Friday, December 31, 2010

The Deacon as Minister of Sacrament -- Part I

Ordination brings the ordinand into a new set of responsibilities in service of the People of God.  This is usually referred to as a participation in the triple munus (function) of Word, Sacrament and Charity.  Before Christmas we looked at the role of the deacon as a minister of the Word of God.  Now I want to move into some reflection on the deacon as a minister of sacrament.

To do that, of course, we need to understand what we mean by "sacrament."  So, here's a very, very brief "Sacraments 101".

1) Theologian Joseph Martos has referred to sacraments as "doors to the sacred" and that's a pretty good phrase.  The underlying understanding of sacrament in the Catholic sense is that a sacrament "connects" the human and the divine.  Another theologian, Robert Taft, SJ, once tried to describe a "symbol."  He evoked Michelangelo's famous painting of the creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel.  Taft points out that God's finger, stretched out toward Adam, and Adam's finger, stretched out toward God, do not touch; there is a gap.  For Taft, a "symbol" CONNECTS the two.  In many ways, this can also describe our sense of sacrament as that which connects the human and the divine.

2) Prior to the Second Vatican Council, theologians began describing a deeper sense of sacramentality than most people appreciated.  The bishops at the Council adopted much of this language in their own documents.  So, in addition to the seven sacraments of the church, we first speak of Christ himself as the most fundamental sacrament of all: Christ IS the connection between God and humanity.  The Church itself can be understood as a sacrament of our encounter with Christ, and then the seven sacraments of the church represent special encounters with Christ.  We also speak today of the "sacramental principle": that understanding that all of God's creation can serve as vehicles of God's life.  That's why we make such liberal use of ordinary things like water, wine, bread, oil, touch and so on.

3) Finally, the word "sacrament" itself comes from the Latin word sacramentum.  A sacramentum in the Roman Empire was the oath of enlistment taken by a new recruit into the army, and early Christian writers began referring to Christian initiation as a sacramentum.  For those of us who have served in the military, this analogy works very, very well!  Consider what happens when a person enlists in the military: That person swears a solemn oath, after which his or her old civilian clothing is taken away.  The person is given new clothes -- a uniform -- which communicates the person's new status.  This uniform identifies the person's relationship to others (their relative rank and specialization, for example), and without any words at all, the simple fact that the person is now in service to an authority other than himself. 

Now look at early Christian baptism: The catechumen states his or her intent to a new relationship with God.  The person's old, "civilian" clothes are taken away and the catechumen, naked, enters the baptismal pool where the "sacramentum" (oath) is taken; we call it the Creed today!  Then the neophyte is led from the pool, and given his new "uniform" of a white garment which marks the person as a new person in Christ.  No longer acting on their own authority, they are now Christ's and have been immersed into the very life of the Trinity.  Now part of God's own life, the neophyte is led fro
m the pool to the Eucharistic table to complete his or her initiation.

It is against this sense of "sacrament" that we can now turn to the role of the deacon in the sacramental life of the Church.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Welcome Back!

I hope everyone is enjoying a wonderful Christmas Season.  I have deliberately not been posting much out of respect to the Holy Season.  However, I will begin a new series shortly, probably later today, so check back soon!

I will be moving into the deacon's ministry of Sacrament.

God bless,


Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Greetings

May Almighty God bless you and your families in a most special and joyful way during this season of Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Deacon as Minister of the Word of God, Part III

There is a well-known saying, often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: "Preach the Gospel; use words if necessary."  This wonderful insight reminds us that the Good News of Christ is to be proclaimed to every creature in our words and in our actions.  To return to the "Deacon's Charge" from the ordination ceremony: "Receive the Gospel of Christ, who Herald you now are.  Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach."  This is the charge given to Heralds of Christ in the world today.

We have reflected upon the deacon and his role of proclaiming the Gospel and on his responsibilities as a preacher at Mass.  Now we turn our attention to other dimensions of the deacon's service as a minister of the Word; specifically, in this posting, the deacon's role as an official teacher of the church.  The deacon's catechetical role flows from the same charge given to him by the bishop.  While some deacons do not consider themselves teachers, and a few might even argue loudly that they are not!  However, that doesn't change the fact that the church sees all ordained ministers as teachers, and as with most things the deacon does, his responsibilities as teacher flow from his relationship to the bishop, who is the prime teacher of the faith in the diocese.

We can always learn so much from looking at the days of the early church.  In this case, we can gain some interesting insights from the great bishop Augustine of Hippo and his relationship with deacons; in two particular instances, they were not even deacons of his own diocese!  The first example is that of Augustine and a deacon from Carthage named "Deogratias".  The deacon had written to Bishop Augustine to ask his advice.  His own bishop had asked him to take charge of the catechetical formation of new converts in the Church at Carthage, and the deacon turned to the famous teacher and bishop for advice.  "What should I teach these catechumens?"  In response, St. Augustine composed a document which comes to us as perhaps the earliest catechetical document in the history of the church, "De Catechizandis Rudibus" ("On the Catechesis of the Unlearned").  For our purposes, it is significant to see that the deacon is clearly associated with taking the leadership in catechesis on behalf of his bishop.

Our second example is similar.  In this case, still another deacon from Carthage, this one named "Quodvultdeus" writes to Bishop Augustine informing him that the bishop of Carthage has asked the deacon to preach the Lenten homilies, and the deacon asked for Augustine's advice (I like to think that Quodvultdeus heard from his buddy Deogratias about how helpful Augustine had been to him!).  In this case, however, we don't have a document from Augustine in answer to the deacon's question; but we do have the deacon's homilies!  So it is possible to study them and discern Augustinian influence.  But again, for our purposes here, it's illuminating to see that the deacon is again taking on preaching/teaching responsibility on behalf of his bishop -- and that this is seen as a normal activity of the deacon.

