It has been a number of weeks since my last posting, and for good reason. My responsibilities for the diaconal community in our diocese has increased including coordinating the annual retreat last week. It was a wonderful experience for us as a community. Deacon James Keating was our retreat director, and he inspired, healed, prayed, and challenged us all. We were blessed.
Seeking God in the ordinary has been the focus of so much of what has been going on. To take an idea offered by Keating, it is not breadth which is important in our Catholic lives, but depth, i.e., seeking to plummet the depths of the ordinary in daily life. No doubt, this is so much in keeping with diaconal spirituality, but not only we deacons, but Christians of whatever vocation. The complexity of life can both be the work of Satan and his fertile field. Complexity leads to loneliness and loneliness is a source of all that is not holy. I was impressed with the idea that if we wish to do something to end sin in this world, we can simply relate to others, break out of our loneliness and break into the loneliness of others.
This whole idea relating to others as a remedy for sin makes the case for search for depth in the ordinary. How else can we truly be in relationship unless we enter into the silence of what is ordinary and avoid the cacophony of complexity, the cultural norm of distraction from ourselves and each other? What we are talking about here is echoed in a talk I hear a professor give this past year on the Catholic understanding of rest, a rest in which we truly encounter ourselves and each other, rather than enter into a world of distraction.
Breaking out of loneliness and into the quiet relatedness of the ordinary is another way of describing what the theologians among call kenosis or a self-emptying so as to be taken up into what is of God. Here is where it becomes particularly pertinent to the deacon’s spirituality. As I have written in an article entitled, “The Diaconal Call to a Spiritual Martyrdom” published in the Josephinum Diaconate Review (JDR), a deacon’s glory lies in, and his vocation is lived out in, the encounter with the exigencies of the human condition, in the ordinariness of life where the pain of life is experienced. The deacon cannot know glory unless he is willing to relate to, become starkly aware of, the suffering of others and suffer himself in his presence to the pain of others. He must relate, break into the loneliness of contemporary complexity, and in his impotency to do much, be present to and give witness to the brokenness of life, living a simple life.
Much more can be said. Watch for my next article in the JDR.