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Diaconate Faith Formation Guest Posts Vocations

The Deacon’s Wife: Part 3: Navigating the Formation Process

[This is part 3 of The Deacon’s Wife. Don’t forget to check out part one and part two.]

He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. ~Matthew 18: 2-4

Deacon Cross
(c)Diocese of Lexington

Four years of formation sounds daunting as you approach it, but the time surprisingly flew by and I would not trade it for anything!

As we went into the program, I realized that I was one of the few in the room that did not have any formal education past high school (and with my attitude at that time it is surprising I even graduated!). My higher learning has been done in the School of Hard Knocks and as of yet, I haven’t graduated!  At first this made me feel like I was way behind and would have a hard time comprehending the courses, but I actually think it may have been just the opposite.

My trade is as an electrician, although now I use that experience in sales of electrical distribution, control, and lighting. All of my training has been on-the-job, whether it be on the construction site or in the sales office, and I treasure that type of learning.

It’s hard for me not to second guess myself due to my level of education. I will never forget one women’s retreat I was on and it came time to choose a table leader, the first question asked was “what is your degree?” – my lack of a degree it seems, automatically excluded me from being capable of leading a table discussion and set the tone of the weekend for me. Can you tell that still bothers me?

Our formation weekends consisted of Friday evening, all day Saturday, and Sunday until about two in the afternoon. For those of us with full-time jobs, it was a challenge to be alert and on game. Almost every Saturday night one generous couple in our class opened their home to the entire class to come unwind and get to know each other. This, I believe, was as important as any of the formation.

The course list we had to look forward to included Systematic Theology, Church History, Spirituality of the Deacon, Old Testament, Canon Law,  just to name a few. I wondered if anyone else was as overwhelmed as I was looking at the list. The thought kept going through my mind – “at least I won’t be graded….”

The Saint Meinrad formation program provided us with top notch instructors for the most part. The deacon who taught us Systematic Theology is a person I will never forget. One of the first things he said to us was “If your mind and heart are not in the mind and heart of the Church, you don’t belong here,” and he repeated this on a regular basis throughout the weekend.  Such truth in that one little statement!

What I observed throughout the weekends was that many of those in the class with the highest level of education actually had the hardest time understanding and accepting much of the Church’s teachings.  To listen to couples in a Catholic deacon formation class try to defend population control, artificial contraception, the ordination of women, and other issues that go against the mind and heart of the Church was pretty mind-boggling for me. I had to wonder, and did out loud a few times, why they were there. Of course, there were times that I was written off as a simpleton. But that’s okay, I do think it’s pretty simple – God is in control, no one else! And there is no amount of knowledge that can take the place of the faith of knowing that it is God that is in control!

Spending this formation time with my husband was one of the best decisions of my life. Each of us were growing, blossoming and discovering more and more about our faith, and since we were making these discoveries together, it was only natural that our faith life as a couple grew. We were able to discuss and point out to each other what we heard and how we interpreted those things. It is only natural, because of that Venus & Mars thing, that many times we each keyed in on things the other did not. Those discussions and exchanges just rounded out the formation for us both.

One thing I truly appreciate about not having formal advanced education is I do believe it allowed me to look at the teachings of the Church very simply. Once I turned my back on the pressures of society and their push for the Church to keep up with the times, it became easy to trust 2000 years of history and experience. I would love to share a few of those things.

In twelve years of Catholic education I would have a hard time coming up with how many times I heard “it’s a mystery” – but no one ever explained what “mystery” meant. Of course as a child, I heard the word mystery and thought of Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys; as I got older I heard mystery meaning “it’s none of your business.” Now I know a mystery in our faith is like peeling an onion – the more you peel, the more you learn, but you will never be able to grasp the mystery in its entirety.  (And it may cause some tears as you peel it away!)

Concerning the ordination of women: I told you that, by trade, I am an electrician, and this leads many to believe that I am a feminist in the sense of N.O.W. feminism. And nothing could be further from the truth. I do believe that women should be given equal opportunity in jobs that they are capable of performing, but there are jobs or vocations that women were not meant for. Much like there are jobs and vocations that men are not capable of. Women cannot be fathers. I can look at my experience as a single parent and how I tried to be (and was convinced I could be) the best mother and father my kids ever had. What a load of crap! I could be the best mother I was capable of but there is no way I could ever be a father to my kids; much in the same way a woman cannot be a father in the Church. She just doesn’t have what it takes!

Even more simply though, I believe if Jesus wanted women priests, the first person he would have ordained – and the one most eminently qualified – would have been his mother and she would have been our first pope. And then there’s that little thing called “in persona Christi” (in the person of Christ) – we know Christ was a man so shouldn’t it be a man that represents Him and repeats His words? Not to mention that He is the Bridegroom of the Church. What message would we be sending if the bridegroom was a woman and the Church is the bride?

So many other takes I have I would love to share, such as why I think holding hands during the Our Father is detrimental to the priesthood and the liturgy, the prayer I say at the offertory,  why we should consider “ad orientem”, but alas, my word count has come to an end.

So I sign off in prayer for the conclave and our cardinals – Come Holy Spirit!