So, for our reflection today, those of us who are deacons can ask ourselves how well we handle our catechetical responsibilities.  First, do we embrace them eagerly and passionately as a constitutive component of our ministries?  Second, do we continue to seek opportunities for ongoing formation, just as our predecessors turned to a master teacher for advice?  Third, how well do we teach, helping others find the practical applications of the Gospel in every day life.  Such ministry is part and parcel of the charge given to us at ordination.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Deacon as Minister of the Word of God, Part II

Another aspect of the deacon's service tot he Word of God is that of preaching, including preaching the homily during the Eucharist and at other sacramental and liturgical celebrations.  The basis for this ministry is found in the Code of Canon Law (for the Latin Church; a similar canon exists in the Code of Canons for the Eastern Catholic Churches):

Can. 764 Without prejudice to the provisions of can. 765, priests and deacons, with the at least presumed consent of the rector of a church, have the faculty to preach everywhere, unless this faculty has been restricted or removed by the competent Ordinary, or unless particular law requires express permission.
Let's take a closer look at this canon and what it means.

1) Notice that this canon extends the faculty to BOTH priests and deacons.  Unlike other canons which refer specifically to priests, and still others which apply specifically to deacons, this canon speaks to both orders.  So, the legal basis by a which a priest (other than a pastor) as well as a deacon preaches at Mass flow from the same law.

2) Notice that the faculty extends "everywhere"; whether I'm in Washington, DC, Peoria, Illinois or Monterey, California or Rome, Italy, the law says I have the faculty to preach.

3) Significant, of course, is the subordinate clause about "with the at least presumed consent of the rector of a church".  The PASTOR (not just any priest, but the priest who holds the office of pastor) may legitimately restrict the preaching of any priest or deacon within his pastoral jurisdiction.  The law also says that the Ordinary (usually the diocesan bishop) may also restrict or remove this faculty.  But notice that these restrictions must be made explicit; otherwise, the deacon (and priest not the pastor) HAVE the faculty.  For example, let's say that the document conveying diaconal faculties (this document is called a "pagella") to the deacon does NOT include the faculty to preach.  What does this absence mean?  Given c. 764, it means that the deacon HAS the faculty to preach and that it is not restricted or has not been removed by the bishop.  If the bishop does not want a particular deacon to preach, he has to put that in writing.

4) Furthermore, if the pastor of the place decides he doesn't want the deacon or another priest to preach within his jurisdiction for whatever reason, I would strongly recommend that this restriction be communicated to the bishop.  The bishop (and in this case, the law itself) extends faculties to priests and deacons with the presumption that they will be exercised for the good of the People of God.  If this is not going to be the case, then the bishop should be informed.

5) Liturgical law (contained in the General Instruction on the Roman Missal and in the other praenotanda to the various sacraments) also contains regulations regarding preaching.  With regard to the deacon preaching at Mass, the GIRM notes that the deacon preaches "on occasion".  The norm is for the priest-presiding to preach, but he may also ask the deacon to preach the homily.  This has caused no little confusion: just what does "on occasion" mean?

Some pastors have interpreted this too mean "rarely" or "only in extraordinary circumstances."  This is not correct.  What the Holy See was trying to correct were abuses in some parts of the world (not so much in the US) in which priests were never preaching, but turning over that responsibility to others (deacons or lay people).  However, given the law we've already examined, the deacon IS an "ordinary" preacher and, while we don't preach at EVERY Mass, we should certainly preach with certain regularity.

Finally, and perhaps most important of all, diaconal preaching should have its own unique character.  Deacons can bring their own experience of family and professional life to bear in their homilies.  Just as priests can offer insights from the perspective of their own experience, so too can deacons.  This goes much deeper than simply telling parishioners what he and his family did on vacation!  Rather, the deacon can offer insights about the practical challenges of living out the Word of God in school, on the job and in the family.  He can also highlight what he has experienced in his own ministries of charity, and the very real needs of the people he is serving in prisons, hospitals, on the streets and in soup kitchens.  This desire to encourage uniquely diaconal preaching is reaching new maturity.  Just over the last two years, I have assisted three graduate students completing doctorates in ministry who wrote about this very topic.  Two were written by deacons and one by a priest. 

More to come. . . .

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

People traffickers kill Orthodox deacons in Sinai Desert | Christian News on Christian Today

Here's is a graphic example of deacons living out their charge to be heralds of Christ.  Remember the bishop's charge to deacons in the Latin rite?  "Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach."

These deacons, and so many others, were truly "practicing what they taught."

People traffickers kill Orthodox deacons in Sinai Desert Christian News on Christian Today

Martyrdom is not simply historical; it is as current as today's news.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Deacon as Minister of the Word of God, Part I

I just began a series of columns for Today's Parish which are going to sketch the participation of the deacon in the three-fold ministry of Word, Sacrament and Charity.  As I ended my "10 Points to Ponder" here last week, I spoke of the need for balance in each of these three areas of ministry, but for now let's just consider the deacon's role as minister of the Word of God.

The "Word of God," of course, is Jesus, the Christ.  At the deacon's ordination, the newly-ordained deacon comes before the bishop who presents him with the Book of the Gospels and charges him with the words: "Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are.  Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach."  Of all the things the bishop COULD tell the new deacon, I find it very significant that this is the deacon's major charge.

There are many dimensions to being a Herald of Christ.  We saw one this past Sunday in the person of John the Baptizer, one of the original "heralds of Christ."  Not a bad model for the deacon, either!  Of course, one of the most obvious heraldic roles for the deacon is in his proclamation of the Gospel in the midst of the Eucharistic assembly (the "Mass").  Some people seem to think that this is just some kind of liturgical function that is "permitted" to the deacon, in a way to give him something to do at Mass.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Rather, the church ties the Gospel DIRECTLY and INTENTIONALLY to the ministry of the deacon.

The deacon -- as servant to and for the People of God -- proclaims Christ in the Gospel in order to sacramentalize the servant-character of the Gospel itself.  The Gospel not only delivers "good news"; that good news is also a call to service, a call to action.  As the Church teaches, this ministry is diaconal, NOT an act of the presider.  In fact, the rules surrounding this part of the liturgy are quite illustrative.  When a deacon is present and assisting, he IS the minister of the Gospel.  Period.  This is not one of those optional things which either the priest, deacon, or another minister may do.  This one is for the deacon.  If there are 500 bishops and priests present, it is still the responsibility of the deacon.  In fact, have you ever seen the pope proclaim the Gospel at Mass?  Nope.  Here's some more: In a concelebrated Mass, if there is no deacon present and serving (and why not, I have to ask?), the priest-presiding is STILL not the first choice to proclaim the Gospel in the deacon's absence.  Rather, one of the concelebrating priests is to proclaim the Gospel if there is no deacon.  Only when there is no deacon, and no concelebrant, is the priest presiding to proclaim the Gospel; he is, literally, the last choice.

