“Ultimately, the sacramental character of the deacon is based in the mystery of Christ’s relationship to the church….. mystery signifies God’s ultimate plan or way of being….” — Fr. Bill Donovan, Ph.D., Understanding Diaconal Spirituality
This quote left me thinking about how similar is some ways the life of a deacon and the life of a husband truly are. So much is written and spoken about the tensions that can exist between the vocation of marriage and the vocation to the permanent diaconate, that we are perhaps negligent in writing and speaking about how each vocation supports and nourishes each other.
Both vocations are vocations of service to others. Just as Christ’s relationship to the Church is reflected in sacramental marriage, so too his relationship to the Church is manifested in the diaconal call. While all are called to service by virtue of baptism, the deacon’s service is a sacramentalizing of the life of service constitutive of the Church universal, and marriage a sacramentalizing of the Church’s life of service in the context of the “domestic church” which is, in fact, the Christian family. Both are mysteries in the sense of ways God makes himself known, a breaking forth into our world of the divine presence. Both in marriage and in the diaconate, we are given a certain vigor specialis, that is a special strength or gift through sacramental grace to render service in Jesus’ name to others. That is why a married man is often well prepared to be a deacon, for he has already demonstrated a call to service to his wife and children, and now from this marriage flows the opportunity to serve the diocesan church as an Icon of Jesus – Servant.
(I am always pleased to see former classmates of mine from Rome and elsewhere writing and doing good things. Bill was a couple of years ahead of me, but I remember him well. If any deacons out there haven’t had a chance to read his book referenced above, I would recommend it. Published by Alt Publishing Co., De Pere, WI. You can order it through the National Association of Diaconate Directors, 1204 North Church Street, Rockford, Ill 61103)