A vocation to the diaconate is discerned and identified through prayer, study, open communication with one’s spouse, children, family, pastor, friends and fellow parishioners. A vocation to the diaconate is an abiding awareness that God is asking a lifetime commitment on the part of the man being called to serve God’s people as an ordained deacon of the Church.
If a man senses such a divine calling, it is necessary that he enter formation, for a number of years, in order to discern whether this calling is authentic. Formation in this sense is a journey of self-discovery – the deepening of his faith and ongoing learning that will help each man to decide whether the calling that he senses is to the diaconate and if he wishes to follow it.
The discernment needed to identify and verify a vocation to the diaconate in the life of any aspirant occurs on many levels. Among the most important are the following three areas:
Personal Discernment: An individual initially reflects upon the nature of his perceived call through study, prayer, spiritual guidance and reflection. Key in this area is the establishment of an open and honest relationship between the aspirant and his spiritual director.
Family Discernment: Each aspirant must honestly and openly discuss his perceived vocation with both his wife (if married) and immediate family. As his partner in the covenant of marriage, the support and encouragement of an aspirant’s wife is essential if the discernment process is to succeed. Therefore, it is essential that support and consent, even at this early stage of discernment, arise from an informed understanding on the part of both the aspirant and his wife. Since an aspirant’s wife has a unique and indispensable role in her husband’s discernment of a vocation to the diaconate, it is essential that she be ready and able to participate in all aspects of the formation program that require her attendance.
Communal Discernment: Since the discernment of any divine vocation to the diaconate is never solely a private matter, it is essential that the Church accompany any potential aspirant in his journey of faith. Since the parish is the primary experience of the Church for most inquirers, it is essential that by ministerial service and through the direction of the pastor, the community of faith pray for and help form each aspirant by a mutuality of love and service. Further, the diocesan church is also involved in the aspirant’s discernment, through the work of the Diaconate Office on behalf of the Bishop.