Category Archives: Formation

Rite of Reader (Lector)

I realize I need to go about this from where I left off in my journey. I want very badly to talk about other things, but that seems somehow improper until I complete the story of my pilgrimage here.

In my last post so many years ago, I explained that my formation director suggested I not post any more in this blog. This was not a censure of any kind, but an act of prudence. His concern was that I might accidentally say something something I didn’t mean, or might in some way share something that shouldn’t be shared. The fear was that this might in some way have an effect on whether or not I was actually ordained when the time came.

This seemed wise and thoughtful to me, and I resolved to stop writing until such a time as I was free to do so, and went on with my formation process.

another-lecture

Most of formation was endless classes, every other weekend. The Divine Office, Theology, Church History, Psychology, Homiletics, all in all very useful, but also very tiring. I teach theology, so that meant for me, the only real difference on weekends was: I was sitting be talked to instead of standing and doing the talking. My instructors were fantastic and extremely knowledgeable, but for me it was a lot like having to go to professional development classes every weekend!

There are moments that stand out brightly though, those moments when we would come together in prayer to celebrate the changes that were happening, as well accept new responsibilities. The first of these was the Rite of Reader.

riteofreader

In this beautiful Rite, celebrated in the cathedral, is focused on the Word of God, on Sacred Scripture. We are called to love scripture, to become living examples of the words we read. We are called forth to be the very mouth of God, as he proclaims his sacred words to his sons and daughters, and to those who who have not yet come home to him.

The central moment of this Rite, is the handing of scripture from the bishop to the reader. In all solemnity, the reader comes to kneel before the bishop, and the bishop hands him the book of scripture with these words, looking you straight in the eye:

“Take this book of holy Scripture
and be faithful in handing on the word of God,
so that it may grow strong in the hearts of his people.”

rite-of-lector

I teach from the bible every day. I have one in my hand all the time. This book given to me by my bishop is different. I keep it in a special box, and every time I pull it out, I remember this moment. This bible feels heavier than any other I have ever owned, not because it is, but because every time I hold it, I feel the weight of this responsibility. Now, almost two years later, this book feels heavier than ever, but it is a weight that I hold with great joy, and a great sense of duty.

In this Rite we were officially designated to be those who had a duty to proclaim scripture  to the sacred assembly.

Think about that for a moment. We were given the Duty, to Proclaim Scripture, to the Sacred Assembly.

For the first time in this whole process, we were called to actually DO something, and something really important.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been a lector at my parish for years. I try to do a good job, I read the scriptures the night before, I use inflection and make sure I know how to pronounce all the strange names. If fact, I have always loved reading at Mass.

proclaiming-the-word

The first time I read as a duly instituted reader, appointed by the bishop for that sacred task, it felt different. This was my place, and I had a responsibility to make sure it was done well and right. I knew it was my job to be the most reverent, best reader possible, that I was called to be the example that lectors should follow.

But it was deeper than that. I knew that I had a ministry, a calling. Even if I were not to become a deacon, I was this, and this was no small matter.

My bishop told us a story before we celebrated this Rite, of a man to whom he had given this Rite to before. He talked about how this man felt changed by the charism of the Rite, and how as he neared death, he asked him, his bishop, if he could be buried with the bible on his chest as a sign of his sacred office.

man-with-bible

The Rite had marked this man, had given him sacred purpose. It did the same for me. As I stood up to read scripture again for the first time, I knew that I had been changed, and I could never be the same again.

You are cordially invited.

I hesitated to post this, I was planning on waiting until ordination was over before I posted again.

However, many of you have been kind enough to take this journey with me. I have greatly enjoyed your emails, comments and camaraderie. God willing, I will be ordained this Saturday at 10:00 am PST.

I would like to invite you to my ordination. Sadly, there in only one seat left in the house, and it’s at your desk or couch. I invite you to watch live on YouTube as God in his goodness confers on me through my bishop, the sacred sacrament of Holy Orders.

