So Cousin Carolyn came to visit us this week in Buffalo. Carolyn is one of my favorite people in our family and we’ve been blessed by her presence and her hospitality often.
Carolyn’s dad was Marion’s Uncle Andy and Andy and I would sometimes call him for advice about ministry and just to talk shop with him. He would call me and chide me when I’d send him an announcement about one of our upcoming BustedHalo® retreats.
Andy: “I hear there’s some heretic from the city invading Oak Ridge, NJ to give some kind of crazy retreat. I ain’t publicizing that retreat that’s for sure.”
Me: “Yep. It can’t be more heretical than some of your homilies though!”
Andy: “That’s for sure. It’s in the bulletin. Thanks for letting us know you were coming our way.”
Andy died much too young and he inspired so many people. Carolyn and I were both really moved by a young man who was openly weeping uncontrollably at Andy’s wake. Both of us, at separate times went over to him to comfort him and we learned that Andy had served as his spiritual director, a ministry that I got much more involved in as a result of this meeting. Drawing on Andy’s inspiration and fine work with this young man, I realized that we all meet God at some point in our lives, but we might not understand what to do when we find God working in our lives. How do we pray? What does this relationship mean? How might we be changed by this relationship?
Andy helped this young man do that. And Carolyn has done the same with her children and others that she meets in her work with her parish and even in our own relationship.
The word Deacon really means “servant” or even better, “one who provides hospitality” or even a looser translation might be “one who brings relief to others.” It’s a kind of spirit of diakonia that Carolyn has been gifted with from her father, a Roman Catholic Deacon.
And that’s what I think it means to be a Deacon. To inspire others in the world with our own lives so that they might also be changed. The spirit of diakonia is not only possessed by Deacons themselves but they are gifts for the entire church, gifts that we are called to model and share ourselves.
So I’m giving Carolyn a book called “The Emerging Diaconate” by Deacon Bill Ditewig. He’s the authority on Deacons today in my opinion, but more importantly his own graceful presence on his blog has invited all of us to think about what it means to embody that spirit of diakonia in our lives.
So enjoy the book and I know we will enjoy each other’s company while you are with us in Buffalo, Carolyn. And thanks for always being such a joy to be with as our family continues to grow in love together.