a decision about your life with help of the Holy Spirit is called "discernment." It is the process of sifting through or sorting out—and discovering God's will for you.
In this process you deal with three elements: God, yourself, and the Church’s representation. During the process, hopefully, you will get to know yourself better and God better. As you begin, remember that both you and God ultimately desire the same thing—happiness. You want to make a decision about your life that will bring the most happiness to God. If you do that, this also will bring happiness to you in your life. Therefore, you and God really seek the same goal.
However, there is an additional step to discernment, and it follows the recognition of what you believe God is calling you to do. This is the confirmation of your call. If you discern a call to ordained ministry in the diaconate, Jesus’ Church journeys with you to reflect, pray and test your call. If the Church confirms that your call seems to come from the Lord, you are invited on a journey that may lead to a new way of life for you and your family.
Those discerning a vocation incorporate a deeper level of prayer, simplicity of life, and commitment to the poor that fosters a spirit of trust. It fosters mutual respect and humility. Accountability in formation is an invitation to deeper conversion, and, a spirit of service and authentic obedience are visible hallmarks of discerning a personal vocation.
In the process of inquiring an individual should search their minds and hearts with the help of their pastor or spiritual director. Our willingness to follow our vocation is a huge factor in our ability to discover it. Discovery includes both our intellect and our heart. True discernment also gains approval from our mentors, pastors and spouses.
It is important to remember, discernment is not one-sided. It is not a decision solely made by an individual. The three major components that confirm an authentic vocation are God, the individual and the Church. The Church is represented by the local Ordinary (bishop) who delegates responsibility to an official and specific program, e.g., the Institute for Diaconal Studies.
Here are some key thoughts that play a role in successful discernment:
We overcome the instability of our emotions. Christian life becomes a matter of conviction and love.
The attraction of riches and pleasures of this life are not pursued nor minimized – we don’t reject our humanity – but we do know their proper place and perspective.
The Word of God finds ‘good soil’ when it is incorporated in our soul.
We possess honest and pure motivation and our attitude is that of Christ.
We stop thinking about our gifts and ourselves and concentrate on others.
We are willing to pray for enlightenment.
We desire self-knowledge and we accept the objectivity of outsiders.
We possess a desire for the committed life that is forever. It is not short-term in its nature but a lifetime commitment.
We possess a willingness to assess our life and we are authentic and sincere in pursuing holiness. We not only strive to be a ‘saint’ but we endeavor to lead others to a saintly existence.
We realize that our faith is growing and we desire to be consumed for the Lord.
We open ourselves to a growing sensitivity to the needs of people and to learning to lead people to Jesus Christ.
We acquire in a spirit of humility and virtue a growing sense that God has something great and special planned for us.
We humbly accept the objective assessment of the Church’s representative (IDS) in formal vocation discernment.