And yet, we still have some priests who will simply tell the deacon before Mass, "I'll do the Gospel today, since I'm preaching; I have some things I want to stress in the reading that tie into the homily."  I wonder: What if he were going to preach on the FIRST reading (usually from the Old Testament).  Would he go to the lay person who is assigned to read that day, and tell her, "I'll do the reading today, because I want to stress some things that tie into the homily."  I certainly hope not!  There's a reason why each of us has different roles in the liturgy, and the church is clear: each of us is to to "solely but completely" what is ours to do.

There are other dimensions of the Deacon as Minister of the Word of God, but I'll save those for the next postings. 

By the way, the picture to the right is of your humble blogger proclaiming the Gospel on board the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) during a visit to our son who is stationed on board.  Mass is celebrated in the forecastle (the "foc's'l") between the anchor chains.  For liturgical purists, there was no dalmatic available; sorry!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

End of Semester Madness

Just a quick note to explain my absence for the last few days: We are at the end of our semester and my days are filled with papers, exams and grading! 

Starting tomorrow, however, all of that is finished and -- in the words of the Terminator -- "I'll be back!"

Advent blessings to all,

Deacon Bill

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Point to Ponder #10: Balance and Poise

One of the first lessons drummed into new deacon aspirants is that diaconal ministry will require a good sense of balance.  To which most married men with families and jobs will say, "Duh!"

As I enter the third decade of my own diaconal experience, though, this truth, while certainly self-evident, is no less valid.  I recently came across a word I had not heard in many years, but which captured the essence of balance: EQUIPOISE.  Equipoise means to distribute weight equally, but it also has the sense of having a "dignified, self-confident manner or bearing; composure; self-possession."  I like the combination of meanings here, especially as it might apply to any of us in life, and not only to deacons.

As deacons we must balance our relationships with God, family and friends, work and church; we must also balance the formal ministries of Word, Sacrament and Charity.  That's a lot of balance that calls for a lot of poise as well.

In the early years of diaconate formation in the United States, and still found in some locations still, we used to hear of the "deacon's priorities."  First, his relationship with God; second, his relationship with family; third, his relationship with his job; fourth, his relationship with the church (in other words, his formal ministry).  While on a certain practical level, this prioritization makes some sense, it is also a bit nonsensical.  In fact, one priest-friend of mine who has spent decades in diaconal formation work, calls it outright heresy!  Why?

Because we are not so easily compartmentalized.  The implication given by the priority list is that, if diaconal ministry is getting in the way of family life, or work life, then it should just go away until those other "problems" get cleared up.  As I said, on a certain level, this can be practical and necessary.  But on a deeper level, it conveys a sense that the diaconate is simply one compartment of my life and that I can take off the diaconate, even temporarily, just like I take off an alb, stole and dalmatic.  And that's where the problem comes in.

Because once ordained, we are deacons 24/7/365.  I am a deacon who wrestles with his relationship with God, a deacon in relationship with my family, a deacon dealing with issues at my secular employment, and a deacon in ministry.  Far too often, the impression can be given that the only time we're involved "in ministry" is when we're at the parish or involved in some kind of "church" business.  That's just not the case with deacons any more than its the case with priests or bishops: once ordained, you're never NOT a deacon, and it's not a disposible thing.

Furthermore, WITHIN our official ministries there needs to be equipoise as well.  All find their source in the Eucharist, so our own identity and strength for service comes from our ministry of Sacrament; we are called and ordained to be a Herald of the Gospel, even within (as well as outside) the eucharist, so our ministry of Word is essential; and all of that serving and preaching and teaching leads us to Charity.  All the dots must connect, especially since we are ordained to be "icons" of Christ the Servant.  People should be able to see, in our own attempts to find and achieve a "poised balance" in our lives, the same equipoise to which we are all called through sacramental initiation.

So all of this requires great skill at being poised, confident, and balanced.  There will be times, hopefully, not too many, when things will become unbalanced and we crash.  But I believe that the very heart of the sacrament known as the diaconate lies in that balanced existence in service of God and others.  We can't just pick and choose those parts of it that we like, and we can't just dump it if things get uncomfortable.  This is why prayer is the foundation for all of us.  Our relationship with God can help us find, maintain, regain and perpetuate our "balanced poise" in the service of others.

How are we all doing (deacons and everyone else) at finding and achieving a balance in lives and ministry?  This is the core of the sacramental life.


Well, this certainly took longer to get posted than I anticipated!  I hope it's of some use.

Blessed Advent, everyone!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Point to Ponder #9: Getting Out of the House

After Blessed Pope John XXIII announced his decision to convene the Second Vatican Council, he directed Cardinal Tardini, the Dean of the College of Cardinals, to send a letter to all the bishops of the world, the heads of all religious orders, and the deans of all Catholic schools of Theology.  The letter invited all of them to submit items for inclusion on the Council's agenda.  Eventually, nearly 9,000 recommendations and proposals were received!

The problem became: How to organize all of this material so that the bishops could discuss and debate everything systematically?  Cardinal Suenens of Belgium came up with part of a solution and persuaded Pope John to implement it: Divide all of the issues into two broad categories, those dealing with internal matters about the nature and structure of the church (ad intra) and those related to external perspectives about how that church relates to entities outside of itself (ad extra).  All of the Council's documents can be grouped into ad intra and ad extra.  For example, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen gentium) is ad intra and the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et spes) is ad extra.

I mention all of this because these categories can be helpful in our own reflections.  Many times in ministry, we can find ourselves so focused on the ad intra issues such as diocesan and parish "politics" that we lose sight of our responsibilities ad extra such as caring for all those in need in our communities, even when they're not members of our parish or even of our church.  Furthermore, we might find ourselves not attending to even more strategic issues ad extra which are contributing to the needs of people: WHY are people hungry, homeless, lonely, or in some other kind of need?  What needs to be done to address the causes of such problems, not simply to address the immediate needs themslelves.

