Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)
David Haas composed a song titled “We are called”. The words of the refrain in that song are: “We are called to act with justice. We are called to love tenderly. We are called to serve one another, to walk humbly with God.”
If it is our mission in life to be of service to others, and if you feel, deep down in your heart, that you are called to be of service then this following message is addressed to you.
I am a permanent deacon, and as a deacon, I am called to serve the people of the Church. One would expect a deacon to be proficient in Churchly affairs, but I have always considered myself to be a liturgical klutz. But being a klutz in Church is not limited to the mistakes that I have made while functioning as a deacon. No! I’ve spent a lifetime of perfecting the art of making klutzy mistakes in Church.
I will share with you, my all time favorite, klutzy move in Church. I will be turning 70 in a couple of weeks, and this event, that I am about to share with you, happened when I was in my middle 20’s. It was at that time that I decided that I wanted to serve the Church as an usher. I really don’t remember why I wanted to do this, because I have always been uncomfortable about being in front of people, and the thought of walking up the center aisle to take up the collection was very frightening to me. But in spite of my fears, I volunteered to do this anyway.
I vividly remember the very first Sunday that I was to function as an usher. There was an elderly gentleman there that was giving me instructions as to what I was to do. When it came time to get ready to take up the collection, he handed me my collection basket and he told me to wait for his signal. So I stood there waiting, holding my basket, with him standing right behind me. I was feeling very nervous!
Just as it came time for us to walk up the aisle, he whispered into my ear and said, “You’re on.” Now, of all the possible things that he could have said to me, that was the worst. When he whispered “You’re on”, I felt a rush of anxiety flow through me. I proceeded to walk up that center aisle feeling like I had no clothes on, like everyone in that Church was looking at me. I just felt so conspicuous.
I should explain that the collection baskets that we had were wicker baskets with long wicker handles. Well, when I got up to the front, I extended my basket as far as I could reach into the first row. Then, just as instructed, I drew my basket back, and lifted it up over the heads of the people seated in that first row.
There was a lady sitting in that first row. She was very well dressed, with a very pretty, curly hair-do. Now I still don’t think that what happened next was really my fault, because the basket that I was using had a loose piece of its material sticking out of the bottom, like a hook. I did not know that. And there is no way I could have known that her pretty hair-do was actually a wig. Well when I picked that basket up over her head, that thing sticking out of the bottom of my basket caught her hair. Her wig popped off and landed on the lap of the guy sitting behind her.
She was good-natured about it, and laughed hysterically, in an otherwise silent Church. Needles to say, every eye in the Church was looking in our direction to see the source of all the hysterics. I was embarrassed beyond description.
While that story says absolutely nothing about my becoming a permanent deacon, I do think it speaks volumes about my lack of qualifications. Nevertheless, in spite of that experience, I continued to serve the Church as an usher and eventually started teaching in the religious instruction classes. This ultimately led to my entering the diaconate program and my ordination as a permanent deacon in June of 1979.
When I became a permanent deacon I felt just as nervous and unqualified as that first day I served as an usher. But God hears the thoughts of our hearts, and He speaks to us in many different ways. He knew my thoughts and heard my prayers, and He answered my prayers in a message that was contained in a greeting card given to me by a friend after my ordination. The message simply said, “Don’t try to live up to other people’s expectations.” That message brought me peace, and a renewed strength and confidence in my mission.
I still get nervous in front of a group. And I know that there are many men and women out there far more qualified than I to serve the Church. But I firmly feel that this is something that God has asked me to do for Him. I feel humbled. But I promise you, and I promise God that I will do my best.
If you feel a call to service, if you or anyone that you know have ever had thoughts of becoming involved in service or Church ministry, if you have ever considered the idea, or if you have ever had visions of seeing yourself functioning in various roles within the Church, I strongly encourage you. Don’t say no to God. Think about it. Pray about it. Listen to God. Trust in Him. Have confidence in yourself and have confidence in God. He already has confidence in you.
If you feel unqualified because you consider yourself to be the biggest klutz in the world, I have some disappointing news for you. I already hold that title. And believe me, if God can use a klutz like me, He can use you too.
REVEREND MR. DONALD COX is a permanent deacon of the Archdiocese of Detroit. On June 9, 1979, Deacon Don was ordained to the diaconate by His Eminence John Cardinal Dearden, an important American Father of the Second Vatican Council. He is currently assigned to St. Cornelius parish in Dryden, Michigan. Married and the father of three children and grandfather to four children, Deacon Don was born and raised in Detroit, and educated at St. Brigid Elementary School, Mackenzie High School, and Lawrence Technological University. His theological training was taken at Detroit’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary.