Yesterday I was given the news by the director of the Diaconate Office here in Melbourne that I would not be continuing in formation for ordination as a deacon in the Catholic Church.
As you can probably imagine, my first reaction was one of profound disappointment, especially as this is a calling I have been discerning since my reception into the Church in 2003.
If you had asked me yesterday afternoon why my formation had been discontinued, I would have answered that “I don’t think David Schütz was quite what they were looking for in a deacon.”
Very quickly, however, I realised that my reaction to this news was accompanied by a much stronger emotion than disappointment: that of relief. So much so, that when I arrived home, my first action was to open a bottle of champagne and share a glass with my wife, Cathy.
The kids thought it strange that I was celebrating a disappointment – and indeed that I was weeping as I did so. But a dear friend, Fr Pritchard, had earlier reminded me of a story I had once told him about my daughter Maddy when she was four years old. She had asked me “Daddy, you used to be a pastor didn’t you?” I replied, “Yes…” and she had said “But now you are my daddy, right?” Fr Pritchard said to me: “She still has her daddy.”
In recent months, it was becoming more and more clear to me – partly through the comments of close friends and colleagues such as Fr Pritchard and partly through my own sense of uneasiness about what lay ahead – that I was not really prepared to enter once again into clerical service. The work load for the year of aspirancy alone would have greatly diminished the time I had to spend with my family. Only yesterday morning, I had commented to another colleague that not since I had left the Lutheran ministry had my diary been so full of work related appointments.
It was therefore, you may say, a mercy to be “put out of my misery”.
The rightness of this decision was confirmed this afternoon in conversation with my Archbishop, Denis Hart. Together we discerned that God had gifted me with many talents that can be used with great profit in the service of God and of the Faith of the Church, but that these would in fact have be hampered rather than enhanced if I were to be placed in the role of deacon.
The decision does, however, place me in a strange situation. For the first time since I was about six or seven years old, the call to ordained ministry is no longer to be a part of my self-identity. That will take some getting used to.
Nevertheless, ever since my first day at the Lutheran Seminary in 1984 when the principal had preached a sermon about the primacy of the “outer call” over the “inner call”, I have always firmly believed that a true inner sense of vocation must be confirmed by the “voice of God” speaking through his Church.
I now have that clear confirmation of my calling. Or rather, my “non-calling”. What my true calling is will still take much more discernment.
This is not a case of God writing straight with crooked lines – it is a clear case of God writing straight with a thick black marker.