Countdown

Jan. 12-18, 2006
Countdown
By Deacon Tom Picciano/ SUN contributing writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Southern Tier Man Reaches Final Steps of his Journey to the Permanent Diaconate

I was on top of a ladder putting up Christmas lights when my cell phone rang. It was a reminder from The Catholic SUN editor that it was time to start writing this reflection. What a lesson! I have less than five months to go before becoming a deacon, near the top of the ladder of studies. And, there is much still to do before May 2006.

“Consider it all joy my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” — James 1:2

While I’m on an upward path to the diaconate, I think of an upward pattern I’ve been on this past year. The realization came during 10,000 miles of travel to the north, south and east.

From one of the highest points in Boston, I looked down over a snow-snarled city with my very good friend at my side. After four years, we finally had the chance to meet face-to-face again, and yet the periods of silence and a troubled announcement had me wondering exactly how to help. Why did I take a right turn off the elevator when we reached the main floor? I found a chapel there. And it was the hour for Eucharistic Adoration. Then 15 minutes of prayer renewed me for the rest of a difficult visit.

At the top of a stone pyramid in Tuluum, Mexico, I pondered why the Mayans took several hundred years to build a structure 100 feet into the sky. Further, what was it that kept me away from a room built way up there to prepare sacrificial offerings…including humans? I thought of the Eucharistic celebration we’d experienced a day before in a simple, yet overflowing church. I couldn’t translate the Mass fast enough from Spanish to Latin to English. But I understood when to join hands at the time of the Lord’s Prayer. When it came time to receive the Eucharist, I remembered the universal “Amen.” During another journey, it took only about five minutes for my friend and me to climb 311 steps to the top of the monument to the Great Fire of London on a brisk, bright Sunday in November. I’d come across the ocean to celebrate my birthday in his home country. It was only 10 months since we parted company in Boston but he had had a lot of life-changing experiences since then. Earlier in the day, during Mass at Westminster Cathedral, the priest spoke of a message written on the wall of a subway used as a bomb shelter in World War II.

“We can’t see the sun, but we know there is one, because we’ve seen The Light.” Had he heard me repeat those words? Yes. My friend is seeking to renew his Christian faith. I prayed for guidance as he pressed for answers about MY faith in a crowded hotel lobby. Later as the discussion continued, his eyes opened wide as I described my experience with The Light of Jesus.

“The eyes of the Lord are everyplace, watching the evil and the good.” — Proverbs 15:3

That step ladder, the one that got me up to the Christmas lights, has its legs planted firmly in two places. A deacon must also have himself anchored in two places to minister effectively — in the church and in the real world. Interesting how people are already starting to call me “deacon” in my “real world” job. Usually, it’s “sorry, deacon” when inappropriate language comes up. I’ve heard these words for many years, but now, people seem to temper their comments. I’ve also had one or two co-workers watch to see how I react if something goes wrong. I’m human too. But a few deep breaths and a silent prayer work wonders when reacting to a mistake, or a computer that just doesn’t work properly.

“There are different forms of service but the same Lord; There are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.” — 1 Corinthians 5-6

Nearly seven years ago I took the first steps toward the diaconate when I started working at Christ the King Parish. On a recent day, SUN photographer Paul Finch caught me chipping away some ice from the sidewalk. I also know how to mow the lawns, vacuum the carpets and do many other tasks around the church and rectory.

Shortly after I started working at the parish, I began in the Formation for Ministry program, and two years later, applied for the Permanent Diaconate. Now, that four-year process is now coming to an end. The top of a ladder? No. I could go to the top rung to get closer, but I’d end up losing my balance. That’s something I definitely don’t want to do if I’m going to be of service to Him.

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