11 JANUARY 2009

       As we are gathered here today we are celebrating the Baptism of the Lord. I wonder when he decided to do this. Did he just wake up one morning and tell his disciples, let’s go down to the River Jordan today so I can be baptized. No one can say what he was thinking but we do know most of the works that he performed and did through out his life was foretold by the various prophets in the Old Testament.

       More importantly than when he decided is why, he the Son of God, needed to be baptized at all. The Gospel tells us that he went to the Jordan River to be baptized and that he wished to consecrate himself in the river by signs from heaven. No greater sign can be depicted than the Holy Spirit, in the form like a dove, descending upon him and the voice from the heavens saying “You are my beloved Son: with you I am well pleased.”

       In the world we live in today Christmas was over on December 26th the day after Christmas. As you recall, we the Catholic Christians of the world, started the Season four weeks before Christmas with the 1st Sunday of Advent and we continued through the Christmas season through two manifestations of Christ with Christmas and the Feast of the Epiphany. The 3rd manifestation of Christ occurs today with the Baptism of the Lord.

       Today Jesus is revealed to us as the Son of God. The question of why a holy man such as Jesus would desire baptism is answered in a sermon given by Saint Maximus of Turin a bishop around the year398 AD. Bishop Maximus says “Christ is baptized, not to be made holy by the water, but to make the water holy, and by his cleansing to purify the waters which he touched. For the consecration of Christ involves a more significant consecration of the water.”

       He continues “For when the Savior is washed all water for our baptism is made clean, purified at its source for the dispensing of baptismal grace to the people of future ages. Christ is the first to be baptized, then, so that Christian will follow after him with confidence.” To this day hundreds of years later we continue to celebrate with confidence the Baptism of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are washed of our sins and are reborn.

       Through our Baptism, we too are claimed by God as his beloved sons and daughters and sent forth to begin our public ministry in the name of Jesus and the church. Along that train of thought it brings to mind what public ministry we might perform. A huge part of our faith is celebrated and conducted by men and women who have been called to a special relationship to God and the Church.

       Today starts Vocation awareness week and we want to focus on the planting of seeds so that young people might consider pursuing the priesthood or one of the many women religious orders. As we move on in life there are other opportunities available to pursue a vocation in religious life, such as becoming a Permanent Deacon.

       Archbishop Daniel writes in his letter to us today in the Criterion: “Our vocation is not just some generic thing. In God’s plan, each of us is specifically gifted to follow Christ in a way that makes a difference. Most are called to holiness as married folks. Some are called to holiness, to make a difference, as dedicated single people. Some are called to be consecrated religious women and men or deacons, and some of us are called to make a difference in our world as generous priests.”

       Six months ago on June 28th 25 men were ordained to the order of Permanent Deacon. These 25 men were from all across our diocese with a wide range of backgrounds in the secular world and in their relationship with the Church. Each one of them including myself did a whole lot of praying and discerning on whether or not this was what we were called to do. The discernment was shared with our wives and we had many interviews with clergy, women religious and married couples.

       My personal experience, to the calling as a Permanent Deacon, was not earth shattering or as explicit as being struck by lightning and falling off a horse as depicted in St. Paul’s conversion. It was more a gradual process of asking the Lord in prayer what he wanted to do with me. I had a good marriage, Susan and I have been married 34years this month. We were the last couple to be married in the old church just south of the church we moved out of last month.

       I was enjoying a very stable career which had allowed me quite a lot of flexibility to pursue some activities of a social justice nature. Through out my adult life I have experienced many different aspects of those less fortunate than myself. Some of this was definitely instilled by my father and his volunteer work he used to do and still does. I have been to Haiti with our parish missions three times for a week at a time back in the early part of this decade.

       In early 2000 I attended the first men’s retreat at St. Meinrad and was really moved by the Monastery and the Abbey Church “On the Hill”. Father Russ was the leader for the first two years and he was the one who first commented on the Permanent Deaconate being instituted here in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. He explained what it was and I thought this might be a great way to expand what I sensed was a greater calling to service of the Lord through the Church.

       When the call was put out through the Criterion for those interested I discussed it with my wife and we attended the discernment discussions and then proceeded through the application process and I along with 24 other men were accepted in the first class that was ordained in June of last year. A 2nd class has now been started and there are 18 men in that class who meet the 2nd weekend of every month like we did. One of those 18 is a parishioner here named Rick Renzi. During vocation awareness week let us hold Rick and his wife Julie in our prayers as they go through this almost 5 year process towards ordination in 2012.

       I have waited for the right opportunity to share with you the roles and duties of a deacon. As deacons we are called to the ministry of the Word, Liturgy and Charity. It is the role of the deacon to proclaim the Gospel whenever he is assisting during the Eucharistic Celebration, even if the Archbishop is presiding. The deacon assists the priest during Mass and has speaking parts on behalf of the faithful in the congregation. The deacon leads in the Penitential rite offers the Prayers of the faithful and also encourages the faithful in the exchange of the sign of Peace. The deacon also dismiss’ the faithful at the end of Mass.

       The deacon is considered to be the Minister of the Cup that is why I am always giving communion from the cup and also through the ministry of the liturgy the deacon prepares the chalice for the priest prior to consecration. The Permanent Deaconate was restored as a direct result of the Vatican II reforms almost 50 years ago.

       The deacon is distinguished on the altar by the alb and stole he wears. The priest and deacon wear the alb, the white garment, and the priest has the stole around his neck on both sides. The deacon stole hangs from the left shoulder to the right side of the hip. In ancient times the stole was the sign of a messenger approaching from a distance and the wearer was accorded the opportunity to preach and share the word or message he was coming with.

       The other distinguishing vestment is the deacon wears a Dalmatic while the Priest wears a Chasuble. The Dalmatic basically has sleeves and the Chasuble just hangs off the shoulders of the priest. By virtue of his ordination the deacon has earned the title of Deacon as in Deacon Dan or Deacon Collier.

       The deacon is assigned a ministry of Charity by the Archbishop and my particular ministry is that I am assigned as the Catholic Chaplain at the Indianapolis Juvenile Correctional Facility formerly known as the Indiana Girls School on the Westside of Indianapolis. We are in desperate need of women 18 years and older to join other Catholic women in mentoring to these juvenile girls ranging in age from 13 to 18 years old. It only requires a couple hours a week, usually on Tuesday night and an hour every other Saturday morning. Please contact me if you might be interested in a ministry such as this.

       As we are kicking off Vocations awareness week we would like to ask families and couples to consider bringing up the gifts during the offertory and taking with them a crucifix to keep in there home for the following week. We ask that you place it in a prominent place at home so as to remind you and your family to pray for vocations to the Priesthood and Women’s religious orders. The crucifix can be picked up in the room to the right as you walk in the main entrance. Please be sure to return it the following week so other families can participate.

       In closing let us all keep our parishioner Deacon Sean Danda in our prayers as he has returned to Rome for his final semester prior to his ordination as a priest later on this year in June. We certainly look forward to Sean’s ordination, as one of our own from St. Malachy parish.

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