Recently, my wife and I were invited to an information meeting for those who may have a calling to be permanent deacons. People at church have been suggesting to me for some time that I may have this calling. This is something that will require a good bit of discernment over time. I don’t know if I have the call to be a deacon or not. What I do know for sure is that I am called to be a follower of Jesus, no matter what.
I had a good conversation with a deacon who shared some of his thoughts about his vocation. It struck me when he said, “Since being ordained, I’m no longer one of the guys.” People treat him differently now. For example, men who ordinarily might share an off color joke or make some unseemly remark speak more cautiously around him. I suppose this is a good thing insofar as it shows some reverence for his ordained status and his representation of Christ and the Church. It may also reveal their guilty consciences and highlight their need to conform their minds to Christ. Or, maybe they are simply being “courteous” by trying not to offend the deacon as a person.
In any case, it occurred to me that we are all called to serve Christ. We are all told to be living sacrifices and to let our minds be conformed to Christ. Ordination may set certain men apart for specific purposes in the Church, but it does not make them “more called” to serve Christ than the layman. Therefore, it seems to me that a deacon should always be “one of the guys” because “the guys” need to be striving for holiness as much as any deacon, priest, bishop or pope. There is nothing that says a Christian man is exempt from living a holy life unless he gets ordained.
There is also a perception that, if a man has a keen interest in “spiritual matters,” or he possesses certain gifts, he must be called to some ordained status. Maybe, maybe not. All men and women are called to have a keen interest in following Jesus Christ. Devoting one’s entire life to Christ is not reserved for priests, deacons and nuns. It is for all of us.
Adding to a perceived “spiritual gap” between clergy and laity is the notion that canonized saints are something other than ordinary human beings. We see their pictures and hear their stories and we believe they are not us. The irony is that the very reason we are supposed to be mindful of the saints and in touch with the saints is that we are supposed to emulate the saints. They are not there to show us a lofty ideal we can never reach. They are there to show us and to tell us, “If we can do it, you can do it!” The saints are not “the exception” they are “the goal.” They show us what we as Christians are expected to be. That is why there are so many saints from all walks of life. They are us! They are cheering us on!
It seems to me that if a deacon is living a holy life, and is surrounded by men who are striving for the goal of sainthood, he will feel like he is “one of the guys.” Maybe God is calling me to be a deacon. I don’t know yet. He has already called me to be a Christian man, a husband and a father. He has called me to follow him, no matter what. I want to be “one of the guys” for Jesus, ordained or not.