The Order of Servitude

David Oatney Priesthood, Vocations, Year of Faith

Deacons Ordination-158Our beloved Bishop Richard Stika has rightly stated on Twitter regarding his feelings after yesterday’s ordination of four new transitional deacons and the state of the new clergy in the Diocese of Knoxville:

Welcome Deacons Colin Blatchford, Tony Budnick, Julian Cardona and Adam Kane. What a blessing to welcome you as a brother deacon!

His Excellency is quite correct that Deacons Blatchford, Budnick, Cordona, and Kane are a blessing. He wrote Friday:

Tomorrow I will be blessed to ordain 4 transitional deacons for Dioknox. This year 2 priests and four deacons. Thank you Lord!

The blessings of our little mountain diocese are truly cause for gratitude to God. I am especially grateful that His Excellency places such a high value on the Order of Deacon, and rightly sees himself as such, which he is. No ordained man ceases to be a deacon once he is ordained a deacon. If he is called to the presbyterate, then he is a deacon who becomes a priest. If he is called to the episcopacy, he is a deacon and a priest who by God’s grace becomes a bishop. I have been told by more than one person (including our diocesan liturgist Father Randy Stice) that it is very important to keep this sense of perspective, because if all the clergy, deacons, priests, and bishops, do not see themselves as deacons first, and if the People of God do not understand that their clergy are servant leaders, then we all put ourselves in danger of clericalism.

It is important that when using that word that it is made clear that I do not mean clericalism in the same context as the secular world means it, or even in the same context as some so-called Catholics who use a supposed fear of clericalism as reason to disrespect the clergy and engage in open disobedience of the laws of God and the precepts of Holy Mother Church. Rather I mean clericalism in this context: The idea that an ecclesiastical title, conferred on a man by virtue of his receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders, makes a man better than his neighbors in the pew, or even a woman a better Catholic because she has accepted God’s call to the religious life. Accepting a vocation from God doesn’t make someone a better Catholic, it simply makes them especially blessed to be able to serve others in the Church. If God and the bishop allow me to be ordained, being able to put on a stole and dalmatic and read the Gospel doesn’t make me better than the congregation I’ll be reading to. Being able to preach occasionally does not mean that I will “know more” than the people I serve (many of them will doubtless know more than me!), but that I will have been tasked with the awesome privilege and responsibility before God of teaching God’s people more about him. If anything, I’ll have to be especially careful because I will have souls to answer for.

Deacons Ordination-170What I just described is precisely why our four new deacons who will, pray God, soon be priests, must begin their ecclesiastical careers as deacons and will always be deacons. The word deacon means servant, and these four precious men who have accepted the call of the Holy Spirit to serve the Church are being asked to remember that to be a servant is the very first aspect of their calling, and so they’ll be exercising all of the ministries of a deacon for awhile, the order of servanthood. The other important role that these new deacons will fill is that of being examples to the people of God of that role of Christian servitude to which we are all called in imitation of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Being that example will make them great priests and servants of the Church for the rest of their lives. We should all pray for them to have many happy and prayerful years of service to Christ, to his Church, and to his People. Through the intercession of St. Lawrence the Deacon, may their ministries bear much fruit for the Kingdom of God.

For Deacons Colin, Tony, Julian, and Adam, the Litany of the Saints.