Greetings dear readers of all the treasures and education found on Lisa Hendey’s Catholic Mom website. Happy summer to all of you. As this goes to press, we are traveling to the midwest for visits with family members, and then on to Ohio and Pennsylvania. God willing and safe travels, Ohio will see me in my 8th annual retreat and conference at Franciscan University. And Pennsylvania will have Dee visiting her late-aged mom and siblings. God is good. God is so very good.
And speaking of the goodness of God, I just celebrated my ninth anniversary of being an ordained clergy member of the Catholic Church. Nine years a deacon and four years of pretty intense but great education and formation - that’s thirteen years of living a new and different life.
I preached about this the day before my anniversary, and by pure coincidence, a parishioner had recently sent me an email thanking me for all of the things I had contributed to or started in our parish. The email was pretty flattering -- and it does mean quite a bit because we-too suffer the fate of the Leader of our faith when He was in His home town environment: familiarity breeding perhaps not so much contempt as lack of excitement :-) .
At any rate - as I head to this retreat that I mentioned, I’m finding myself in a period of reassessment of the things I am doing and things I have done. I’ve pulled back from one parish organization because I haven’t felt my participation to be that effective or productive.
In all of this - I’m reminded of the words of Servant of God Catherine Doherty, co-founder of Madonna House. She said: “What you do matters -- but not much. What you are matters tremendously.” Many deacons I know of have trouble saying no - to almost any request. Some insinuate themselves into more situations. We are driven to do, do, do. But what we are mostly called to is to a life of prayer and holiness.
And those words of Catherine from Madonna House remind me of a personal experience I had back in the year 2,000. I had just left a family reunion on my late mom’s side of the family. I decided to check into Madonna House up in Combermere, Ontario. It was to be a sort of working retreat -- living with the staff, doing their work and participating in their liturgies and prayer life each day.
When it came to deciding what work to give to me to help the staff, I was trying to tell the person making assignments that I had quite a bit of computer and marketing experience. If they wanted me to - I could go work with their ‘IT’ person/s and help with their marketing and communications. The staffer said, “Well, Tom, we have weeds in the garden.” And that, in fact was where they sent me. Sweating, dirty, sun-baked. Pulling and hoeing weeds.
That story demonstrates another point which I often need to relearn. From time to time, I’m telling God or priests or others in some form of chain of command about what I can do and what I should perhaps do. Rather than just letting the simplest request flow down to my level... and accepting it humbly and gently.
In closing, I quote from Bert Ghezzi’s book: The Heart of a Saint: Ten Ways To Grow Closer to God, The Word Among Us Press
"In nine years as a Carmelite nun, Therese of Lisieux loved God in the pursuit of her ordinary duties. With God first in her thoughts, she swept the choir loft, washed clothes, folded altar linens, escorted elderly nuns about the convent, and cut up food for a sister who had difficulty eating. Unlike other great saints, she did nothing noteworthy. She did not found an order, build a hospital, or convert an aboriginal tribe. "Though the little Sister is very good," said one of her sisters, "she had never done anything worth speaking about." But doing everything with love was enough to make her a saint - and a great one at that."
Perhaps you can see why I’m in a reflective mood on this anniversary of becoming a deacon.
Copyright 2013 Deacon Tom Fox
About the Author
Deacon Tom Fox and his wife Dee are co-hosts of the CATHOLIC VITAMINS Podcast for over 6 1/2 years. Tom has also been a member of the Catholic Mom columnists team for eight years, and was a regular contributor to the Catholic Moments Podcast for three years. Most recently, Deacon Tom has been leading a project to bring Catholic radio to the north central Arizona community where he and Dee reside. Blessings!