Joyful news of a new deacon: Scott Jablonski Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Thursday, Apr. 18, 2013 -- 12:00 AM
This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.

Dear Friends,

This last weekend in Baraboo I ordained Scott Jablonski to the diaconate and I’m so very grateful to Scott and to Fr. Jay Poster and the faithful in Baraboo for their tremendous welcome and hard work in preparing for the Mass. Here I’d like to recount a few things I shared with our new deacon and the people there, but would address here to all the faithful:

Sons of the bishop

The deacons and the priests of the diocese, in a special way, are all sons of the bishop. And although the ages don’t quite work out for all of the priests and deacons, it works fine with Deacon Scott.

And this is why it’s such a blessing to be a bishop, even with everything else that comes along with the office; it’s so wonderful because the bishop gets to call the deacon or the priest, “my son.”

This year, in the Year of Faith, we’ve been talking about the beauty of our faith — the beauty that shows forth in works of charity (at which so many of you do so well as a Christian community), the beauty expressed in the liturgy, the beauty that is manifest in the Truth of Jesus Christ which we receive through the Church and believe.

Our life of faith is one in which we find ourselves surrounded by beauty. And the beauty of our faith life is one which is captured beautifully by the Scriptures read at each of our parishes this past weekend — and which Scriptures also apply beautifully to the Diaconate.

And so, from our Scriptures, and in the spirit of Pope Francis, we have three words to consider: Testify (a good strong word), Ascend (a mysterious word), and Sacrifice (which word is particularly powerful in our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ).

Testifying to the truth

The First Reading from this past weekend (Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41) was all about that word: testify. Look at what the Apostles were able to do; before the Holy Spirit came, in the Upper Room, they were afraid of their own shadows. But, once the power of the Resurrection was fully released on them, by the Holy Spirit, they could say to the civil, political, and religious authority (who were operating without recognizing the New Covenant): “It’s better to obey God than to obey you!” The Apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit, now had courage — they had guts!

We all live at a time when, fighting for our religious freedom, we have to say the say the same thing to the civil and political authorities.

If the government commands us to do something that we can’t do, we’re put in the same position of saying, “it is better to obey God than to obey you.” I hope we all measure up, like the Apostles did. The Apostles could have chosen to be politically correct, but they didn’t.

One of the biggest temptations of our time is the temptation to be politically correct in order simply to be more accepted, and so that more people will like us. The Apostles didn’t seem to be worried about that when it came to the truths of the faith — they testified!

What happened when the Apostles were threatened? “If you don’t stop talking this way, we’re going to beat you up and worse,” they were told. And the Apostles said, basically, “no, it’s not possible that we should stop.”

And so the Apostles received a good beating (Acts 4:40a) and then they continued to testify with greater energy. The Apostles didn’t walk away saying, “Oh, they taught us a lesson, we’ll never do that again.” They said, “We thank God that we’ve been judged worthy of dishonor for the sake of that Name!”

There is no other Name given to people by which they are to be saved. All the better for us if we are to be dishonored for the sake of that Name. This is testifying.

New deacon is great witness

The beauty of the Office of Deacon, includes testifying — by proclaiming the Gospel at the liturgy, but also by proclaiming the Gospel in daily life!

In their friendships, in their work, in their hospital visits, in all things, the deacon is to testify. Our new Deacon Scott is a very great witness — he loves to testify, and he’s one of the most pleasant testifiers I’ve ever met.

The Lord has given him such marvelous gifts, that he’s now put at the Lord’s disposal. Scott testifies and does it naturally, with ease, and in a conversation he pulls everybody else in. There is fun, and there’s laughter, and good humor, but there is testimony and there is testifying.

Helping faithful ascend to heaven

The second word to focus upon is, “ascend,” and the Second Reading did that particularly well, with John’s vision of having been taken up to heaven (Rev 5:11-14), and looking upon all the angels, and the saints and all living creatures surrounding the throne of the Lamb who was slain and proclaiming His great Glory. This is the heavenly moment of the “Through Him, and with Him, and in Him…” at the Mass.

Part of the beauty of the Office of Deacon is to ascend. The deacon has a formal place at the altar, where the prayers of the people are offered to the Lord. The deacon brings forth and presents the gifts of the people as an offering to the Lord.

