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Waiting in Joyful Hope

What it means for me to be a deacon

Today is my 6th anniversary of ordination as a deacon. I feel it is important for me to keep this date in mind, because I don't believe my ordination as a priest erased by ordination as a deacon — I'm still stamped with the grace of diaconate in my soul. In fact, I find that a lot of the tasks I do from day to day are actually much more diaconal tasks than presbyteral ones.

What does it mean for me, to be a deacon? I believe that the ministry of deacon is that which bridges the sacerdotal ministry of the priests and bishops with the charismatic apostolate that comes from baptism. The baptized have a mission in the world, derived from the grace of baptism, but it can be chaotic at times in its practical application. The ordained ministry exists to keep it apostolic, i.e. true to the teaching and ministry of the Apostles. The deacon acts as a special interface between the two: present among the works of the baptized apostolate, he represents the apostles to such works, and he helps bring the fruits of the apostolate to the altar of God as a holy sacrifice of thanksgiving. Liturgically, we see this when the deacon goes to prepare the gifts for the altar, before asking the priest to actually make the offering. But the calling has the Eucharist as its summit, it also has it as its source: the deacon also dismisses the people at the end of mass, for them to go into the world and bear good fruit once again. This presence in the Eucharist, therefore, sets the tone for the whole ministry of diaconate, *most of which* is meant to be in the world, helping organize works of charity and other works of the apostolate.

The Montreal Challenge Movement

If there is one organization whose ministry I would like to promote, it is one that I helped found: the Montreal Challenge Movement (whose web site is proudly hosted on the server). Please do go to their blog site and check out their ministry.

As a founder of Challenge here in Montreal, I was recently asked to offer a "testimony" about how I got involved in Challenge. I first got invited to Challenge through my younger brother. My whole family had moved to Ottawa a few years earlier, while I had stayed behind to finish my degree (and later I got a job in Montreal). Chris had invited me while I was working as a professional, and I remember thinking "There is no way I am going on some retreat with a bunch of kids." Never mind that Chris is only 18 months younger than me, I only wanted to play with the big boys now. :-)

But Chris believed the weekend would be good for me, and he was clever. He knew how to appeal to my pride. Once I began as a seminarian he invited me again, only this time as the Assistant Spiritual Director. To be a candidate was one thing, but to be part of the team was quite another, so I accepted. Of course, what I didn't know was that I was, in fact, a candidate anyway, given that it was my first weekend and I really didn't know what to expect.

The weekend was a whirlwind. I did my best to participate (rather than anticipate) but for me it was hard. I am a guy who likes to plan, and given that I felt I had responsibilities I felt I needed to know what would come next. Of course, again, that was my pride. I was afraid of looking stupid or wierd in front of others. But my major turning point came the Saturday night, in the small-group circle prayer. Each person in the circle took turns going in the middle, while the others would lay on hands and take turns praying for them. My stress level went through the roof. Pray in front of others? Like, spontaneously, without any preparation, planning, a text, or anything? Again, the fear of looking stupid took over, and my mind raced as I tried to think of something to say. And then, as the participants were taking their turns, we came to one 17-year-old guy named Dave. He opened his mouth, and the most beautiful prayer to Jesus I had ever heard came out of his mouth. It was so simple, yet so full of devotion. I was in awe, and I remember thinking "I want whatever this kid has". It was a conversion for me: my faith started going from my head to my heart.

I didn't realise what an impact my Challenge weekend would have on me at the time I was living it. The full fruits only came later as I continued to grow in my faith with my Challenge brothers and sisters. But the seeds were planted in March of 1996 when I sat at the "Anything but predic-" table. On the night I was ordained a priest, over 5 1/2 years later, I offered words of thanks to all those who had been a special support to me in my journey towards the priesthood, and I included the members of Challenge: "You taught me to pray from the heart."

The Gospel of Mark, performed

When the Gospels were originally written the authors drew upon source material already present in a Christian oral tradition. In other words, many passages of the Gospel are actually stories meant to be told rather than texts meant to be read. I first saw this in action when I saw a video of a priest who, rather than reading the gospel from the lectionary on Sunday, would memorize the text and "tell the story". It was like I was struck by lightning — the text came alive in a new and powerful way.

With that background, I'd like to call your attention to something suggested by one of the readers of Mark's Gospel Live, a "performance" of that particular gospel by the Rev. Joseph Morris. I don't know anything about him, nor about his church, but the idea looks interesting. If anyone has had an experience of this particular work of art, please drop a comment!

Global Day of Prayer

A few years ago a South African businessman felt a call to bring together Christians from different denominations in a time of prayer of repentance, asking the Lord to renew his Church and heal its divisions. From this came the Global Day of Prayer, which will be taking place this year on Pentecost Sunday. This movement of prayer has spread rapidly across the world and across the churches. It has even grown from beyond a single day to a series of prayer events: a 10-day preparatory time, a 90-day period of follow-up prayer, and so on. There is plenty of downloadable material from the website should anyone wish to know more, or even organize an event of their own. Check it out!