Rite of Admission to Candidacy for the Permanent Diaconate
Memorial of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus – October 1, 2022

For as much as today’s gospel reflects the teaching and the way of life of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus – the “Little Flower” – it also speaks powerfully to this moment in the lives of the men who seek admission to candidacy for the permanent diaconate for service to the Church of Scranton.  Let’s reflect a bit on these four verses from Saint Matthew’s gospel.

It begins with an exchange between Jesus and his disciples and the question of who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.  Jesus responds by placing a child in their midst and inviting the disciples to consider these words, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”  …  Jesus’ unexpected response about becoming like a “child,” however, is less a focus on the innocence, sinlessness or dependence of children and instead a focus on their lack of social standing.  As strange as it may seem to us, children were “nobodies” with no status or importance in society.

As such, Jesus was inviting his followers to put aside considerations of greatness and to become social “nobodies.”  …  He was also challenging them – and us – as Pope Francis has consistently done – to go to the margins of our world to serve the “nobodies” – a challenge for all of us.

But this gospel passage resonates with our celebration today for another reason.  When Jesus says to his disciples, “become like children,” I can’t help but think that he’s also asking us to embrace some childlike qualities.  The innate sense of trust that little children seem to possess more that the rest of us reflects well today’s Memorial of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus.  Recall her words, “Trust in God and trust alone should lead us to love, which is at the heart of Jesus’ gospel.”

Isn’t so much of the journey of faith that we have all embraced, regardless of where we are along the way, rooted in trust?  At some point, as you and I attempt to discern what God is calling us to consider in our lives, we need to look beyond our own determination and will in order to trust in the power of Jesus to carry us along the way and to lead us to where God calls us to be.

My brothers who are to be admitted to Candidacy, today God has called you to a moment in your life that demands a radical decision of faith and trust.  You are being given the opportunity to deepen your resolve to follow the Lord Jesus and to serve the People of God.  Like the first disciples, you have been chosen for this role not because you are perfect.  Neither were they.  You have been chosen because the Lord has called you first and the Church has affirmed that call.

This rite of admission to candidacy, then, marks in a formal way the Church’s judgment that your vocation is indeed authentic and that you possesses the qualities necessary for the ordained ministry.  With this formal recognition of your candidacy, you enter into a new and deeper phase of formation to prepare you for the singular seal of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Holy Orders.  While all of us as baptized followers of the Lord Jesus are called to embrace his life and example of loving service, as those preparing for ordination to the diaconate, this decision speaks to your lives in a unique manner today.

Your openness to the call to serve the Church demands a letting go of your own ego, needs, interests and control in order to trust in Jesus and the life he embraced – a life that found him washing the washing the feet of his friends in humble service and inviting his followers to do the same.  …  Your openness to the call to serve the Church also demands that you know well that you cannot succeed in this way of life apart from the grace of God.

My brothers, as you move forward in formation, reflect often upon these words from the Second Vatican Council.  “Strengthened by sacramental grace,” the deacon is called “to serve the People of God, in the diakonia of liturgy, word and charity, in communion with the Bishop and his presbyterate.”  As such, you are responding to a call to be a sign and instrument of Christ, who came “not to be served but to serve,” and to give his life for the sake of the many.

I am grateful today for so many who have brought you to this moment in your lives, especially for your families and particularly your wives.  In so many respects, they have and will continue to assume an integral role in your spiritual journey.  Thank you.

Finally, while our focus this day is on the call that God has given to you, our brothers, this rite reminds all of us of the radical decisions that we face each day.  Through baptism, we are all called to discipleship – to remove from our lives everything that can separate us from the things of God or diminish our capacity to serve and to love.

And so, to my brothers who are to be admitted to Candidacy, on behalf of this community of God’s faithful people, all of us promise to assist you with our love and prayers as you continue on this journey.  Therefore, when you are called by name, come forward and declare your intention before the Church.