17 May 2015

Deacon Ordination Ceremony number two

Today I attended the ordination ceremony for deacons within the (Catholic) diocese of Lansing. It was a delight to be present to see the men that we had gotten to know this past year take the next step on their journey. At the same time, it felt a little bittersweet. Despite Matthijs having joined with these men in their training for much of this past year, he is not yet allowed to become a deacon.

This is now the second time this has happened. When we decided to move to Lansing, Matthijs was no longer committed to Amsterdam. Because one is ordained to a specific place, the bishop could no longer ordain him in and to the church in the Netherlands, despite having been approved and trained there. Last year around this time he witnessed his fellow classmates become ordained.

The hope was that he could "transfer" into a program here. Yet, once again, the question has not been whether Matthijs would be able to serve God and the church well in the capacity of deacon. Instead, place is still an issue: our visas are only temporary. Perhaps there is still a way to make it happen, especially as we do intend to stay here for the next five to ten years, but nothing is certain.

One of the things I am growing to love about the office of deacon in the Catholic church is how much the wife of the aspiring deacon plays a role. A man cannot become a deacon unless his wife is fully in agreement, recognizing that the work of deacon can take a man away from his family and that it is a burden (and joy) that both husband and wife will share. It is not uncommon for a wife to request that the process of becoming a deacon be delayed until the children have left the house. I, too, am playing a role in Matthijs not yet becoming a deacon, although in a different way: our choice to move here to allow me to do campus ministry has caused Matthijs to be without place.

I am thankful for how patient and gracious Matthijs has been about the waiting, especially as I know it remains difficult for him to know how best to serve God and the church here in Lansing. At the same time, the wait has allowed me to witness his dedication to serving God, his enthusiasm and curiosity about so many different possibilities, and his desire to find a good fit, which has led to much deliberation and contemplation.

We are not sure about what is next. I am learning to be okay with that. It helps that (like a good Protestant?) I consider the words spoken to the deacons apply to both Matthijs and I: "Receive the word of God, of which you are a herald. Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach." No matter what one's ordination status is, these are powerful and encouraging words to live by. 

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