It’s been a few weeks since I was ordained a permanent deacon. After four years of deacon formation, there were still some things for which I was not totally prepared. Here are seven … Quick Takes style.
Everything — A good friend of mine, Deacon Andrew pictured with me above, was ordained a transitional deacon just a few months before me, and he offered some excellent spiritual advice. “Be gentle with yourself.” He was referring to the post-ordination expectation that the new deacon knows everything about being a deacon. He wasn’t kidding. This has been an indispensable piece of advice during the first several weeks. Nearly everything that was once familiar is now different.
Triune blessings — First thing following ordination, a few people asked me to bless their children. You know, Father-Son-Holy Spirit with the Sign of the Cross. Uh, okay. Is there a right way? Perhaps more importantly, is there a WRONG way?
Holy Water — Word on the street is that I can “make” Holy Water and bless other objects? What are the rubrics around that, please?
Assisting at Mass — At the Basilica of St. John, one of our primary charisms is liturgy. Our “High” Mass with the incense, chanted prayers, and choir/organ music is as good as I’ve experienced the Novus Ordo celebrated. However, there’s a lot going on that we didn’t cover during deacon formation. Prior to ordination, I was ultra-observant, either in the pew or as an “assistant” MC. But there are many subtleties I missed until I needed to know them as a deacon. What is the proper way to incense the Book of the Gospels, or the assembly, or the priest? Are they all the same? How many swings for each and in which direction? [Insert lengthy litany of liturgical questions here.]
Book of the Gospels — I wish I had become more familiar with this, which you never use as a layperson. What’s the big deal? If you’ve proclaimed the Word from the Lectionary, what’s the difference? Well, the Lectionary has only one cycle of readings (A,B, or C) in it while the Book of the Gospels contains all three cycles. That’s helpful to know because a rookie deacon could otherwise begin to proclaim the wrong Gospel reading and have to be corrected part-way by the seasoned deacon sitting behind him. And if the Mass is telecast, the whole world potentially could see the mistake. Not that I’d know anything about that.
- Side note #1: There’s no trap door behind the ambo at the Basilica.
- Side note #2: Most people are really kind when a new deacon messes up this part. Just not the people pictured above.
Clearly, deacon formation continues … with an emphasis in humility.
No hiding — I went to a potluck dinner earlier this week for a program our daughter is involved with this school year. I went to the potluck simply as her dad, one of many parents in attendance. However, I was the only ordained person there. Hence, I was asked to lead grace (no big deal) and offer “the Church’s blessing.” What? See point #2. Still getting comfortable with that one.
Sitting apart — This stinks, particularly for Lisa who is in the pew by herself with our young children. Please note that our priest doesn’t categorically forbid me from sitting in the assembly on occasion, so don’t send him any hate mail. Also, Lisa and I don’t disagree with my regular service at the altar. I’m ordained to serve the people of God, and one of the primary ways to do that is through the liturgy. But knowing that fact beforehand and experiencing it now post-ordination are two different things. Way different. This is just hard, and we still haven’t figured out the best way to handle this. We’ll get through it the same way we got through formation — with the help of the community.
For more Quick Takes, visit Jen’s place!