Always More


Always More

It will be 15 years ago this May 16th, that I laid prostrate on the floor of the sanctuary of St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay, Wisconsin along with four other men during our ordination to the diaconate, listening to the singing of the Litany of the Saints.  It is a song of recognition that all those who have gone before us still live and still love us; in fact, they love us perfectly now because they live in eternal communion with the perfect love of God.  And because they love us, they are ever with us, praying for us to have courage, for us to be faithful witnesses, for us to strive always to fulfill Jesus’ command that we love one another, as he has loved us. 

I tried very hard to focus on each name and recall their story, their heroic witness to the truth of God’s love of souls, but of course, everything was blurring past as name after name was chanted.  Some names were special because their stories had spoken directly into my heart like Catherine; I had stumbled onto a copy of her Dialogues in a little bookstore back when I had just started to take my faith more seriously; it was her words that began to fan the flame of the Holy Spirit in my soul.  There was Jude who was the patron of my home church where I had received the gifts of Confession, First Eucharist and Confirmation.  There was Perpetua, who had explained to her father who had come to her pleading, pleading that she renounce the Faith and save herself from the sentence of death, that Christian was not something that she belonged to; Christian was her very nature and therefore was undeniable.

But there were of course many more whose names were not chanted because the Book of Life is filled and yet filling throughout the ages. Faustina was the most prominent for me.  It was again a book, her Diary, that I bought at our parish book sale for one dollar, that had truly opened the floodgates of my heart to the infinite mercy of our Lord.  God’s love is inexhaustible, because with God there is always more.

There was my first Mass as deacon.  The Mass, that as a young child I remember thinking was way too long and too boring, that I now love so deeply.  What a privilege to venerate the altar, the place where Heaven and earth meet at each Mass, with a kiss.  God is so patient with us.    

I remember writing my first homily and being concerned that I would soon run out of things to say.  I chuckle now, realizing hundreds and hundreds of homilies later, that each one sprang up fresh like a new flower from the fertile Word.  I have never repeated a homily, because there is always something different, something relevant, something more to say.     

I recall being surprised to see my reflection on the inside the chalice as I prepared it.  God added me before I added the wine and the water.

After my ordination, my sister-in-law who was married to my brother Tom, presented me with some of Tom’s stoles.  Tom was a deacon in Illinois who died of a heart attack at just 48 years old.  Tom passed away before I ever had a thought about becoming a deacon, so it at first seemed to me like a missed deep connection.  I do wear Tom’s stoles, but always with a purpose.  For example, I always wear his white stole when I attend the ordination of new deacons.  It is good to have him there, assuring me, assuring us that just like with the loaves and fishes, with God there is always more.

I remember my biggest fear was presiding at funeral services.  What would I say at such a critical time, especially with people I did not even know?  Then I discovered that you just bring Christ.  They don’t need me; they need the hope that is Jesus.  Whether parent or child, young or old, passed away during sleep, taken by accident or illness, and even murdered, I have learned to leave my less behind and bring the more of Christ. 

Certainly, one of my favorite ministries is celebrating baptism.  Each time, I take the time to focus on the richness of the many symbols that provide us tangible means to recognize the spiritual realities of the Sacrament.  I especially like to explain the symbolism of the scallop shell that I use to pour the water over the head of the baptized is of us as pilgrims in this life on our journey to eternal life.  The shell that I use is one I bought in Spain when I walked the Camino de Santiago as a pilgrim.  The waters of baptism never dry because with God there is always more.

Speaking of walking the Camino, the picture  above was taken as I preached, literally on The Way.  Because some of our group was late getting to the day's finishing point that day we lost our reserved time at a nearby Cathedral.  We had to hold a make-do Mass in the town square of a little village.  As a preacher, there are times when you wonder whether anyone is listening.  Several pilgrims, not from our group, asked if they could join us.  Certainly, there is always room for more.  Three days later, I walked several miles with Abby; she was from Australia.  After we exchanged names and countries, she looked at me and asked, "Aren't you the deacon who preached in the town square the other day?"  After I confirmed her suspicions, she explained that she was one of the pilgrims who joined us.  Then, she proceeded to tell me specifically about some points that I had made that she had been praying over since then.  And she thought I was an answer to her prayers because she got the chance to discuss these points with me in-depth.  And she thought that I was an answer to her prayers?  Maybe, it was a little more from God for the both of us.         

This reflection, of course, can continue on much longer than the patience and interest of most readers, and perhaps already has.  I will end for now then, and simply say that these 15 years have been a blessing, or rather, many blessings – because with God there is always more.

His Peace <><

Deacon Dan