The Vocation of Permanent Diaconate: Being Formed by Serving Others

Oct 8, 2023

I’m blessed to have two vocations: marriage and the permanent diaconate. To a great extent, they both have defined who I have become. 

My wife and I married quite young and our marriage over the years has refocused me from being a self-concerned young man into being a receptive husband and father whose life is not simply his own. Though always a Christian, I was not Catholic at the time of my marriage, nor was I particularly connected with any church. That changed with the developing reality of fatherhood as I watched my wife form our daughter’s early spiritual life. 

Even after I came into the Church through RCIA, my basic orientation was not toward a spiritual life. My RCIA sponsor was a great example for me and his encouragement was gentle and steadfast. He taught me to live in service and helped me to understand the spiritual practice and value of going on formal retreats. 

When I was in deep prayer at one retreat, asking God what it was that I should be doing, the answer came quite clearly that the permanent diaconate was a path I could choose. I was immediately flooded with thoughts that I was not worthy of ordination and that even if I considered it, the diaconate was something far in the future. The insight of that prayer was that I had the choice “now.” I realized that even if I did not choose that moment, I would still, someday, some way, have to choose to follow Christ more closely.

Fortunately, preparation for the diaconate involved formal study and a theology degree. I needed the education! I learned that I didn’t have to worry about being worthy. It wasn’t an obstacle for God to use me just as I was. 

Though I was the one ordained a deacon, my wife and I were both graced to live our lives in service to God more closely. As spouses and as parents, we were called to witness not just to our own family, but to the larger world.

We often say, “God isn’t finished with me yet.” As a deacon, I am given the opportunity to see just how God is working in me. I have come to discover in my ministry as a deacon that I am being grown; I am being witnessed to; I am being developed every time I am in direct service to any of God’s people. There are many people in spiritual need and also many people who have a spiritual life well developed beyond my own. I always receive so much more than I give, no matter who I am with.

People assume holy orders are given for a man to serve God’s people, and that is absolutely true. But holy orders, just like marriage, are given by God to help form the man as he serves others.  A vocation is a great blessing, or in my case, two great blessings: marriage and permanent diaconate. I live in gratitude. 

Deacon Brian Diehm, Director of the Office of the Diaconate, Archdiocese of Portland
Permanent Diaconate | Portland (archdpdx.org)

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