So this point of reflection encourages us to "get out of the house": to expand our focus from strictly "in house" concerns to encompass a more global point of view.  How well do I minister EVERYWHERE?  Or do I just minister "in house"?  We're ordained to serve everywhere, including the work place and market place.  Or have I just become "churchy" in my service?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Point to Ponder #8: Thinking With the People of God

There is a Latin expression found in some theological and canonical literature that is the basis of this reflection: mens ecclesiae.  This expression, which literally means "mind of the church", gives us a lot to think about.

What IS a mens ecclesiae?  It refers to being attuned to the what the church -- the People of God, Mystical Body of Christ, the Temple of the Holy Spirit -- is immersed in.  In some quarters, it is mistakenly reduced to something like "knowing what the church teaches and sticking with that."  But that does not capture the depth of its meaning.  Such a limited understanding reduces "the church" to the writings and teachings of the higher echelons of the church, not the total reality which is the Church.  It also reduces this phrase to a kind of cognitive body of teaching.  The mens ecclesiae goes much deeper than that.  Let me recount a real life story.

As I've mentioned before, I served for five years at the national headquarters of the Catholic bishops of the United States in Washington, DC.  In the assignment, I came to know quite of few of our bishops.  One day, as I was leaving the building, I encountered one of our bishops waiting for a taxi.  He had been in town for some meetings and was returning home to his diocese.  As we were chatting, I asked how he was doing, because he looked very tired and run down.  He shared with me how tough things were in his diocese: strategic planning which would be resulting in parish closures and mergers (never popular decisions), financial troubles which would probably end in his having to declare bankruptcy [eventually, that's what happened], and most disturbing of all, his Vicar General had called to tell him that several more cases of abuse had surfaced, cases that bishop had not known about.  All of this was combining to make the problems facing the bishop almost insurmountable.

I asked him if there was anything at all we could do to help him; we agreed that prayer for all was what was needed.  His cab arrived and we prepared to go our separate ways.  Just as he was about to step into the cab, the bishop stopped and asked if I was still traveling around the country speaking to groups of deacons and priests.  I answered that I was.  He then told me the following story, and asked me to share it with the deacons of the country.

It seems that just before he'd left for Washington, and after a particularly rough day trying to address the problems we'd been talking about, he received a call from the head of his deacons' council, requesting a meeting as early as possible.  The message said that he really need to talk the bishop about some concerns raised at the most recent meeting of the deacon council.

The bishop agreed, and he said that as he thought about it, he got more excited.  Among the deacons of the diocese were accountants, businessmen, lawyers, teachers, farmers, and so on.  Almost all were family men.  He got thinking that his deacons, all experienced men, had perhaps come up with some strategies or ideas about all of the problems facing the church.  Maybe his deacons had come up with some ideas that his other advisors had not -- after all, isn't that what deacons are supposed to do?

The next day, the deacon came in early and they got down to it.  The bishop said he could hardly contain his excitement.  The deacon told the bishop that the deacons had gathered and that after the meeting they wanted the head of the council to get to the bishop to convey their most serious concern.  What was it?  The #1 concern of the deacons of the diocese was the fact that deacons were not permitted to wear Roman collars in the diocese.

The bishop said he was crushed with disappointment.  Were the deacons unaware of all of the challenges facing the local church?  Were they really that disconnected?

So, in this reflection we want to ask, "How well do I understand how the church really works and how sensitive am I to the very real needs of the local people of God?"  Thinking "with the Church" means, for the deacon, being able to be what the fathers of the church called the "seeing and hearing, the heart and the soul" of the bishop.  To be all of that means being focused OUTWARD to the persons of the Church, not focused INWARD on my own needs (like whether or not I can wear a collar).

How good is my own mens ecclesiae?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Point to Ponder #7: In the (peripatetic) footsteps of St. Paul

St. Paul often refers to himself a "deacon of the Gospel" (diakonos evangelion).  While he was certainly not referring to himself as a "deacon" in our modern sense of that word, it does remind us of our own basic responsibility of service to to the Gospel.  It also gives us, in St. Paul, an interesting and inspiring model of diakonia.  So, in this point of reflection, we will follow St. Paul's example.

St. Paul was a well-educated Jewish citizen of Rome.  We all know the broad outlines of his biography: Saul was a tent-maker by trade from the metropolitan trade center of Tarsus.  He initially opposed Christianity, often pictured as holding the cloaks of the men who were in the act of stoning St. Stephen, the protomartyr of the New Testament.  Then, following his dramatic encounter with Christ and his conversion, Saul changes his name to Paul ("paulus" = "the little one") and returns to Tarsus as the newest disciple of Christ.  Some scholars maintain that he continued on in this disipleship mode for as long as ten years before assuming his apostolic role as missionary to the Gentiles.  Following numerous mission trips, unbelievable hardships and trials, he wound up in Rome where he was martyred.  I can't think of anyone else in the New Testament who is as peripatetic as Paul of Tarsus.

And what did he do on all of these trips?  He would go into an area, preach the Good News, help the local community elect their own leadership, and then Paul was back on the road, heading into a new area to repeat the process all over again.  His letters were part of his "follow through", giving encouragement to those fledgling Christian communities.

And if Paul the deacon of the Gospel was constantly on the move, we should be, too!

I'm not necessarily suggesting that we all run out and book passage on the next ship to Cyprus (although it's a lovely place and I'd love to go back!), or that we should host tour groups "in the footsteps of St. Paul."  What I am suggesting is that deacons consider ourselves "mobile ministers" who take care of things in a certain area, train other people to take those responsibilities over, and then we let go and move to another area of unmet need.  For example, let's say a deacon takes responsibility for visiting prisoners in the local jail on a regular basis.  He runs bible study classes, takes communion to prisoners, and spends time talking with them during his visits.  He does this for many years, and then retires.  Who's going to continue that work?

But try this approach: the same deacon, doing all of those wonderful things, encourages others from his parish and the surrounding area to join him in this ministry.  He coordinates their training and accompanies them as they get used to the ministry.  Eventually he turns the ministry over to the group he's worked with, and then he moves on to some other area.  Perhaps he dedicates the bulk of his efforts working for prison reform.  Or, perhaps he moves into working at a local hospice.  After a while, he encourages others to join with him, and, eventually, he turns the leadership of that ministry over.  And off he goes to some other area of need.