These last few weeks have been an emotional roller coaster for me as I spend one moment frightened at what I’ve gotten myself into, and the next praising God for the opportunity he has given me. Please keep me in your prayers.

May God have mercy on me, and may my life be lived for His glory. Amen.

Ordination Date Been Set!

Years have gone by. Five and a half of them. Children and grandchildren have been born, parents and grandparents have passed on. This formation process has been full of up and downs, and classes that will never end.

Except that the classes HAVE ended. I have reached the end of this road, and beyond it I can see a new life, a life lived not for myself, but for God’s most precious possession, his Holy Church.

This September, God willing, my bishop will lay hands on me, and through this most ancient prayer I will be changed forever. I haven’t been this excited since I was married to the most beautiful woman I have ever met.

If anyone is still out there after these years of silence, I would ask your prayers. I look forward to writing again very soon.

May God fill you with His endless blessings!

Institution of Acolyte
Instituted as a Acolyte – one of the final steps before Ordination as a Deacon.

The End of Semester Number 3

So all my homework and finals are done, and tomorrow is the last day of formation classes for the semester. I have mixed feelings.

Part of me is so glad that I’ll finally have a break. Two weekends a month plus homework has been a pretty large commitment, and I’m rather exhausted. Every week it has been the same question, “Honey, do you have deacon classes this weekend?” followed by either excitement or a groan depending on my answer. It has simply been a lot of work, and a huge time drain for my family.

On the other hand, I have grown really attached to my classes, and my brother candidates and their wives. Spending that much time together, discussing things of such deep meaning has been an incredible treat, and a holy grace. To suddenly go from meeting extremely regularly, sharing deeply the things that matter to us most, to saying goodbye for the summer is rather sad. I’m sure we will get together individually over the summer, but it isn’t the same.

The highlight of the summer for us will be in August, when the class before us gets ordained. We are all excited for them, we know how long and hard they have worked, and many of them are friends as well. This will also be the first ordination I will have ever seen, and that gets me pretty excited too. It will be fun to see what, God willing, I will be going through in three years. I expect it to be a really exciting night, and I continue to send those men and their wives my prayers.

So I thought it might be nice to recap what we have been studying this semester as a wrap up, both for me, and so that you can get a feeling for what we actually do. This year we have had five main classes: Theology of Vatican II, Fundamental Psychology, Spiritual and Moral Development, New Testament Scripture, and Old Testament Scripture.

Both Scripture classes have really been overview classes, with neither one really delving into details. We learned a lot about how scripture was formed and got a good big picture view. This has been an extremely interesting class, especially over the debates that naturally arise. Some people are comfortable with the idea of scriptures being developed over time, some people are comfortable with the idea of mythology being a part of scripture, some people are more comfortable with a literal translation of scripture. The debates in this class have been really hot.

My Psychology class bored me to tears to be honest. It’s not that the teaching was not good, or that I don’t feel the subject matter is relevant. I just studied a bit too much psychology in college, and didn’t really learn anything new. I am sure I wasn’t as bored as our psychologist candidate though, he looked like he was going to fall asleep in every class.

Our spiritual development class was really interesting. While much of what it had to say was shared in the context of the psychology class, it took the next step, giving us real, concrete ways to assess volunteers in a way to truly determine their potential weaknesses and strengths in ministry. Altogether, a very practical course. (I was also pleased with the low amount of homework!)

The Theology of Vatican II was definitely the class with the most discussion by far. It seemed that every topic that was brought up brought dissension, and that makes for an interesting class. When everyone automatically agrees, or you are just being handed information, it gets rather boring. But get everyone brawling, and it really sparks the brain cells. I just loved this class. Half the time I totally agreed, half the time I was fuming at the mouth. Seriously great fun. Vatican II really stepped into new waters, and it was fun exploring the documents. I will say this though. In reading the documents themselves, I must say they are a harder read than I expected. It really taxes the grey muscle!

