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On That Day: From Agnostic Theist to Seminarian to Deacon

::Friends, we are excited to share with you the next installment in the ongoing story of Catholic Sistas friend Craig DeYoung, a former agnostic who began his journey to Catholicism, then to seminary. We invite you to get caught up by reading his first four installments, part I, part II, part III, and part IV. And now that you are up to speed, please dive in and see what has happened with Craig most recently.::

On the morning of May 18th, 2013 at St. Mary’s Student Center in
 College Station, Texas I was ordained to the Sacred Order of Deacon.
 For the last six years I have prepared for that moment and still
 prepare for a moment yet to come next year when I am to be ordained as
 a priest. But, on that day as I was surrounded by friends and family, I 
was called to Holy Orders and then promised to live celibacy as a
 total dedication to the Lord and in service to His Church. I committed 
myself to praying the Liturgy of the Hours faithfully for the Church
 and the whole world, I resolved to carry out the office of deacon and
 conform my life to Christ’s own, and I promised respect and obedience 
to my Bishop Joe Vásquez and his successors. Moments after this, as I 
lay prostrate on the ground I gave my life and all I had to God just
 before Bishop Vásquez laid hands upon my head invoking the Holy Spirit
, ordaining me as a deacon in the Catholic Church. All in all, it was a
 big day. I’d like to offer this article as a reflection about the 
ordination and its significance.

It is my belief that an Ordination to Holy Orders is less about the
 man being ordained and more about the work that God has done and will
 do in him. For this reason, any ordination is an occasion for joyous
celebration and much thanksgiving for the local Church. That said, there is usually a larger 
turnout by the people of a diocese for a priestly ordination than for 
a deaconate ordination. There is more excitement for a priestly 
ordination because it is the ultimate goal of seminary formation, in addition to 
various other reasons. I mention this because for the seminarian 
eventually preparing for priesthood, their deaconate ordination is in
some ways the more important of the two. I say “in some ways” because
, while the seminarian longs for the day he becomes a priest, it is at t
his deaconate ordination that he first lays down his life before God
 and gives himself in service to the Church and her members. It is at t
his deaconate ordination where he makes his promises of celibacy,
 obedience to his bishop, and commitment to praying the Liturgy of the
 Hours. For a new transitional deacon, his ordination is a fulfillment,
 a beginning, and a transition. It is a fulfillment by his commitment
 to live out a vocation faithfully and for life. It is the beginning
 of a new identity as a servant lived out in mission. And as a deacon
 preparing for priesthood it is a transition which becomes the 
foundation for a future participation in the priesthood of Jesus
Christ. As for myself, being ordained as a deacon was all of this, and

As I reflect on God’s work in my life and how I ended up where I am,
 I think perhaps the most beautiful thing about discovering my
 vocation and making a total self gift of myself to the Lord through
 ordination, is the realization that I am becoming who I am meant to be.
 I am being fulfilled day by day and am becoming more myself, more me.
 However, finding my vocation and now living it out has been a
 challenging and sometimes frightening process, as it is for many.
Whether a vocation is to holy orders, religious life, consecrated 
life, or the married life doesn’t make this less true. Certainly, this is
 because vocations have to do with giving your life away, all of it,
 holding nothing back. It is frightening because answering a vocation 
means committing yourself irrevocably and for life. There are no take
backs so to speak. A vocation is a specific call from the Lord to
respond in a particular way to His total gift of Himself to us in
 Christ by the total gift of ourselves to Him. This is true for every
 vocation. What I have sometimes forgotten during my journey is that
God’s will is for my good and ultimately my eternal happiness by being
with him forever in heaven. This is true for every vocation. A
vocation is God’s plan for a person’s ultimate happiness and joy
through eternal life in Him. Vocation is the road God sets a person
 upon in order to lead them to Himself.

It is important to note that a vocation necessarily includes other 
people in some way, shape, or fashion. (Even for those called to be 
hermits.) This is because vocations are always the path of love and
 every true act of love is an act of sacrifice in which we die to
 ourselves a little so that another may have life through our
 sacrifice; this demands there be another to love. Through vocations, 
the Lord teaches us to live in communion by humbling ourselves in
 order to exalt others. This kind of Love demanded by vocation 
prepares us to be the kind of persons who will enjoy heaven. Heaven 
is nothing other than a participation in the inner life to the Trinity
 wherein the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit live in an eternal 
exchange of love, in communion.

Even knowing this truth doesn’t make it easy to respond to God’s love
 with our own love. There are very real obstacles such as sin and 
fear. This has also been true for me in my own vocation. A little
 over a year ago I was battling with the decision of whether to take
 time off from seminary or to continue formation toward ordination. I
 found myself paralyzed with fear and feelings of inadequacy. After 
much inner turmoil and debate I found myself undecided until the
 morning of my final evaluation at St. Mary’s Seminary. Just before
the evaluation I spoke with a friend about my dilemma and his own
 discernment. I remember in speaking with him how everything suddenly
 became clear. I realized that I wasn’t in doubt about what my
 vocation was but, rather, I was afraid to give my life away to Christ.
 I was holding back out of fear that somehow God wouldn’t be enough 
for me. Moreover, I had an acute case of what Bishop Fulton Sheen 
called staurophopia or fear of the cross. I was afraid of what God
 was asking of me, namely that He was asking everything of me. At that
 moment I realized my fear was keeping me from God. Knowing the truth, 
I was free to chose. Thanks be to God, He gave me the grace to 
respond in love by following Him. Increasing Him, decreasing me.