What's driving the deacon is not simply the "doing" of a particular ministry "of his own", but rather the focus is on finding and meeting the needs of others.  This approach also serves to do what the church says repeatedly about the diaconate: that deacons are to be the "animators of the Church's own diakonia".  In short, the deacon's efforts are not complete simply by visiting the inmates at the jail and he can go home and say, "job well done."  That's not necessarily going to animate anyone else to service.

The challenge of this point to ponder, then, is: How "mobile" am I willing to be?  Can I go, preach the Good News, empower other leadership, let go (part of kenosis) and move on to the next area of need?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Point to Ponder #6: Threading the Needle

I happen to have huge hands, and whenever I've had to thread a needle, it usually takes a day-and-a-half or so to accomplish.  It can be a tough thing to do, but it's an essential and prerequisite skill if that button is going to get sewn back on!

This point of reflection, as I wrote in our original list, goes like this: We should not be co-opted into someone else's ministry.  The Holy See actually says this quite strongly: we are not supposed to be substitutes for priests or anyone else, nor are we supposed to take on ministries that rightly belong to others.  Here's the actual quote from the Congregation for the Clergy's 1998 document, The Directory for the Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons:
In every case it is important, however, that deacons fully exercise their ministry, in preaching, in the liturgy and in charity to the extent that circumstances permit. They should not be relegated to marginal duties, be made merely to act as substitutes, nor discharge duties normally entrusted to non-ordained members of the faithful. Only in this way will the true identity of permanent deacons as ministers of Christ become apparent and the impression avoided that deacons are simply lay people particularly involved in the life of the Church (#40).
Sounds like threading a needle to me! 

First, "in every case" deacons are supposed to exercise their ministry fully, and the text specifies the triple functions of word, sacrament and charity: ALL of them are important, and ALL of them are to be exercised, and exercised "fully."  So far so good, although many deacons complain that, in real life, their pastors often circumscribe their duties, but for now, let's just get the theory down.

Second, we get to the actual "assignment" of the deacon.  We are told that deacons are not to be marginalized (as in, "Well, I've got a deacon at the parish, but I don't intend to use him.").  Also, deacons are not "substitutionary" for someone else.  In particular, we should look at this the way a parishioner or the pastor might.  I once had a parishioner come up to me and tell me how glad she was that the church had deacons now, "since we're running out of priests, and you guys can fill in."  Substitutes until the number of priests goes back up.  But the Congregation is being very clear here: Deacons are not substitutes for ANYONE else's ministry.  This doesn't mean we can't help out as we can, of course!  But how often are deacons "filling in" for someone else?

We continue to read that deacons should not be doing things that would normally be exercised by lay persons.  So, deacons aren't substitutes for anyone else, including the priests, on the one hand, while on the other hand, deacons are not to usurp things which are legitimately to be the responsibility of lay people.

And yet, in real life, what do most deacons hear in conversation?  "Deacon, what can't you do that the priest can?"  "Wow, deacon, you do almost everything a priest does!"  Or, alternatively, "Deacon, now that you're here, take over the responsibilities of the DRE."  "Deacon, run the liturgy committee of the pastoral council."  "Deacon, serve on the finance council."  Now I'm not saying that deacons should NOT help out in these areas, but only if there is some particular need for it.  Simply to do such things "just because he's a deacon" is not a good reason!  These are the responsibilities of the baptized faithful and they need to be encouraged and inspired to take them on, and should not be set aside when a cleric becomes available.

So this really is a lot like threading a needle.  Deacons need to find and steer a course in ministry that is neither substitutionary nor usurping.  Actually, this can be quite freeing, and it gets back to some of our earlier points, since it means that it encourages the deacon's own creativity at identifying needs that are not yet being met, and charting a course to help meet them.  It also means, with gentleness and tact, to resist attempts to have us be "merely substitutes" or to take on tasks that should be done more appropriately by others.

So, for reflection: If you're already a deacon, are you serving in ways that can and probably should be done by others?  If you're not a deacon, but perhaps a priest or a parishioner, do you find yourself trying to put the deacon into roles that ought best be done by another?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Point to Ponder #5: Breaking New Ground in Service

This point of reflection flows rather naturally from the last one.  In my summary of the list that began this series, I wrote, "Don't get stuck in old patterns of ministry!  What areas of need are not being met at all?  How willing are we to be creative and break into new areas of service?"

All through formation, and even after we enter into ordained ministry, the focus so often is on "what we're going to do" in our assignment, whether that's in parish or other ministries.  Functions are important, of course, although as we have seen, what any of us "do" (function) as a result of baptism and ordination is of lesser import than who we "are".  That being said, let's spend some time with "function" and the deacon.

It's fairly easy to find indicators about what we're supposed to "do."  Canon law specifies various things, probably the most significant being the faculty to "preach anywhere."  So we can make a list of functions based on the law.  Then we can look at the liturgy and see what we're supposed to "do" there: baptisms, weddings, viaticum, certain blessings, and so on.  Fine.

Then we can look at what deacons have done in other parishes, or in the same parish to which we're being assigned.  "Deacon Tom used to handle RCIA until he retired last year; I'd like you to take that over, Deacon."  So there's still another way to find "functions" that the deacon can handle.  Finally, we can consider what we are already doing before we were ordained, and simply continue doing those things, only now as deacons.

BUT HERE'S MY POINT (pardon my shouting, but I want to make sure you're with me on this!): WHAT ABOUT ALL THING THINGS THAT ARE NOT BEING DONE?  Sometimes deacons, like anyone else, get into a rut.  We tend to accept the structures that are in place, and try to make sure that all the gaps IN THAT STRUCTURE are filled.  But we're supposed to go one big step further.  As "eyes, ears, heart and soul" of the bishop, we're supposed to be pushing the envelope in ministry: what are the needs NOT being met in the parish, in the surrounding community?  I once had a priest tell me that there was no need for a deacon in his parish because "everything is already covered; everything is being done."  Period.  He was not a happy camper when I told him I thought that was great, but was he really saying that there was no person in any kind of need at all within his parish or the community?  Really?  Seriously?  ALL needs are being met?

