Monday, October 4, 2010

Sorry for the Long Silence!

We all know that "life is what happens while we're making other plans."  Well, that's been happening around here lately.

I'm a college teacher, but I also travel quite a bit giving presentations and retreats, along with consulting on various matters.  Over the last couple of weeks I've been privileged to be in Detroit, then Atlanta, and now I'm packing for a rather quick trip over to Rome to finalize plans for an international research consortium on the diaconate to be located there.

So, I apologize for my lack of presence here.  I hope to share some things from Rome that we can chat about.

How's everyone doing?  Anything we should talk about?

God bless,



  1. As you may know, the curriculum for our formation program in Atlanta is undergoing some changes, and it strikes me that the proposal is heavy on historical controversies but pretty light on contemporary issues of the sort deacons are likely to encounter in parish and community ministry. I am particularly interested in what preparation we might offer to help our aspiring deacons deal with families in crisis.

    Catholic families seem to be in as much turmoil as American families generally, but I don't see anything in the current curriculum that will help the candidates to better understand and address the problems that may be brought to their attention. We seem to assume that because they almost all have solid marriages and supportive wives, they will know how to deal with others who don't enjoy those blessings. Any thoughts on this?

  2. Ron:

    I cannot respond to your curriculum question but maybe this might help.

    I, too, am a college teacher and much earlier in my career I was asked to cover a unit on “Crisis Intervention” for the local Police Academy.

    I came up with a tool I jokingly called “Dr. Norb’s Cosmic Balance Beam.”

    Simply speaking, the amount of severe stress a person or family can handle – on one side of the balance beam -- is directly proportionate to the support systems they have in place on the other side. People/families with strong support systems can handle far more stress than people/ families who have not cultivated those connections.

    --This is why some families can come through major life crises with only bruises and scrapes where other families (or persons) – undergoing the exact same stress events -- completely collapse under it.

    --This is also why whenever police have a “barricaded subject with a gun,” or similar crisis, they always try to find a family member or clergy-person that the subject trusts and respects and get them involved in the conversation.

    Now: if a family or person is in a serious emotional crisis, look for the stress points in that situation. I have seen cases where the over-reaction is self-inflicted (“mountain out of a molehill” syndrome) but many more times I have seen where the family or individual involved is hiding the actual crisis. If you can deflate how important that crisis has become to them, then that individual/family can take a deep breath and start over.

    NOW: I am also convinced that really successful parishes are already providing that kind of community and support. That may also explain why “mega-churches” are so successful; what keeps them thriving is not their doctrinal depth but how strong their community has developed.

    A strong, diverse and supportive parish community simply inoculates its members from over-reacting to the crises life throws at them.

    Deacon Norb in Ohio

  3. Dear Ron,

    Keep in mind that pre-ordination formation can only offer the basics. Not all deacons and priests can provide professional counseling support in every case. The answer to your question really falls into the post-ordination category, just as it does for priests. There is a danger in trying to jam everything into the pre-ordination phase.

    There should be time spent on the basics of counseling and especially on referral skills when the need exceeds our own competence. After ordination many deacons and priests continue their education and training in a variety of specializations.

    God bless,

  4. I would be interested in hearing about the differences in the way deacons are trained in the US as well as in other parts of the world. Seeing that your are headed to Rome, this may be something you could elaborate on.

    God Bless you.