Committing to a vocation is not a once and done kind of thing. A 
vocation must be recommitted to daily both before and after making a
 final commitment. My formation last year was dedicated to having the
 freedom to make a complete gift of myself to God without holding back 
because of fear or personal sin. An essential moment in this work 
included making the 30 Exercises of St. Ignatius. Those 30 days helped 
me to grow in friendship with Jesus and to trust Him as my friend
 and Lord so that I might follow Him even to His cross. From then 
until today, each day has included its struggles to recommit myself to 
the Lord and place my heart and trust entirely in Him. My greatest 
help in this ongoing effort has been the Blessed Mother who knows my
need, intercedes for me before the Lord, and provides every virtue
 where I am lacking. As the Mother of Jesus, she becomes the Mother of
 every vocation leading each of us to her Son.

On that day I was ordained deacon, I became a little more of the person I am meant to be. I 
was surrounded by my family, my friends, the people of the local 
Church I am studying to serve, brother deacons, future brother
priests, the angels, the saints, and my bishop. I was held up to the
 Lord by their love and prayers but it was the Lord’s work in the Holy 
Spirit which made that day great. As He does for each of us, on that
 day He gave me myself so that I might give myself away and become 
one of his deacons. By his work, I have been blessed in becoming a 
little less so that He might become more in the hearts of men and
 women. Please keep me in your continued prayers so I may continue to
 commit my life to God day in and day out. God Bless!

In Christ,

Dcn. Craig DeYoung




Craig Current Events Guest Posts Pope Seminarian

Perspective on Pope Benedict XVI’s Resignation

Catholic Sistas welcomes back seminarian Craig DeYoung as he writes about Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation.

At St. Mary’s Seminary, ecclesial rumors spread like wildfire.  By 6:15 this morning, news of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation was making its way through our ranks.  After morning prayer and meditation, there was an explosion of speculation and opinion at the seminary.  Indeed, my first class this morning was dedicated to a discussion about the event.  This is no doubt to be expected as everyone comes to grips with the situation but I would like to make a few observations about what is happening and offer a hopeful perspective regarding Pope Benedict’s resignation.

I have observed among my brother seminarians that each is absorbing the revelation in their own way.  Some in silence, some in conversation, and others in the chapel.  Shock and sorrow seem to be the theme of many hearts, including my own.  Catholics (and non-catholics) have fallen in love with Pope Benedict XVI over the last eight years.  His teaching is profound, his heart warm, and his leadership solid and foresighted.  He has done much for our Church as the Vicar for Christ over these last years.

When I began checking the news before my first class I didn’t have to go far.  Rumor and speculation are at their peak as to why the Pope is retiring, what will he do after he retires, and will he will go back to being a Cardinal?  There is an unending discussion about who the next Pope will be and what the future of the Church will look like.  Will there be this change or that change in the Church?  And the list goes on.

As you’ve undoubtably noticed, everyone is talking about it.  Twitter and Facebook are wild with comments, links, and thoughts about the Pope’s decision.  News stations are calling anyone connected with the Church for comment.  Heck, I’m even writing a blog article.  Why is everyone talking about it?  Simple, it will effect the whole world and the course of history.  Kind of scary when you think about it that way.  At least for me it is.

I have my own thoughts and opinions on these questions but I’m more occupied with the growing sense of anxiety and anticipation among the faithful about what will happen after February 28th.  It is to this anxiety and anticipation that I would like to speak and offer the perspective of faith.

When Christ died on the cross, his disciples were devastated.  They had lived with Christ, fallen in love with him, and believed him to be the messiah sent by God.  When he died they were shaken deeply.  They did not know what would happen, where they would go, or what they would do.  Everything that had happened and that they had believed was put into question by Christ’s death.  Simply put, they were desolate.  With eagle clear hindsight you would think they would have remembered Christ’s words predicting his death and his promise of resurrection but they did not.  We, however, have something the disciples did not:  the resurrection of Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

The joy of resurrection and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit assures as Christians today that Christ’s promises are true.  When any sort of storm comes upon us in the bark of the the Church, of which there have been many and will be many, we must hold fast to the promises of Christ and your faith in him.  Because he is always faithful, his promises are true.

What is happening now is not unlike what happened then.  We can lose track of the unshakable promises of Christ in the midst of the storms of life.  Remember now his words and promises.

Christ spoke to us along with the disciples who were terrified amidst the storm saying, “Courage, I am.”  (Matthew 6:50)

Jesus makes a promise to Peter about the Church that “the powers of death shall not prevail against it”. (Matthew 16:18)

About himself he promises, “lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:20).  Also, he says, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”  (John 16:13)  We have the assurance of Christ’s presence in his Church and his protection, along with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Moreover, we can be sure of Christ’s compassion for those who scripture tells us that, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”  (Matthew 9:36)  Immediately after this Christ sends out the twelve to preach the Kingdom of God and to minister to the crowds.

As we reflect upon the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, I think it is important to hold fast to these promises in our hearts and pray faithfully to the Lord now and always.  Ponder these promises and remember that Christ will not leave us without himself, his Spirit, or shepherds to guide us!  Put every event within the perspective of our faith and do not let your courage be shaken when storms come.

::Craig DeYoung, a published contributor with Catholic Sistas, is a seminarian for the Diocese of Austin and, God willing, will be ordained to the presbyterate in 2014.  A graduate of Texas A&M University, he became Catholic while in college and often refers to the Easter Vigil when he entered the Church as the happiest day of his entire life.  His deepest desire is that his heart be conformed to the Sacred Heart of Christ.  His favorite prayer is “Lord Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto yours.”::