Our new Deacon Scott is a very reverent person. He understands that when he is at the altar with the priest, that we’re not in the pizza parlor, and that another style is called for — one of great reverence.

And in order to perform with reverence at the altar as a deacon, you have to be a reverent man, treating people with reverence in your daily life. If the deacon treats all people with reverence in their daily lives, then when he is the presence of Almighty God, the reverence with which God is treated is all the more intense, because the virtue of reverence has been formed.

The word is ascend, because at the altar, Deacon Scott is to be one of the leaders of the community as they ascend up to heaven — a place of total reverence.

And just as our new deacon knows well how to conduct himself in the world testifying, he also knows how to ascend when its time — so that people’s minds and hearts are drawn in and lifted up to heaven itself.

Free of earthly cares at the Mass

What a beautiful thing that is for people, just for some moments, to be able to lay aside their earthly cares and ascend to heaven and, as the beautiful Eastern hymn says, “Welcome the King of All, who comes escorted by angels, by countless hosts of angels. Let us lay aside all our earthly cares so that we may welcome the King of All.”

Reverently, Deacon Scott accepts, shares, and carries the cares of people day-to-day, but he is also now to show and teach the people, by reverence and his willingness to ascend, that there is a moment when they can be free from those earthly cares because heaven is intensely present to them and they are intensely present to all the angels and saints in heaven – right at the Mass.

The deacon testifies, but the deacon also ascends; that’s part of the beauty of the diaconate.

Deacons also sacrifice for the Church

And, of course, the deacon sacrifices. He doesn’t offer the One Eternal Sacrifice of Christ as a priest (Yet! — but that will come for Deacon Scott), but he prepares by sacrificing personally. He deepens his own habit of life as a sacrifice. The transitional deacon makes his promise of chaste celibacy for the sake of the people at his ordination.

“When you grow old,” Jesus says to Peter in the Gospel of this past Sunday, “you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”

And although Deacon Scott is not so old, the Gospel of the day applies to him (Jn 21:1-19). In a certain sense, by his formation and ordination, Deacon Scott is “getting old” spiritually. That becomes a way of life for the person consecrated to God’s service.

I can’t tell you the last time I had a week when I wasn’t forced to go someplace where I did not want to go (when it would have been easier and more pleasant to be somewhere else).

But I’m happy as a clam, because it’s not about me and where I want to go — it’s about Jesus Christ and where He wants me to go! I’ve found a happiness, a deep joy, in being where He wants me to be that I could never find somewhere that I simply felt like being at the moment.

Celibacy as joyful sacrifice

Jesus Christ tied a rope around Deacon Scott at his ordination. The name of that rope is “celibacy,” and it is both a fruit and a cause of spiritual maturity.

As a human male, Scott wanted nothing more than to be a great husband and a great dad, but Jesus Christ has asked him to sacrifice it, and has given him all the grace he needs to sacrifice it, and has tied a rope around him so that he stays right on track.

There is an intensified Grace of Baptism that comes with ordination to live the life of celibacy out of love for God and His people. It allows the celibate to find joy in his sacrifice. It is one of the strongest proofs of God’s existence in the world, for there is no other way to explain it.

Celibacy is a gift of sacrifice, given with joy, for the service of God. And, in a sense, it doesn’t get easier to live a life of celibacy. Some people think celibacy gets easier as you get older because the “old flame” dies, as it were.

Indeed that flame does die down, but other realities come to light as the priest grows older and watches, for instance, the faithful couple in the hospital — the wife who never leaves her husband’s side in his illness.

Beauty of the sacrifice

That faithfulness, the older priest begins to appreciate, is the real beauty of marriage. And the celibate sacrifices that companionship and suffers a kind of loneliness that really is profound as you get older. (Though oftentimes God supplies for that through marvelous friends.)

So, celibacy remains a difficult sacrifice, but through a habit of prayer, the celibate is given the strength and determination not to try to untie the rope placed around him by God. The deacon is called to sacrifice, especially through celibacy, never forgetting that perfect love make sacrifice a joy.

Testify, ascend, and sacrifice — the beauty of the diaconate. It is God’s gift to Deacon Scott, and by that gift, God gives the Church and the diocese a new deacon and – please God – soon a new priest!

Thank you for taking the time to read this. May God bless each and every one of you! Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!