To be or not to be…

by Christine on September 1, 2012

In an earlier post I wrote about how I wasn’t convinced this was a journey my husband was supposed to take.  How could it?  This was life changing and it involved me also.  Actually, my part of this journey was quite more than “involving”…  my full support was expected – or more likely, necessary!  So how he be the only one hearing God’s voice to this calling?  I didn’t hear or feel anything pulling me in this vocational direction.

However, after quite a bit of prayer and reflection (and reading a book that had nothing to do with the diaconate program), I experienced what was like an epiphany of sorts and felt in my heart that my husband’s direction was heartfelt and it was my duty as his loving wife (remember the part, “For better – for worse”), to actively support him and encourage him every step of the way.

I am so proud that God has chosen my husband… of all the men he could choose, my husband was one of them.  Obviously God saw something special in him and I needed to wipe the grime off my eyes and see what God sees.

Before this “epiphany” I would look at my husband and see him with my loving wife eyes, my human eyes.. my judgmental wife eyes, my “I’ve been looking at this man for 12 years” eyes… Granted, I’d see an honest, loving and very generous husband and father.  And that was enough for me.  And then I saw him as I think God saw him…

A man who’s principal desire is to please God, and by the same token please his wife, family and church community.  A man hungry for answers about his faith and always excited to share what he’s learned. A very smart and educated fellow but also humble and sensitive at times.  A serious man with a heart for the needy and a desire to bring technology to everyone who has eyes to see.  A man who’s always met his obligations no matter how tempting it was to let some slide.  A husband who’s always supported his wife, no matter where her journey has taken her.  A father with unconditional love for children that have not always been understanding of their dad’s life journey…

When my grimy eyes were cleansed and all this was revealed to me, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that my position would be to give my husband full support – no matter where his discernment led him.  And simply to support him was not enough… I needed to stand by him with joy and gratefulness in my heart.  Grateful that God loves me so much that he blessed me with a man who would hear His voice and follow it.

I guess in my naivety I thought that all the wives would have gone through the same kind of process at one level or another and I imagined that now by this time, almost a year into the program, all the wives would be standing by their man – and not only standing by but supporting with joy, gratefulness and pride.

However, I was to learn that not all wives experience what I am experiencing…  early August a yearly, weekend retreat was held for the couples.  It wasn’t mandatory but we certainly were expected to attend.

Not all the wives were present and I know that some had valid reasons for not being there…. jobs, family, etc.  And some I know simply refused to be there.

What surprised me the most (and saddened me also), were the few wives that were there and made no effort to hide the fact that they wished they were anywhere else.  One looked downright angry and made no attempt to be friendly.  She had that look that said, “My husband made me come and if I’m going to be here, I’m going to make sure he’s as miserable as I am”.  I did my best to make her feel welcome but she just wasn’t going to be happy. The few times I did see her smile, it’s was more like her gritting her teeth!

Another lady was with a small group and although she didn’t say anything to me directly, she did tell her group that she didn’t support her husband at all in this journey and that she just wanted to leave.

I pondered about this for a while… my first thoughts were, “What is wrong with these women?  Don’t they know how blessed they are?”  One could easily point a finger and say, “How can this wife be so selfish?”

Then it occurred to me that these women were truly and deeply unhappy about their husbands’ calling.  For whatever reason.  It is not for me to question or to judge their life journey.  I’m sure they’ve had plenty of discussions about it and I’m sure both parties are well aware of how the other feels.  Then the question arises…  How can a husband go ahead with this when he knows how unhappy it makes his wife?  I understand the higher calling but I also understand the importance of the sacrament of marriage.  Is God happy to see this couple divided this way?

You know how people say, “You’ll know if this is the right thing to do.. the right decision to make… God will send you signs.”  Well I guess not all the signs he will send you will guide you in the direction YOU want to take.  I know from experience that He will often send messages/people/circumstances that are pointing you in the opposite direction.  And many times there is no doubt about it – He knows what is right for you and that’s rarely what YOU think is right for you.

Is it possible that these husbands are listening to the desires of their hearts and not God’s voice?  Could it not be possible that these wives are God’s instruments to lead the husbands down a different path?  I don’t know the answer to this but I do know that these ladies made absolutely no effort to hide their disapproval.  Not to mention the wives that didn’t show up.  This was a week-end that had been scheduled a year earlier… plenty of time to put it on your calendar and make it a priority…  again, I’m not judging but hearing from the husbands what their wives reasons were for not coming, their priorities were certainly not this diaconate retreat.

A lot of time, a lot of resources, a lot of preparation goes into the diaconate formation program.  Not to mention the financial expense on the diocese to prepare these men (and their families), for this special vocation.  Is it fair for these men to pursue?  Is it the right journey at this time in their lives?  Will it cause dissension and separation in their lives instead unity and closeness to God?

I know Deacon Tim is working on preparing an event (a few hours on a Saturday), for the wives only and hosted by an appropriate leader.  This may allow some wives to vent and express their feelings.  I think it is much needed and I can only hope that wives will attend.

For now, all we can do at this time is to continue to pray for all the men and women in the program.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Mick Spencer September 1, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Wow! You have written about a lot of problems, so I won’t be able to comment on many of them. I’m surprised that the couples retreat wasn’t mandatory for both aspirants and their spouses. The deacons’ retreats are mandatory for deacons but not wives although they are encouraged to come, but during my formation wives were required to attend the retreats and some classes. The role of the deacon’s wife, I’m sure you know, is what the deacon and his wife determine it to be. I have known some wives who were more active than their deacon husbands and others who are completely inactive. I spent 3 hours once working with a deacon in his living room while his wife remained in another part of the house. I first met her 4 years later at her husband’s funeral. At most retreats we had one or two sessions for wives only. My wife told me that there was a lot of apprehension among the wives because so much was required of their husbands. This was especially true for those with children at home. I, myself, in talking with some wives (we did a lot of socializing) noticed the same thing, but to a lesser extent. After ordination, at the first get together and again at the first annual deacon retreat, we both noticed that they were much relieved. Perhaps we should have a day for aspirant wives, attended by some of our deacon wives, to give them an idea of what they’re in for. Next time I see you we could talk about some of these things. And may Almighty God bless you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

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Paula Gonzales Rohrbacher October 4, 2012 at 3:41 pm

We have had men who felt sure that they were called, but were later asked not to continue the formation process. And sure enough, they were the ones whose wives were ambivalent about it.

When push comes to shove, the wife of the man seeking ordination as a permanent deacon has to give her consent for ordination to take place. It has to be honest, heartfelt and sincere.

If the men in formation in your husband’s class continue with the process, and they are the ones whose wives are so ambivalent or hostile, I hope that they will take a hard look at why they have decided to continue when their wives are opposed.

A deacon’s wife is not required to participate in any of the formation process (at least in our diocese), but she is encouraged to do so, especially to have an opportunity to ask questions about how the diaconate will affect her life and the life of her family, in addition to the effect on her husband.

Finally, if their husbands are ordained, these women will be members of a community of mutual support and love, and I hope they will be able to overlook their behavior during their husbands’ formation being discussed in a public forum by a fellow deacon’s wife!

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Christine October 8, 2012 at 3:53 pm

The deacon in charge of formation is doing his best in bringing the wives together to discuss these & other issues. However, I get the feeling that the women who are eager to participate in these meetings are the ones that are excited about their husband’s calling. Although I’m sure these gatherings will be most beneficial, it’s not going to help if those particular wives don’t attend. We’ll have to see!

As for discussing this in a public forum, my intent is not to chastise or criticize… no names are mentioned and I’m pretty sure few wives read my posts!

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