And that's where the deacon can step in.  Perhaps he doesn't have the expertise to handle the unmet needs himself, but if he's alert to them, he can help identify the appropriate resources that might be available to meet those needs.  He can be the bridge between the people in need and the resources to meet those needs.

There are so many blessings with this approach!  First, those folks already involved in ministry don't feel threatened that the deacon is trying to "horn in" on their turf.  Second, the deacon -- from his very identity as servant-leader -- is using his eyes and ears, his heart and soul, to "see" things that others perhaps have not seen.  Third, it helps the church extend her ministry into new areas in need of transformation.

So, when I talk with deacons and all I hear are stories about various parish functions, I often challenge them to look beyond the existing structures: Catholic social teaching, for example, is not the sole province of a parish social justice committee.  This can be an unsettling dimension: we'd all like to get into a groove and stay there.  But that's not the extent of what ordination means.

It's time to "look beyond" and break into new territory.  Be creative!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Point to Ponder #4: Deacon as Servant-Leader

A major industry has arisen around the nature and exercise of leadership, including the specific type of leadership known as "servant leadership."  Even one of my own books is subtitled "Servant Leaders in a Servant Church".  So this little reflection cannot hope to contain all of the insights to be found in all of these resources.  However, I still encounter members of the diaconate community who struggle, and sometimes oppose, the notion that they are called to leadership!  "I'm a servant," they say, "not a leader."  However, the history and theology of the church tell a very different story.  Ordination to any order, like it or not, involves leadership responsibility.  I find that reluctance to accept this fact usually flows out of some rather narrow understandings of what leadership actually means within a community.

Here are some things I find important about leadership, especially vis-a-vis deacons:

1) Ordination, to any order, involves the assumption of leadership in and for the church.  A review of scripture, the patristic authors, and the historical theology of the church all agree: the reason for ordination is to set persons in leadership relationship to their community.  A bishop, for example, presides over the worship of the community precisely because he is first the overall leader of that community; the same can be said about a presbyter appointed pastor of a parish.  And a deacon, ordained and appointed by the bishop to extend the bishop's own sphere of leadership, participates in this role as well.  Vatican II, in Lumen gentium #18, as it begins its treatment of the three ordained ministries, describes them all as ministries instituted by Christ to build up the People of God.  "Building up" is a function of leadership, and the willing assumption of such leadership is an important part of the vocational discernment of the deacon.

2) All good leadership is "servant" leadership.  The best leaders in any enterprise are the one who have vision and the ability to communicate that vision to others, inviting and inspiring those others to share in bringing that vision to reality.  The best leaders are the ones who also provide for those with whom they serve.  Even in the Navy, for example, I found that the best leaders took care of their troops so that those troops were free to do what needed to be done.

The expression "servant leadership" has been around since 1970 when Robert Greeleaf wrote his landmark essay "The Servant as Leader", but the reality has been around forever.  Greenleaf wrote:
The servant leader is servant first.  It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first.  Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.  That person is sharply different from one who is leader first. . . . The different manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people's highest priority needs are being served.  The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons?  Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?  And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society?  Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?
In a second essay, Greeleaf speaks of leadership within institutions, which seems to have a particular relevance for those involved in ministry:
This is my thesis: caring for persons, the more able and the less able serving each other, is the rock upon which a good society is built.  Whereas, until recently, caring was largely person to person, now most of it is mediated through institutions -- often large, complex, powerful, impersonal; not always competent; sometimes corrupt.  If a better society is to be built, one that is more just and more loving, one that provides greater creative opportunity for its people, then the most open course is to raise both the capacity to serve and the very performance as servant of existing major institutions by new regenerative forces operating within them.
I hope and pray that deacons would find those words particularly apt guidance for who we are (servant-first) and what we try to do with and for the People of God!  In a special way, notice how this approach stresses the WHO WE ARE dimension of ministry as PRIOR TO the "what we do" dimension.  What we do in ministry is critically important and we must not minimize that; but we are more than simply the some of our actions.  Our actions flow from who we are, and as deacons, we are servant-first.

3) Leadership is not always tied to a particular position in the organization.  Anyone with any experience whatsoever in parish life knows that the most powerful leader in any parish is usually the parish secretary.  In other ways of life, even something as rank conscious as the military, the most powerful leaders in an institution are often not the ones who hold the highest rank.  General Patton, for example, could not have accomplished anything whatsoever, if there were not sergeants, corporals and privates exercising leadership as well.  Leadership cannot be reduced to position/rank.  Positional leadership is one type of leadership, but it is not the only type of leadership.  In fact, a wonderful little book which every deacon should have in his or her library (I'm hoping deacons of other Christian traditions are reading this!) is called "Leading from the Second Chair: Serving Your Church, Fulfilling Your Role, and Realizing Your Dreams," by Tom Bonem and Roger Patterson. 

The insights of these authors are very good, and deacons will find much in them that resembles our own pastoral experiences.  And for those who like to complain, "What can I do?  I'm JUST a deacon!"  this book should help change your mind.  And, by the way, "JUST a deacon"?  Are you kidding?  "JUST" a deacon?  Remember that all of the patristic sources who mention deacons, from East to West, ALL of them refer to deacons as bearers of the very ministry of Christ.  Bishops are referred to as representing God the Father, deacons represent Christ, and the presbyters are described as representing the apostles.  While it became commonplace in the second millennium to refer to presbyters as "alteri Christi" -- "other Christs" -- that was a rather novel development.  In the ancient Church such an understanding was more associated with deacons.

4) Leadership exists beyond institutional parameters.  Just as leadership is not restricted to those who hold positions of power and authority from an institution, the human aspects of institutions do not "confine" leadership either.  Now, we believe that the church is not merely a human institution.  That's true.  However, as Vatican II teaches, human institutional elements nonetheless exist within the church, and Christ did not dictate particular forms for these human elements to follow, and they have changed remarkably over the centuries!

