Sharing Diaconal Spirituality with the Laity
All the faithful are called to serve
While writing my previous book, “Encountering Christ the Servant” (OSV, $18.95), I gave some of the early drafts to a few of my lay friends to proofread. I wanted to ensure that the final manuscript sent to the publisher would be well-polished and free of errors typically associated with initial submission.
To my surprise and delight, they all indicated that much of what was written regarding the diaconate could be applied to the laity. This started me thinking about another book, one that would use diaconal spirituality as a basis for a new lay spirituality, a spirituality of service.
Pondering this relationship between diaconal spirituality and a similar lay spirituality, I began to realize that what I had stumbled upon was no vague association, no tenuous link, but an intrinsic connection. The deacon, by virtue of his ordination, is called to bear witness to Christ the Servant; similarly, all of the faithful, by virtue of their baptism, are called to serve, whether that be in formal ministry or in the living out of their often-frenzied lives. Indeed, such service is not found by looking beyond the routines of diapers and feedings, late nights and early mornings, but it’s precisely in and through the diapers and feedings, in and through the late nights and early mornings, that Christ is discovered and discovered intimately.
Though much of what was written in “Encountering Christ the Servant” will be found in a second book I penned, the two books are far from identical. “Discovering Christ the Servant” (OSV, $16.95) proceeds with the layperson in mind and with the various vocational requirements that come from the lay state. Consequently, this book is meant to be a companion to “Encountering Christ the Servant,” such that deacons can share their spirituality with the laity, emboldening them to discover Christ the Servant anew and, in doing so, draw closer to him. It will also have the secondary effect of catechizing the laity on the diaconate.
This sharing of the diaconate with the laity is, in many respects, an essential part of the deacon’s ministry. He’s called to bear witness to Christ the Servant in a preeminent manner. “Discovering Christ the Servant” seeks to do this in two distinct but related ways. First, by providing a resource deeply rooted in Catholic Tradition and grounded in a spirituality of sacred service. Individuals reading the book can come away with an interiority that can be integrated into their everyday lives and thus grow closer to God. Second, by using this book as the main text in a parish share group, individuals can open themselves up to an even broader understanding of servant spirituality, especially in terms of its communal dimension.
To facilitate both a personal internalization of servant spirituality and a communal sharing in a small group setting, I’ve included a section at the end of each chapter called “Meditations and Reflections.” It’s a series of open-ended questions to be engaged through prayerful meditation. The questions are specifically designed to draw out what has been learned, the insights gained, and how these learnings and insights can be applied to everyday life. In this respect, servant spirituality, like many other spiritualities in the Catholic Tradition, can be adapted and applied such that, regardless of the uniqueness of our vocations, regardless of particular circumstances, and regardless of the busyness of our lives, Christ can be intimately discovered and encountered in the very fabric of our lives.
DEACON DOMINIC CERRATO, Ph.D., is editor of The Deacon and director of diaconal formation for the Diocese of Joliet, in Illinois. He is the founder of Diaconal Ministries, where he gives national presentations and retreats to deacons and diaconal candidates. Follow him on Facebook to continue the conversation.