Why me God?

Why me God?  This is a question many men ask themselves when they are first considering the possibility of becoming a deacon.  The same question surfaces frequently during formation, and I suppose it occurs over and over again during a man’s ministry as a deacon. 

Why me God?  Why do I feel drawn to this ministry?  Why should I have been selected rather than more deserving, more talented, and more prayerful men?

As a member of the first group of men selected for deacon formation in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, these questions have loomed large for me and others in my formation class.  During our first retreat I recall that we looked at each other in amazement.  Our differences and diversity were stunning. 

We came from both rural and urban parishes, some had finished high school, others had some college and still others had advanced college degrees.  Our occupations include being a judge, a lawyer, a corrections officer, a truck driver, an engineer, a sales agent, a catechist, a college professor, a factory worker and many more.  Some of us are converts to the church while others are life-long Catholics.

Some of us asked the “why me” question to people who participated in our selection and screening committees.  What did these other people see in us, or expect from us?  Maybe those people could help us understand why God seemed to be calling us.  The answers we received pointed to selection committee members sensing in us a “call” to the ministry of deacon.  While that answer had an “ecclesial” air to it, the response did not really seem to satisfy our minds. 

As we candidates compared notes we came to realize that the “calls” we had experienced did not seem at all similar.  Some of us can remember wanting to become a deacon for decades, while others of us first received the desire only months after the first call-out articles began to appear in our Archdiocesan newspaper.

Some of us rushed into the program with abandon while others seemed to be dragged in, kicking and screaming.  Some of us asked many close friends for feedback during our initial discernment, while others wanted their discernment process to remain very, very private.

What does being called mean?  How can we all be called to be part of a single formation group when we are so different?  More importantly, what is it that each of us, uniquely, is supposed to give?  As we near the end of our first year together I have begun to see some parts of the answer.  The parts I see have come after climbing two steps. 

The first step was reflecting on what we, as a formation group, have become over the past year.  The closest analogy I can come up with is that we have become a family.  We anxiously await our monthly weekend training sessions together.  When we actually are together it is like a reunion, we socialize, and we work hard on our courses. 

As we interact with our instructors and as we try to support each other in the weeks between training sessions, we each seem to take on different roles.  One of us is a fantastic note taker who shares his product on an internet webpage.  Another candidate and his wife have taken the organization of refreshments to the level of an art form.  Others facilitate study sessions, help with homework, provide comic relief and perform dozens of other functions that have made us real to one another.

The first step has been to realize that we collectively are more than we are individually.

The second step came to me as I struggled with an assignment in our systematic theology class.  Our task was to read and abstract Part One of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.  In my case at least, struggle is a major understatement.  While working on the assignment I was struck by John Paul’s comments related to complementarity, and the idea of the communion of people. 

Greatly simplifying John Paul’s ideas, I came away thinking about how both giving and receiving are mutual complements, both must exist or both fail to exist.  Also from John Paul came the thought that giving and receiving form the basis of love, and love is a sign of the presence of God.  In forming the ministry of deacon the sign of God is probably the most important of all signs.  At this point I reached the second step and I started to see more of the answer to my “why me God” question. 

The second step was to see that weaknesses and strengths must both exist or else neither exists.

I started to think about all the things I have received from the other deacon candidates over the past year.  I have watched each of them do things with seeming effortlessness that are difficult for me.  Their talents have helped me see things I want to develop in myself.  To be more candid, my shortcomings have helped to highlight their gifts in my mind.  They have helped me to appreciate abilities that in the past I have overlooked.  From weakness comes strength. 

If we had all been more or less the same, with the same talents and skills, (no matter how stunning those talents might have been) we would come to believe that our contribution to ministry lies in our talents. 

But as I think about my classmates I realize that at least one of us has experienced just about any kind of tragedy, difficulty or disappointment that comes with living.  Taken together, we have a broad span of brokenness. 

I believe we were chosen by the hand of God for our brokenness as well as our talents.  I believe our future ministries will draw as much from the realization of our individual shortcomings as our skills.  Being the same, even being stunning, would have eliminated many opportunities to give and to receive.  Being different has increased our ability to share and create the sign of God our class has become.

(Dr. Wesley Jones is a deacon candidate for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. Article published in the Deacon Digest, November/December 2005, and reprinted with permission of the author and Deacon Digest.)

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