Friday, February 6, 2009
What do you ask?
On November 8, 2008, I became a postulant for the diaconate in the Episcopal Church, a next step toward ordination as a deacon. After almost 18 months of personal and corporate discernment, it was a quiet transformation marked only by the silent appearance in my inbox of a letter from the Bishop. Quite a contrast to the postulancy ceremonies still observed in some religious communities where the aspirant knocks three times on the door of the convent. The superior answers the door saying, "What do you ask?" The aspirant answers, "The mercy of God and of the order" and is welcomed over the threshold. Over the next months or years, she'll test her vocation in the context of community. Does she truly "belong"?
What do you ask? The word "postulant" is from the Latin "postulare"--to ask or demand. The same Latin root gives us the verb "postulate" which means "to make claim for" and "to assume or assert the truth." This suggests not a timid request, but a confident declaration of what I believe to be true of myself and my call. At the same time, postulancy is a time of discernment. It is, as the Benedictine's advise, a time for me and my community to listen with the ear of the heart. No wonder we ask for mercy.