My wife and I attended this past weekend an annual diaconate day of reflection that was well-attended. The presenter was Deacon Joseph Michalak from the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis. In the afternoon session, he spoke of marriage and the diaconate. He had a number of great points, all of which I will not try to summarize, but I do want to highlight a couple of them.
When the married man is discerning the diaconate, he and his wife are discerning a shift in the character of their marriage. Ordination as Deacon is a change in the being of the person of the man, not simply the addition of activities, functions or missions. Therefore, the marriage as a communio personarum will undergo a shift in its ethos and expression. The marriage is ordered more deeply into the Paschal Mystery of Christ for the deacon is ordered anew into this Mystery. This implies that the man and his wife in their marriage will undergo a new and more intense level of suffering and spiritual warfare. It points also to the imperative of an internal grounding in “contemplation”, i.e., a habit of prayer by both the husband and wife.
The marriage, then, is to embrace a deeper sense of hope which will free it to accept risk and instill joy.
It may be said that with Holy Orders, the married man is ordered to another Bride, even as he expresses that ordering of life most eminently through his embodied and faithful self-offering to his natural bride, his wife. This ordering toward his wife in the Sacrament of Marriage may experience a new or different expression and a new role of witness.
The married deacon must learn the integration (in contrast to “balance”) necessary to live as a married-father-deacon at all times. This requires a man steeped in prudence.
Again, those are Deacon Michalak’s thoughts and ideas. They are worthy or our consideration. Perhaps those of us who are married deacons would do well to reflect on them in the particular circumstances of our own marriage and families.
What stands out most for me was the word integration. There is a tendency in our modern social and ecclesial experience to try to sew together numerous activities and roles that contemporary life seems to demand of us. We end up with something looking like what my grandmother would call a “crazy quilt” of odds and ends stitched together without coherence. A lot of work, yes, and tons of effort expended, but incoherence nonetheless. Integration requires an almost seamlessness in life and identity. An amalgam of sorts rather than a layering or hierarchy of priorities. The incoherent man is a man without prudence and right judgment. Too many of us try so hard to keep juggling more and more activity rather than seeing the big and incisive experience of who we are. Another way of saying it is we get caught up in the chronos (horizontal, linear) aspect of time/space with its fragmentation of who we are, and seldom if ever experience the kairos (vertical, all encompassing) aspect of reality that breaks into the immediate.
These questions/ideas could make for a significant portion of diaconal discernment prior to ordination.