"Receive the gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are"

All of last week Michelle and I were in California for the ordination of Michelle’s dad, James Johnson, to the permanent diaconate. A deacon is an ordained minister who serves the Church in works of charity, preaching the Gospel, and assisting at the liturgy. Jim was ordained by Bishop Stephen Blaire in a beautiful liturgy held on Saturday, September 8 at the Cathedral of the Annunciation in Stockton. The diocese has posted photos of the ordination (NB: they don’t seem to work on Firefox).

Before the ordination, Dominic, Michelle and I helped their 94-year old grandmother move from the home she has lived in for over fifty years to an assisted living home in nearby Healdsburg. It was tough to see her struggling with her aging, but she seems to be secure in her new dorm, as we came to call it. The three of us then went back to Modesto and shortly thereafter the rest of the clan arrived—Dominic’s girlfriend Liz, whom he met in Russia, arrived from Istanbul where she had been traveling since they finished their program in Russia; Anita had spent the summer in Rochester, NY working with Frances; and Frances and Mike came in slightly later. With ten people in the house it was quite an adventure. We had a good time catching up on stories, eating plenty, and drinking to go along with it.

For the ordination Mass over 100 people whom Jim had invited came from all over the state—including my parents and Mike’s parents, both from Escondido/San Marcos—and joined the other hundreds of people who had been invited by the other eight men being ordained for the celebration. For me the most beautiful point of the liturgy is the Litany of the Saints, invoking all the holy men and women who have come before us to come into our midst, to pray for us, and to be a witness for us called to live out our baptism as they have. During this lengthy litany the ordinandi lay prostrate on the ground before coming before the bishop to be ordained through the laying on of hands, the guarantor of apostolic succession. They then are given the Book of the Gospels as they are told: Receive the gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.

After the liturgy there was a reception at the cathedral, which was followed by a reception held at Michelle’s cousin’s home nearby. There was an unending supply of wonderful food, including 10 gallons of ravioli, and plenty to drink. Sunday morning was Jim’s first Mass as a deacon, which was celebrated at their home parish of Our Lady of Fatima in Modesto. Deacon Jim performed all of the duties a deacon normally would, except the homily, which was delivered by another deacon of their parish who reminded us all of our command to set all aside in service of God and neighbor. Following this Mass, the parish hosted a reception, which included that most wonderful of staples at West-coast Catholic churches: lumpia (Filipino spring rolls for those not in the know). This was then followed by a party at Jim and Louise’s home for which Mike and I had been tasked with grilling: Michelle and I had planned ahead enough to make North Carolina style BBQ, by bringing some sauce and then slow smoking a whole lot of chicken. The day also involved plenty of time to play with Michelle’s cousin’s kids, chat with everyone, and just enjoy being a very large extended family.

Monday morning at 3:30AM Frances, Mike, Michelle and I were up and on our way to SFO to catch our early flights; now I’m rather exhausted. It was, however, a great blessing to be part of such a great celebration of ministry to the Church—both domestic and magisterial.

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