*Cindy, although a cradle Catholic, is a revert to the Catholic faith. She is the middle child from a family of 15 children, is the mother of three and a very proud grandma of three. She is active with the Diocese of Lexington RCIA Commission, writes a ongoing series for the Crossroads Catholic bi-monthly newspaper and has been in the construction field for over thirty years. She and her husband of almost 11 years, Deacon Skip, live in a historic house in downtown Lexington with their three dogs.*

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Diaconate Faith Formation Guest Posts Reversion Vocations

The Deacon’s Wife: Part 1: Finding My Way Home

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you realize that we will be judged more strictly, for we all fall short in many respects. James 3:1-2

Deacon Cross
(c)Diocese of Lexington

This was a Bible verse that was on my mind during the five years of discernment and formation before my husband, Skip, was ordained a permanent deacon for the Diocese of Lexington. Deacons are ordained to preach & teach and I believe James is warning us all, that if we want to take on the role of teaching the faith, we better be ready to pass it on faithfully or there might be hell to pay (literally) in the future!

I have been asked to write a few posts on the role of a deacon and his wife, along with perhaps, what the discernment and formation process was like. The wives were actually encouraged to attend the formation classes with their husbands and I eagerly did (most of the time). I think it’s only fair I give you some of my background before we go much further. And the first thing to realize is, as a deacon’s wife I am not a saint – and am very far from it!

I am a cradle Catholic and a revert to the faith. For years I made myself the god of my life.

I grew up in the era of Vatican II with the notions that singing “Kum-by-yha” or “Peace Train” and holding hands were what was important for “church”. This age also offered me the “if it feels go – do it”, “I am woman, hear me roar”, and “I don’t need a man in my life to be successful” mentalities, which I readily bought in to. But what I lacked was a love and respect for my body and bought into the idea that if you were attracted to a person then you should follow your animal instincts; after all, this wasn’t the dark ages of women being covered from head to toe, and following behind their man. Oh quite the opposite – we should take the lead!

I left the church when I left home at 17. I was now my own boss, and if I wasn’t going to listen to my parents, why would I ever listen to some ancient fairy tales and a bunch of old men in dresses?!

Boy, did my bubble get burst, and burst hard! My oldest son was born out of wedlock when I was just 18 years old – 33 years ago – and I decided that I could raise him on my own. I was so full of myself! In 1979, it was not commonplace for an unwed mother to raise her child so I thought I was cutting edge! Pshaw!

Before you start to wonder about my family, I had the most marvelous parents anyone could wish for and my dad was always, and is still, my hero. My parents would have celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary this past weekend if my dad was still alive, and they raised 15 children, (of which I am number 8), put us all through Catholic school, took us to Mass as a family every Sunday and holy day, and most days during the summer we walked to daily Mass.

My parents showed us what a loving, stable marriage was, tried to give us work ethic (I started working at 11 years old with a paper route), taught us you could fight with someone you loved and still love them, and you didn’t have to have it all to be happy. So why did I go so far from how I was raised? My guess is that I wanted to be “modern” and fit in with the age of society.

Long sordid story short, I married in 1982, had my daughter in 1983, and divorced in 1986. My first husband and I were on totally different pages about money, family, priorities, and faith (which we only talked about a little bit when my sister died in 1985), etc., but the stars in my eyes hid that from me at the time.

Now we did do a couple of things just to “make my parents happy” – at least that’s what I told myself. We had been married by a justice of the peace but then had a church wedding. As Dad was walking me down the aisle he told me I did not have to do this to make them happy. Plus we had our daughter baptized into the Catholic faith.

I went through years of taking care of my two children on my own, and was sure I could be both mother and father – isn’t that what we have been told? What a scam that is! But it took me years to figure out.

Then I met Merle. He had 3 kids, had been married 3 times and swept me off me feet. He and his son moved into my house after about 2 weeks of dating in 1989 and I found myself pregnant with my youngest son in 1990 – so what the heck, let’s get married! And we did.

Merle was a brilliant, handsome man. He was also an alcoholic – a mean and sometimes violent alcoholic. He started his day with a six pack and ended it with a case. After much turmoil, we separated and soon divorced. I did know though, he truly loved our son and I tried to let him have time with Glenn.

Glenn, at four years old, would tell me how sick his daddy was because he would scream if he touched his belly. I knew it was pretty bad and offered to take Merle to the doctor. Well, Merle died at age 45 from liver, kidney and heart failure all as a result of his drinking. My son was left without a father, and I was left with all the bills he had not paid off in the two years since the divorce.

During this tumultuous time, I started attending Al-Anon – my saving grace at that time! Well, if you are familiar with any 12 step programs – and Al-Anon is based on the same 12 steps – number one is to admit you are powerless, number two is come to believe that it will take a power greater than you to restore you to sanity, and number three, turn your will and your life over to God as you know Him.

I only had one place to go where I knew I could find God and that was back to the Catholic Church. And how glad I was to be back! We, my two youngest children and I, went to a few different parishes and then found a home at Saint Peter Claver in downtown Lexington.

As I pondered whether I was going to make this huge commitment to come back home to the Catholic faith, there was one thing I decided – if I was going to be Catholic, then I was going to be Catholic. This meant, instead of picking and choosing what I was going to believe, I had to step out on faith, believe it and find out why the Church taught it. It has worked for every single stumbling block I had – or thought I had – with the Church.

The deacon at St. Peter Claver at that time was working with me to prepare for Glenn’s baptism, and he asked me why I thought all these bad things happened to me. My response really surprised me: I told him I did not see them as “bad things” but as the stepping stones I needed to get me back to where God wanted me. But God was just getting started with me……………….

*Cindy, although a cradle Catholic, is a revert to the Catholic faith. She is the middle child from a family of 15 children, is the mother of three and a very proud grandma of three. She is active with the Diocese of Lexington RCIA Commission, writes an ongoing series for the Crossroads Catholic bi-monthly newspaper and has been in the construction field for over thirty years. She and her husband of almost 11 years, Deacon Skip, live in a historic house in downtown Lexington with their three dogs.*