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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Church Lady

One of the priests we've talked to recently said that Rich becoming a deacon is really a formalization of what we do already as a couple. The deacons were called to serve the people in the church, serve the priests and bishops. He said that he's seen us doing just that on numerous occasions and this is partially just recognizing that role. The office of the deacon is unique in a way, in that it has always been seen as a husband and wife work. Because of the nature of baptismal practices of the early church (they were done in the garb in which one was born), and the necessity of chastity and modesty, women were needed to witness other women's baptisms. These women were not ordained and they were most likely the wives of the deacons who were called and ordained in the apostolic succession, which was why they were sometimes referred to as deaconesses.

As a deacon, aside from assisting at mass, Rich will be able to say the deacon's mass, will be charged with the proclamation of the gospel, might be called in to give sermons and will be offering the chalice during most of our eucharists until we either get a couple more lay eucharistic ministers, deacons or subdeacons. He will be required to study in the seminary.

I will be required to become a clergy wife.

This is the thing that scares me the most about Rich being called to the diaconate. This is part of what kept my mouth shut when I had communication from the Lord that Rich was set apart for this. I figured if He hadn't talked to Rich about it Himself, who was I to gossip? Then, one of our priests was evidently called into duty last year at our convocation, I guess God figured I wasn't passing on the message, and in front of church members from three states told Rich he needed to be in the seminary. Rich said (to himself) "I'm not going to be a priest!" and went on with his life.

The damage was done, though, the cat was out of the bag. Now, Rich started thinking about it. Then, asking me what I thought about it. Then, asking other people to be praying and praying himself. Thanks God.

All kidding aside, it is an honor, it is a burden, it is a blessing. Rich is a natural leader and God has molded him into a natural servant. We both believe strongly in giving of ourselves to the church, we are teaching our children to do so (oh, and Alexander begins his acolyte training this fall!). It is a beautiful, holy thing to receive communion from my husband. It is an opportunity for him to grow into a great instrument of God's. It is also terrifying.

Clergy come under such attack, spiritually. Clergy wives get sick. Clergy wives are supposed to be holier than I am. I said to the chaplain who is standing in as our priest right now that I was terrified, because now I had to behave. He said his wife never bothered to, so not to worry about it. He was joking, and so was I, but even more so, I have to be an example, not just to our children, or to the youth of our church, but to everyone. In a way, I'm supposed to be that anyway, by nature of my faith and baptism, but now I have this label that will cause people to (rightly) hold me to a higher standard.

And I am so weak. My prayer life is not as steady as it should be. It's really taken having children to teach and the blessing of the daily office that the Church so wisely set, that has me praying regularly at all. Oh, I prayed, and probably every day, but it wasn't consistent, I wasn't as focused on hearing from the Lord. It took my children shaming me this summer to even get back into the habit of the daily office when we weren't doing school every day! I need not mention that my reading of the Bible, the Church Fathers and the Saints is much more consistent now that I have children, whose religious formation is my primary responsibility. I am a studious person, and I studied these things before I was a Christian and after I was a Christian, but it's easy to go days or weeks or months without it when you are not bound by duty.

I know I've mentioned my quick temper. Evidently, this is not an ideal Christian trait. So, I hear. And even though it is a birth defect, I am duty bound to overcome my nature, as I frequently tell Rich when he tries to tell me that some annoying thing is hereditary. Then, there's this rising early to praise God thing. It keeps coming up in scripture and in sermons and even in hymns, and Rich and I are sick of it. 12:00 a.m. is early, right? I drive too fast, I get annoyed in traffic, I am able to write people off as not worth it when they give me too much grief (while thinking in the back of my mind that there is nobody worth it, yet God considered us worth it because of how great His love was for us), I can nurse a wound and keep alive the memory of a wrong done to me, it takes me a long time to hold real anger against someone, but it takes me even longer to forgive that person. I am really sarcastic and can be thoughtless. I don't have much patience. I am a little too aware of my rights. I am not a good candidate for a deaconess.

When I first had the inkling that perhaps God had plans for Rich in the ordained ministry, I was proud of my husband. I thought he was a great candidate. I have learned more about forgiveness and unconditional love from him than from anyone else. I have learned about sacrifice and obedience from him. He does it joyfully. I won't paint such a rosy picture as to say he does it easily all the time, but he is truly glad to do it. I can see him as a deacon. I'm not so sure about his wife, though.

It seems like the millstone keeps getting heavier and larger as we grow in our faith. First, there were our own children, then our priest trusted us with his and the children of our church! Please pray for Rich, for me, for our children. We will need some very practical help (and there are people already standing up to do just that - thank you!) and a great deal of spiritual covering as we transition to this new role. We will need it when Rich is ordained, too. And after that. This is an undertaking we cannot accomplish. But God can, and I guess that is the point.

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Being a clergy wife is not all bad- you will receive many blessings too.

Just trust that if we follow with God's plans, He will work out the problems and stumbling blocks. He uses those who do not fit the world's expectations so HE will get the glory.

Rememeber, God will never give us more than we can handle.

You will be in my prayers.

You know I understand exactly how you feel. D is really looked up to by the younger men he learns with and by default I am also expected to hold to this as well. He can be a Rabbi, but me a Rabbi's wife?! Are you kidding? You don't know me well do you? You and I have so much in common. The short comings you list are a replica of mine. It is true, G-d will only give you what you can handle, but also remember, while we have to work on our shortcomings to be sure, I find that sometimes having them, makes us more approachable. People often are more comfortable talking to someone if they think the other party can relate or sympathize with their shortcomings. And it seems to me that if we can overcome these things, then we can inspire other people to do so as well. But if we have never been there, then we can't understand where they are at. In other words, and hopefully shorter, you will make a perfect candidate, because you will understand exactly where these people are coming from. You and Rich are already an inspiration to so many, I know you will continue to be so in your new role.
Hi, Ranee!

Becoming a Clergy Wife really is a big step, speaking as a deacon's wife. The husband takes the vows, but they encompass the wife also. Although I've struggled with my role, for the most part it's worth it to see my husband doing what he loves so much.

As for "my role," I try not to take myself too seriously. If anyone thinks that just because you're a clergy wife, you've attained some higher level of spirituality... well, nothing like exploding myths and reinforcing reality!

BTW, I didn't ignore the "blog award" you gave me. My computer started acting up about that time, and so I didn't take the time to figure it all out. But I was very flattered. Thank you!

-- SJ
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