Consider this insight from John Gardner:
All too often, on the long road up, young leaders become "servants of what is rather than shapers of what might be."  In the long process of learning how the system works, they are rewarded for playing with the intricate structure of existing rules.  By the time they reach the top, they are very likely to be trained prisoners of that structure.  This is not all bad; every vital system reaffirms itself.  But no system can stay vital for long unless some of its leaders remain sufficiently independent to help it to change and grow.
We can, and must, ask ourselves as deacons: Are we "servants of what is rather than shapers of what might be"?  Are there ways in which we might be a bit of both?  Certainly within the church we are respecters of Tradition (capital "T"), and even hold this, along with Scripture, to be a source of divine revelation.  And yet, as Church, we are always a pilgrim, always changing, always adapting to new needs, new cultural realities in which we are challenged to make a difference.

Cardinal Walter Kasper once described deacons and presbyters as the "two arms of the bishop"; but he continued in that same address to remind deacons (and others) that, once ordained, the deacon -- like the presbyter -- attained a certain autonomy as well.  There will be times, the Cardinal noted, that the deacon will need to exercise his prophetic role even to the bishop who ordained him!  That the "respect and obedience" promised by the deacon at ordination does not relieve the deacon of such a prophetic responsibility even within the structures of the church.

One of the best servant leaders of modern times, in my opinion, was Angelo Roncalli, Blessed pope John XXIII.  During his opening address to the Second Vatican Council, he reminded the world's bishops that while Truth is eternal and unchanging, the ways in which that Truth is communicated to the world can and must change.  Another fine little book for all who are interested in leadership in the Church is "Pope John XXIII: Model and Mentor for Leaders" by Fr. Bob Bonnot, Ph.D.  While you can read any number leadership books using examples from business leaders, this book gleans leadership insights from examining the leadership style of Pope John.

Setting a tone, establishing a purpose, outlining a program, having a strategy, selecting a team, keeping on message, using the media, rationing the time available and deliberately pursuing the goals established are just some of the areas examined by Fr. Bonnot in this book, and they can be very helpful for all involved in ministry.  Once again, the great John XXIII can inspire us in our appreciation of the servant-leadership to which we are called and ordained.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Point to Ponder #3: Deacon as Risk Taker

One definition of a "risk taker" is: "A person who is not fearful of uncertainty and may even enjoy risky, speculative situations."  While such a description is often applied to the world of business, there are certainly elements of it which apply to ministry!

When one pours oneself out (kenosis) in the service of others, there is a certain amount of risk involved: risk that our own needs will not be met, risk that the ones we serve will not reciprocate, risk that our selflessness will not be effective.  And yet, these all-too-human shortcomings need to be confronted.  As we saw in the earlier quotation from John Paul II's Fides et Ratio, kenosis involves the understanding that "suffering and death can express a love which gives itself and seeks nothing in return" (#93). 

I once heard a young bishop express concerns over approving a document for publication by the Bishops' Conference, because there were many questions for which no answers had yet been found.  The bishop continued that, "We must not move forward until we have answers to every question."  I was immediately struck by the difference between that young bishop's opinion, and the remarkable work done by the world's bishops at the Second Vatican Council.  They opened so many doors, accepting that they did not have all the answers, and perhaps did not even know all of the questions!  Consider the diaconate itself: There had not been a diaconate opened to married men for many centuries in the Latin church.  The bishops knew that problems might emerge, but they also knew that this was the right course of action to take, and that problems would be resolved as they developed.  While prudence would dictate thorough research on important matters, of course, I think that suggesting one must have answers to ALL questions goes to far, and quickly paralyzes us into inaction.  Fear can freeze us in place.  However, the emphasis with kenosis is on the self-giving, and not on the results of that gift.

So we come to the notion of "risk" and diaconal ministry.  Deacons must be willing to extend themselves (perhaps another way of saying "pour themselves out"?) based on the needs of others, not by our own needs.  That means we sometimes have to leave our personal comfort zones.  A quarter of a century ago, when I was in formation for ordination, our formation director used to say that if he ever heard any of us say, "Oh, that's MY ministry," or "I don't do prison ministry; that's not MY ministry."  He reminded us that it is not our ministry at all, but the ministry of Christ.  Through ordination, we are called into a participation in the ministry of Christ, not a ministry of our own choosing.

I am NOT saying that a deacon must become competent in all areas of need!  No one person could ever do such a thing.  However, I am saying that the point of view of the deacon ought to be on the "other", the person in need as well as the structural causes for that need.  It also means that the deacon must have a "deacon's eye" for spotting not only need, but for the persons who are best able to meet that need, and arrange a meeting between them; in other words, the deacon must know how to refer, to coordinate, to lead.

All of this involves a certain measure of risk, of going outside of our normal comfort zones.  The point of reflection here is: "Am I, as deacon, a risk taker, or am I risk averse?"  In terms of the description above, am I a person who "is not fearful of uncertainty" for the sake of others?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Point to Ponder #2: The Bishop and his Deacons

Moving on to point #2: How healthy is our relationship with our bishop?  We are supposed to be the "eyes, ears, heart, soul" of the bishop, extending his ministry throughout the diocese.  How's that going?

With a h/t to Rocco over at Whispers in the Loggia, I found this photo to be perfect to illustrate this point.  It's a picture of Archbishop Tim Dolan of New York surrounded by some of his deacons.  And this is how it should be!

From the earliest scriptural references to deacons as ministers in the ancient church, deacons are always, always, always -- did I write that enough? -- ALWAYS associated with the bishop.  The letters of Paul, the pastoral letters (such as 1 Timothy, which gives the famous list of qualifications for bishops, followed immediately by the qualifications for deacons), even the famous passage from Acts 6 which is traditionally associated with deacons with the selection of the Seven: all associate the ministers we have come to know as deacons with the apostolic ministry of the bishop.  Here's the famous passage from 1 Timothy 3: 1-13:

1                    This saying is trustworthy: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task.
2                    Therefore, a bishop must be irreproachable, married only once, temperate, self-controlled, decent, hospitable, able to teach,
3                    not a drunkard, not aggressive, but gentle, not contentious, not a lover of money.
4                    He must manage his own household well, keeping his children under control with perfect dignity;
5                    for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of the church of God?
6                    He should not be a recent convert, so that he may not become conceited and thus incur the devil's punishment.
7                    He must also have a good reputation among outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, the devil's trap.
8                    Similarly, deacons must be dignified, not deceitful, not addicted to drink, not greedy for sordid gain,
9                    holding fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.
10                Moreover, they should be tested first; then, if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.
11                Women, similarly, should be dignified, not slanderers, but temperate and faithful in everything.
12                Deacons may be married only once and must manage their children and their households well.
13                Thus those who serve well as deacons gain good standing and much confidence in their faith in Christ Jesus.