And now you know what we do every weekend. We sit around and get fuming mad at each other for differing views, applaud each other when we agree, and pat each other on the back and pray with each other, excited for the next time we get together. Serious fun if you ask me.

I already can’t wait for next semester.

Understanding Discernment

So a regular reader of mine, a friend looking into the diaconate asked a great question today that I thought deserved more than a quick pat answer. Here is his question.

“Seriously – what resources did you find helpful during your discernment process prior to Aspirancy and what has helped you on your way through that phase as well as your current journey toward ordination?

Thanks SO MUCH! for all of the candid comments. This journey is both exciting and scary!” -Tom

This is a great question, and I’m not sure I really have the answer, but I’m willing to explore how this has played out for me personally.

I really already knew that I had to at least explore this option. This was not something I had ever really questioned. The real question has been regarding my worth. I had to deal with the fact that I am simply not a good enough man to deserve to be ordained. That I felt called wasn’t really the issue, it was more the issue of knowing that what I felt called to be, was and is more than I currently am.

There are a couple of big points here. One is the realization that I am lame. I don’t want to be lame, I want to be awesome. I want to be the hero, the knight in shining armor. When I actually look at myself in the mirror though, instead of a saint I see a quickly aging man who doesn’t really have much going for him. I am balding, I don’t pray enough. I am not very successful and I feel emasculated by my inability to have more children. My life is frankly still a work in progress on so many levels that the mirror image I see is just not the image I have of what a clerical man should be.

The second issue is of course all of your responses to the above paragraph. (As so many of you exceed me in holiness) God deals with the imperfect, and makes great things come from it. God takes losers like me and makes saints out of them. Just look at Peter, he is frankly a bit of a dolt, but his encounter with the risen Christ and the Holy Spirit changes him completely into a man of great articulation, a man who can stand before crowds and speak with them logically and persuasively. A man who can turn his tush around and follow Christ back into Rome to the cheers of the Colosseum. Maybe he can take this worthless dolt and fix him too.

So that’s what goes on in my head, and it is still going on. I’m not sure I can ever meet my own expectations, all I can do is continue to move forward in hope that Jesus is walking with me, and carrying me past the obstacles of my own idiocy.

The other thing I have to deal with constantly is fear. I’m really scared of becoming a deacon. I am terrified of standing up at the pulpit and telling all my friends and loved ones that the birth control (fill in any other hot issue here) they are using is evil. I just know how that is going to play out, and I know the cost is going to be ever so high for me and my family. To set myself with the Church is to set myself against the world, especially in my county where we have the only city in the nation with a Green Party majority. When I say I am setting myself up to be a soldier for Christ, I’m really not playing around. I’m really scared of the social ramifications, and I have an honest fear that at some point I will come home to find my tires slashed and windows broken in.

At the same time, all of these reasons are also reasons I continue to move forward. The truth MUST be preached, and I know that is something I am called to do. I just rue the day when they realize that I am calling the kettle black, and tear my glass house to the ground.

As for resources for helping you in your discernment, there are plenty of books out there, read them if you must, but to be honest they just confuse things. The process will bring plenty of words on its own for you to read.

Focus on the people who are calling you, most importantly if you are married, your wife. How does she feel about this? Does she know you need to follow this path more than you do? I’m willing to bet she is the one who truly knows, just trust her. Also look to other clergy you know, are they too suggestive that you should be in this process? Trust them. If it’s not right, you will find out in the process, I promise. Don’t forget other lay ministers in the parish you work with. Listen to their responses and feelings, they too have great wisdom and experience.

Don’t be afraid you won’t know, and will be moving in circles you do not belong. We have men who are called, but leave because the timing is not right for them, and others who realize they simply aren’t called. We have men who have come back after leaving the program years before. The process is so long, and your thoughts so overwhelming that you really can’t screw it up. If you aren’t meant to be there, you’ll just find out, really.

If you are ever worried you are overstepping your bounds, remember that a vocation goes two ways. The Church has to call you too, and you can’t fake that. If the Church says you are the man, and you still feel that way too, then you’ll know.