‘Do the Will of God From the Heart’

Bishop Raica Ordains Two Benedictine Monks to the Transitional Diaconate

On April 9, Bishop Raica ordained Benedictine Brothers Paschal and Pachomius to the transitional diaconate at St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman. The complete text of his homily follows herein.

It is always a distinct honor for me to preside at the deacon ordinations here at St. Bernard Abbey. Similarly, it is a beautiful event for this Abbey right in the heart of the Diocese of Birmingham.

Whenever one of these celebrations occurs, I am taken back, like many of you, to your day of ordination. Mine was on Nov. 19, 1977. It seems like a century ago – part of ancient history. At the same time, on an occasion like this, it seems like it is celebrated today with a renewal of the commitments made, the hopes that such an event engender, and the optimism that is provided not only for the candidates but for the entire Benedictine Community and for the entire mission of the Church.

Just as you have been waiting for this day, the Church and this Abbey has been waiting for you. Today, the wait comes to an end, and another chapter begins; another journey launches for you. It is a journey that has moments of elation and great joy, when you experience all the meaning and purpose of the diaconate as one of service- service to the Church and especially to this local community. For my part, that service of charity must be the undergarment of your ministerial life. Service to brothers and sisters in need is a hallmark of the ministry of Pope Francis and one that should urge much reflection and prayer in your life, as it does ours.

Above all, deacons help the bishop, the abbot, and “…priests in the ministry of the word, of the altar, and of charity, showing themselves to be a servant to all. As a minister of the altar, deacons will proclaim the Gospel, prepare the Sacrifice, and distribute the Lord’s Body and Blood to the faithful.” 

He will “exhort believers and unbelievers alike” and “instruct them in holy doctrine.” “He will preside over public prayer, administer Baptism, assist at and bless Marriages, bring Viaticum to the dying, and conduct funeral rites.”

Through consecration, “he will perform works of charity in the name of the bishop, [the abbot] or the pastor. With the help of God, he is to go about all these duties in such a way that you will recognize him as a disciple of him who came not to be served, but to serve.” 

So, “do the will of God from the heart: serve the people in love and joy as you would the Lord.” (taken passim from the homily text in the Ritual for Ordination)

Today, in our reflection, my message is simple: Serve God with your heart; give him your all; serve with joy. 

Serve God with your heart

These very special words betoken a relationship with one whom you love and with One who loves you. Our Lord promised He would be with us until the end of the age. At the same time, we know that we can find His face among us already. With the love you demonstrate for the poor, the last, the least, the suffering, those in need, it is as though you are ministering to Christ Himself. May you not see one another as a burden but as a moment of joy.

Give Him your all

All around there are those who give themselves halfheartedly once they achieve their goal of a good job, a career, or even in Orders. Our Lord demands that we give everything – even through the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Within their proper understanding, you are rendering to the Lord your all. A simplicity of life, relationships that are chaste and honor the dignity of those you serve, and obedience to legitimate authority as though you are hearing the Lord speak to you. These counsels, which represent our “all” – all that you have that is dedicated to God and mission – demonstrate vividly the totality of your commitment to Christ’s mission. In other words, the commitment you make says that you are “all in.” 

Serve with joy

The interior joy you feel today should overcome your trepidation at making this important step in your life. Your brothers are inviting you to share in their mission of joy. It is joy in mission that most non-believers don’t quite understand. You’ve given up so much, yet you’ve gained so much! Your priorities have become different because you see the Lord in everything. Beholding and contemplating the face of God is a deep desire already in our hearts. As deacons, in the ministry of service and charity, you will have that opportunity in spades every day.  

My dear sons, thank you for saying “yes” to God’s call here at St. Bernard’s Abbey. You are becoming a part of a noble line of faithful brothers in the spirit of Benedict. Ora et labora – pray and work – is not a nice meme but a gift rooted in very mission of Benedict. The Prologue of the Rule of Benedict begins rather simply: “Listen carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart.” Through our prayer, contemplation, and ongoing spiritual direction, you can grow in understanding the whispers of the Lord as you live your vocational life in mission.

May our Lady, whose life “magnified the Lord,” watch over you and protect you in fulfilling the diaconal ministry that is before you. May God bless you!

To learn more about the Rev. Brothers Paschal and Pachomius, click here.