Part of the petition to be ordained to the diaconate involves declaring a clear understanding of a deacon’s responsibilities. The most important and clearly defined ones are the service of the Word, both in the proclamation of the Gospel and liturgical preaching, and the service of the table, both in the liturgical and practical matters.
Since being newly ordained as a deacon, I am still trying to perform my duties as smoothly as I can, but there are still rough spots here and there, such that a brother would lovingly tease me, “it is obvious that you are a transitioning deacon” (a wordplay based on the fact that I am a transitional deacon preparing for ordination to the priesthood). Yet, even though the core of the diaconate is service, surprisingly, I learned what it means to serve from my bellman job as an infirmarian in the priory. And this perspective, in turn, helped me understand more the nature of serving as a deacon.
Each of the friars in the priory is assigned a responsibility called a “bellman job.” And in this academic year, my bellman job is to care for the friars who are sick or, particularly in this challenging time of the pandemic, to bring food to the friars in quarantine when they return from giving retreats outside of the priory. Somehow, personally attending to the friars and meeting them in their need helps me understand better what it means to serve. The concrete action of help done for a person in need enabled me to grasp the nature of serving. It does not mean that attending to people in temporal need is more important than serving those in spiritual need. The two types of service are not in competition. But in my case, the former leads to a better understanding of the latter.
It is no coincidence that before our Lord Jesus laid down his life in the ultimate loving sacrifice of the cross, He stooped down to wash the feet of his disciples. Our Lord Jesus did this symbolic act of service to help his disciples understand what it means to serve. Through this concrete act of meeting them in their need, He points to His ultimate sacrifice of the cross.
In our present time of the pandemic, access to the sacraments is severely limited. Yet one concrete thing that we can do is to care for each other. In giving ourselves in loving service to each other, we come close to understanding the love of our Lord Jesus for us in his ultimate loving sacrifice of the cross. This, I hope, is the source of our consolation in this difficult time.
Br. Martin Maria Nguyen, O.P. | Meet the Student Brothers in Formation HERE