By Rev. Nathan Rawlins
Newly ordained deacon of the Archdiocese of Melbourne
“And all were astonished; and they glorified God. And they were filled with fear, saying: We have seen wonderful things today.” Luke 5:26
Ordination season seems to be over (for now!) and over the course of September, the Diocese of Sandhurst now has a new priest and a new deacon, the Archdiocese of Hobart has a new priest, the Diocese of Sale has a new deacon and the Archdiocese of Melbourne has 3 transitional deacons ordained from Corpus Christi College, with more still to come later in the year. As I reflect on the last month and the wide variety of experiences that I have had and have occurred for us newly ordained deacons and priests from Corpus Christi College, this description of how the disciples felt as they followed Jesus from Mark’s Gospel could very well be a good description of the movement in the hearts felt over the last month. Indeed, you notice the big things, but also the little things that occur day to day that can amaze you and fill you with holy fear.
For some of us, it will have been the experience of baptizing small children into the faith, amazed in the face of the great mystery of what you are doing. You are amazed that it is you who is doing it- that through you, Christ brings into the Church and the new life in Him to children wriggling in their mother’s arms or toddlers staring at you in wonder as they play with the embroidery on the cope. You also find yourself afraid and aware that you are doing this for the first time and find yourself, out of love, so invested in doing it right that you repeatedly study the rubrics and find yourself checking the temperature of the water while trying to work out how quickly water cools.
There is also the little moment during Mass where you are suddenly aware that what you have heard someone else say all your life so far, is now your part to say in the liturgy. You also can’t help but notice that priests who are used to seeing you in the pews in front of them, now seem surprised every so often to see you standing next to them during the Mass. No matter how well versed you are in the theology and rubrics of the Mass, there is always that initial moment where you are caught up and left fumbling to remember the words you are supposed to say, as your mind drifts in wonder that you are standing where you are, doing what you are doing and everyone is looking at you.
You really do have to get used to people looking at you- your anonymity is truly lost. Suddenly you go from being a face in a crowd that everyone’s eyes glaze over as you walk down the street, to wearing a collar and suddenly meeting the eyes of those who pass by, stop at the collar of your shirt and then left vulnerable to their reaction in a way you never were before-whatever that may be.
It is the moments in conversation with people who have known you your entire life and always end up asking the same question at some point, “So…what do I call you now?” Or in the little ways your brother seminarians that you have known over the years of formation now call you, ‘Reverend’ or ‘Deacon’, perhaps to tease you a little as you make breakfast, while at the same time affirming you and reminding you of that great mystery you are called to proclaim in the midst of the ordinary. There are those moments when you are suddenly welcomed by people you have never met and the simple consolation and joy that you seem to just give by just being there.
You find yourself amazed and aware that this is what your parents have grappled with over the course of your formation in the silence of their hearts and what you have known since you heard His voice calling you. This amazement and fear come from that awareness that things have really changed- you have changed at the deepest level of who you are and the world is slowly catching up, with you, in understanding what that means- for your relationships, your place in the community, the expectations of you and the responsibilities you have. That after the day when you were vested in dalmatics or chasubles and had your hands anointed or held the Book of the Gospels, you became someone for others. Someone who represents ‘The Church’, with all the good and bad that comes with and that everything you say or do can either turn them away or help them grow deeper in love with Jesus and His Church. You cannot be helped but at the end of each day to say with the disciples as you reflect over what has transpired both amazed and afraid, “We have seen wonderful things today.”