When I was in the discernment process, before I had been recommended by my parish to the Diocese, I attended--thanks to the urging of my mentor and good friend, the Deacon (I guess I have to say the senior deacon now) at St. Bartholomew's Church--a retreat. A friend of mine, in the discernment process for the priesthood, described the Fraction as the "moment when the one who is whole becomes broken, so that we who are broken can become whole." I mulled the throughout for a long time afterward. It was true, beautiful, moving and spiritually alive and resonant for me. It was also a thought that would never have passed through my own mind, though in hearing it, I saw its profundity. I told her then that I believed with all my heart that her call to the priesthood was genuine. (She has since been ordained a priest.)
And it made me wonder if my call was not to the priesthood, but to something else.
Some months later, I was delivering a committee report about improving our church communications. It was in the wake of the financial crash, and I advocated for getting some computers donated, training some of our neighbors who had been unemployed as a result of the crash, and having them digitize our archives for use online. We could, I argued, help the unemployed learn new skills, give them a resume line to keep them viable in the job market, and at the same time improve our website.
When I finished, a short break was called. My friend who had spoken so eloquently of the Fraction sought me out, looked me squarely in the eyes, and said to me: "You're a deacon." And in that moment, I knew she was right, whether I was ever ordained or not.
Another friend of mine, professionally accomplished, with a busy life, had a few months back been in touch with me about wanting to undergo Clinical Pastoral Education. I told her what I knew about it, put her in touch with some people I knew, and offered to do more if she needed. She reached out to me again the other day, and we spoke on the phone. She told me that she was in a program, described what she'd been doing,and told me she felt that she might be being called to the diaconate. we discussed the discernment process, the formation and training, field placement--everything. She then started musing on how she'd been doing volunteer work since she was a girl, but always practical, always helping people not within the four corners of the church, but outside in the world, and now felt the need to integrate that with her spiritual practice--that she felt called to more, and that's why CPE was so important, even though it didn't encompass all that she wanted to do. Again and again, she used the word serve to describe her call.
I can't adequately describe the frisson I felt at that moment--the physical sensation running from the crown of my head to the base of my spine--the sensation that always accompanies for me those "peak moments," as my old teacher, Fr. R.F. Smith at Fordham, used to call them--those moments when the world aligns, and I recognize what's been staring me in the face all along. I felt as if I were in an echo in time, but with the roles changed.
"You're a deacon," I heard myself say.
Of course, the Church will ultimately decide that, not me, but that she has the heart of a deacon, that she is called to servant ministry, whether ordained or lay, I have no doubt.