As I meditated on the promises, bishop’s homily, and the prayer of ordination in the Rite of Ordination to the Diaconate, a phrase resounded and stayed with me for my retreat: service of humble charity. It surfaced as I read the bishop’s homily, “Deacons are to help the Bishop and his Priests in the ministry of the word, of the altar, and of charity, showing themselves to be servants to all.” It is also in the second promise asked and assented to by the candidate: “discharge the office of Deacon with humble charity in order to assist the priestly order and to benefit the Christian people.” Humble charity is something that was resounding in my mind, and I asked myself how I have lived this now and how I will live it differently in the future, God willing, after ordination.
As I prayed with the phrase humble charity, I began meditating on the meaning of charity. I interchanged it with the following: humble love, selfless love, love of Christ, pastoral love, embracing love, unending love. It is a charity that provides a greater love for others than for myself. This humble charity/love is modeled and radiated to the deacon through the bishop’s laying on of hands and invocation of the Holy Spirt as the bishop and priest, God willing, live this in word and deed. It is their lived example that shows the deacon how to model the humble charity of Christ to others. It is necessary to say that their example would not be possible without first following the example of Jesus, who “humbled himself to share in our humanity.” He showed humble charity by living for others and giving up his life in humble service for our salvation.
Furthermore, humble charity is one that is part of the service of the deacon to the People of God. There have been many deacons, priests, and bishops who have shown me how to love in service to the people of God. In turn, to the best of my ability, I have tried to model that same loving service each day in the seminary and in the diocese. There was some trial and error in each assignment, yet I trusted and cooperated to the best of my ability with the Holy Spirit and his gifts and grace meted out to me to love the people of God at various times. All in all, service in humble charity is at the heart of the ministry of the Diaconate, and as the deacon assists the priest, this humble charity grows ever greater to be a further extension of the love of the bishop and his priests to Christ’s people. This is what brightened my retreat and I hope what I have shared has been helpful. May God bless all discerning a vocation to serve at the altar of the Lord.