Diaconal spirituality is one of dynamic tension between irrevocable change of Holy Orders and the graces of marriage.
Theologically, we speak of the indelible mark that cannot be erased on the very being of a man who receives Holy Orders. We deacons are so marked. There is no doubt that this is not just a theological construct; it is a very real and lived out each day. Because our wives do not share in this ontological change, this change of being, it places us in a sort of dynamic tension with them. This tension can be fruitful or not, depending on how well one’s marital spirituality undergirds one’s diaconal spirituality.
There seems to be a real possibility that deacons and their wives avoid the tension, or redefine it as something other than it is. This is a big mistake. Denial of its existence in this way, I believe, only leads to problems.
For example, there are some married deacons whose wives are envious of the deacon’s function and his reception of Holy Orders, wishing they too were ordained and both deacon and wife live as if she was a deacon also. There are also those situations where the deacon’s wife wants nothing whatsoever to do with her husband’s diaconal ministry and thus withdraws from him. She sees nothing in it for her.
In both of these situations, both the diaconal spirit and the marital life erode and wither.
Diaconal spirituality lies in living out the tension. It is never an either-or scenario. It is always a both-and.
A deacon’s spirituality arises from the ontological change of ordination. It grows in maturity in the context of the precedential graces of marriage. The unifying thread is the self-giving in service, giving so others may have life and have it fully. For the deacon himself there is no end to diaconal and maritial spirituality understood in this way. One never stops and the other begins. For the deacon’s wife, her spirituality is altered for he whom she now loves is now claimed by God and the Church in an irrevocable way, and her love for her husband now includes in a more profound way Jesus Christ the Servant.
Deacons, when people look at us, do they see Jesus the Servant? Do they also see the face of our wives reflected in who we are and what we do? Yes, do they see the face of our wives reflected in us….. we spiritually bring our wives into all we do as deacons; we carry them everywhere for that is what our promise of love and fidelity to them is about.