Our website is made possible by displaying online ads to our visitors.
Please consider supporting us by whitelisting our site.

Practice run as a deacon

First slide

Growing up as an altar boy, and spending the last five years as a seminarian, it has become so natural and normal for me to put on a cassock and surplice when serving Mass. Yet I recently found myself doing something that felt a bit uncomfortable and abnormal; I put on an alb and a dalmatic, the vestments of a deacon, for the first time. This surreal and almost supernatural moment struck me with some force because, God willing, I will be ordained a deacon in just over six weeks. The occasion for this moment was assisting at a “practice Mass” for a friend who will soon be ordained a priest. I felt as though I might have been dreaming, but it really was happening.

I was nervous approaching the sanctuary to begin the Mass because I’ve never kissed the altar before.  Questions were racing through my mind, “Do I genuflect with the priest or before him? Do I place my hands on the altar when I kiss it or keep them folded? Which chair is mine?”

Though we will practice the practical role of the deacon during Mass in seminary, we hadn’t had that class yet, and I clearly felt unprepared for this dry run. I was grateful there was no congregation to heighten my nervousness.

As the practice Mass continued, there were moments when I almost panicked. “What are the silent prayers for the preparation of the altar?” It was then I prayed to the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Mother for peace and to show me what to do and what to say — prayers that will surely get more frequent as I begin ministry as a deacon.

This “practice Mass” offered me a profound reflection as I near my diaconate ordination and left me enthusiastic for what the future holds as I strive to give my life to Jesus Christ completely as a priest. While the externals of performing baptisms, marriages and funerals already seem like a huge deal, it’s the more transcendent reality of this vocation that is starting to hit me. What matters won’t be what I do, but who I am, an “alter Christus,” another Christ. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “the sacrament of Holy Orders marks (the deacon) with an imprint ("character") which cannot be removed and which configures them to Christ, who made himself the "deacon" or servant of all” (Catechism, 1570).

It was a moving experience to celebrate even this practice Mass with my friends. We have known each other for years, encouraged each other through seminary, and as we each near ordination, we will be participating on deeper levels in the mystery of God’s divine liturgy.

Please pray for me and my class preparing to be ordained deacons this April, that we may live up to this sublime vocation to which God has called us.

Briggs, who is from St. John the Baptist Church in Front Royal, is in his third year of theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021