The patristic literature is just as emphatic in this relationship; you can read all of them in any good text on the history of the diaconate, such as some of the books on my bookshelf to the right of this posting.  My own particular favorite citation is from Syria in the 3rd century, the Didascalia Apostolorum.  Here are a few samples:
Let the bishops and the deacons, then, be of one mind; and do you shepherd the people diligently with one accord.  For you ought both to be one body, father and son; for you are in the likeness of the Lordship [Christ]. . . . Let the deacon be the hearing of the bishop, and his mouth and his heart and his soul; for when you are both of one mind, through your agreement there will be peace in the Church. . . .  And be you [bishop and deacon] of one counsel and of one purpose, and one soul dwelling in two bodies.
"One soul in two bodies"!  Wow! Here's the tough bit: Does that sound like the relationship the deacons you know have with your bishop?  I rather doubt it.  The National Directory for the Formation, Ministry and Life of Deacons in the United States, however, promulgated in 2004, repeatedly stresses the relationship of the deacon with the bishop, and it's critically important to remember that the National Directory is a text written BY the bishops of the country FOR the bishops of the country.  This means that the bishops themselves wish to stress this relationship.  Still, it's one thing to put something like that in a book; it's quite another to live out that relationship in real terms during the day-to-day life of diocesan ministry.

So, for reflection, if you are already a deacon: How is your relationship with your bishop?  What can you do to improve it, to strengthen it?  If you are a bishop: What are you doing to improve relationships with your deacons?  Are there opportunities to have honest, forthright conversations with your deacons?  Is there a forum to receive the pastoral insights of these men whom you have ordained to be your eyes and ears, heart and soul throughout the diocese?  And if you're a baptized disciple or a presbyter, what are you doing to strengthen the relationship of deacons with the bishop?

I often tell the true story of a bishop who, while literally standing in the middle of his deacons, said, "When I ordained you as deacons, I ordained you to share with me the burdens on my heart for the people who live in this diocese; today I want to share what's on my heart, so it can be on  yours as well."  I've always remembered that, because it seemed to me that this bishop truly captured the relationship that should exist.  If the diaconate is going to be strong and effective, it is critical that this relationship be healthy and vibrant. 

What can YOU do about that?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Point to Ponder #1: Kenosis and the Deacon

The first question for reflection is, "How kenotic am I?"  This is a good question for all disciples of Christ, and for deacons there is a particular relevance.  Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical "Fides et Ratio", wrote that "the prime commitment of theology is seen to be the understanding of God's kenosis, a grand and mysterious truth for the human mind, which finds it inconceivable that suffering and death can
express a love which gives itself and seeks nothing in return" (#93).  We deacons are fond of saying (correctly) that being a deacon is less about what we do but who we are; indeed, that's true for all disciples.  So, we begin our reflection by reflecting on "God's kenosis."

First, we should recall Paul's second letter to the Philippians, verses 5-11;

Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus,
Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

I like to point out that St. Paul's reason for quoting this early Christian hymn was so that HIS READERS WOULD BE LIKE CHRIST!  So, while the hymn makes a clear statement about Christ's kenosis ("he emptied himself"), Paul's point is that we too are therefore called to empty ourselves in imitation of Christ.  How willing, really, are we to empty ourselves in service of God and neighbor?  This is a profound challenge and really, in the words of the saintly pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, it is "the cost of discipleship."  Deacons, as ordained servant leaders in and for the church, have a particular responsibility for modeling this kenosis.

I came across a nice talk on kenosis given by Archbishop Fulton Sheen, which I share here.  It's in four parts: PART ONE, PART TWO, PART THREE, PART FOUR.  I hope you can take the time to watch it; the total talk is only about a half hour or so.

Enjoy!  And then, share your reflections here. . . .

Deacon Top Ten List

We've been spending way too much time lately on church externals!  Cardinal, vestments, clerical attire.  As the Italians say, "Basta!" ("Enough"!)  Not that these things aren't interesting, but there are more significant things to think about as we enter into Advent.

So, over the years at various presentations, I've developed some points to ponder about the diaconate.  I'll list them here to get us started, and then I'll post more on each point in separate posts so we can, if readers like, discuss them in more detail.

Here's the list, in no particular priority order:

1. How "kenotic" is my ministry? ("Kenosis" is the self-emptying of Christ, to which we are all called as well)  In short, how completely do I "empty myself" into service to others.  Ministry is not about "me" but about "the other," not something we do, but the kind of people we are.

2. How healthy is our relationship with our bishop?  We are supposed to be the "eyes, ears, heart, soul" of the bishop, extending his ministry throughout the diocese.  How's that going?

3. How much do I "risk" in diaconate?  Am I willing to leave my own comfort zone to serve others?

4. How capable am I of servant-LEADERSHIP?  Ordination to any order of ministry involves LEADERSHIP, specifically, servant leadership.  How willing am I to lead in and through service?

5. Don't get stuck in old patterns of ministry!  What areas of need are not being met at all?  How willing are we to be creative and break into new areas of service?

6. We should not be co-opted into someone else's ministry.  The Holy See actually says this quite strongly: we are not supposed to be substitutes for priests or anyone else, nor are we supposed to take on ministries that rightly belong to others.  This can be challenging: Am I serving in ways that are best done by others?

7. How "mobile" am I willing to be?  Our model should be like St. Paul: move into new area, preach Good News, empower local leadership, and move on to a new area.

8. How well do we develop a "mens ecclesiae"?  How well do I understand how the church really works and how sensitive am I to the very real needs of the local people of God?

9. How well do I minister EVERYWHERE?  Or do I just minister "in house"?  We're ordained to serve everywhere, including the work place and market place.  Or have I just become "churchy" in my service?

10.  Balance, balance, balance!  How balanced is family, ministry, spirituality; how balanced are Word, Worship and Charity?

That's the list in brief.  The next posts, over the next few days, will examine each in more detail.  I'll try to have the list complete by Thanksgiving!