By Deacon Corey Close
A month ago I had the awesome privilege of being ordained a deacon in St. Peter’s Basilica, a moment during which I experienced the truest joy I have ever known. It was when I, both quietly and with force, made known to the world my desire to lay down my life for my friend, Christ.
The day, while filled with grace, left me with the question: what happened? It was such a rush of excitement that once the dust settled I was left to contend with a strangely ungraspable reality. I felt both the same and different all at once. My weaknesses, personality and being were largely unchanged, but something inside had radically shifted. This experience, I would venture a guess, is not unlike what a newly married couple experiences. The wedding is a joyful occasion, but soon the two must deal with the pressures of daily life. And so it was that I began this great adventure as a deacon.
In the month since ordination, I have had some opportunities to exercise my ministry. I have brought Communion to the sick and blessed things and people. What has affected me most deeply, though, has been serving at Mass. For most of my life, I saw Mass as a private thing. I would go to Mass, sit in my pew and pray for my needs. I saw it as an encounter between me and God.
But now, serving as a deacon, kneeling behind the altar as the priest consecrates the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, I look out and see the entire congregation kneeling in adoration and in anticipation of receiving their Lord. Now, more clearly than ever, I witness the communal nature of Mass. That we, as a wounded and weak people, come together to receive our food for the journey.
The priest is the one who makes this present, makes this possible, and with God’s grace I will be a priest next summer. That I, who barely stands and often falls with all the grace and strength that the Lord provides for me, should be the one to give his body and blood to others, humbles me and brings joy to my heart. For if the Lord can work this in my life, what life could he not touch?
My other great joy has been the ability to preach and proclaim the Gospel. As I sit down to write homilies, I am moved that God wishes to speak through me to touch the lives of those to whom I will preach. Whether I have a crowd of 30 or three, it still means the world to me — even if only one person might be touched by what I have to say. So I ask the Lord to open my heart to his wisdom, and my lips to say what he wants me to say.
So often when I do this, what I initially thought the homily would be about will suddenly take a turn to a completely unknown avenue, even places that I would naturally shy away from preaching. Sometimes it seems my homily is set, and then a quote, or a moment of prayer, or an event during the week alters its course yet again. Writing a homily is like riding a river you’ve never ridden — you’re not quite sure where it will lead. After preparing and praying, when the day arrives, there is joy in my heart when I proclaim the message. It is a joy to be the messenger of God.
I am so thankful for what the Lord has done, and while the struggles of daily life can always have me asking “what did I get myself into?” I know in my heart that the Lord will see me through every difficulty. God bless.
(Deacon Corey Close is a fourth-year seminarian studying for the Diocese of Davenport at the North American College in Rome.)