|Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Quaker Hill, Connecticut. Summer 1992.|
A few days ago I heard that Deacon Ron was nearing the end of his journey in this life, and since then the friars and I have been praying for him and his family. Today I see that he passed away on Thursday.
My initiation into the Catholic faith was rather irregular; I dare to say that I was born out of order like St. Paul. (cf. 1 Cor 15:8)
I was a dumb kid. I thought I was very smart, as young people often do after they have learned a little bit of this or that. But I was quite innocent, and, as the saying goes on the worst kind of ignorance, I didn't know what I didn't know.
But nevertheless, God was at work and I knew I wanted to become a Catholic, even though I had no idea what I was getting myself into -- and this is divine mercy; if it was all revealed to us, we might be overcome with fear. I have told my conversion story elsewhere -- light version here -- and how I came to be in the pastoral care of Deacon Ron.
He and his wife received me into their home with great kindness over that summer of 1992 when I stayed at school in New London and was employed by the reference department in the library. I must have seemed on odd figure to them, with my good old 8-hole ox blood Docs and I shudder to think what t-shirts ill-suited to the occasion, with a lot of book-learning about the faith (or so I thought) but quite short on any practical sense of such a Church being made up of actual people.
Nevertheless, Deacon Ron and his wife were extraordinarily gentle and welcoming, and from their example I learned more than I realized at the time. Deacon Ron was the first person I met who had a real personal devotion to a saint -- St. John Vianney -- and I observed how that fit into someone's ministry and prayer.
After Deacon Ron baptized me, while I was straightening up from leaning over the font, I heard him say, quietly but audibly,
It has always stayed with me; I think because I could understand, even somewhat at the time, that he wasn't exactly saying that it was beautiful that this random kid from up-at-the-college had been baptized, but that in this he was able to see through to divine beauty.
That is to say, in theological terms, that a sacrament had happened.
When Deacon Ron let out about the divine beauty he glimpsed in that moment, I learned something -- even if in such a way as to not be very aware of it at the time -- about the spirituality of the sacred ministry, the ministry which, some fifteen years later, the Order would assist me in discerning as my own path in religious life.
It was a very special joy for me when, still a very new priest, I had a chance to return to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, where Deacon Ron had baptized me, and celebrate the Sunday Mass with Deacon Ron's assistance. And not to forget the particular service of being the wife of a permanent deacon, Ron's wife helped me out with the particular 'volunteer from the audience' shtick that I used in my homily that day.
You have passed away from us for now, Deacon Ron, but the fruits of your ministry and your good example remain. May St. John Vianney welcome you to your service at the Heavenly Altar.
Requiescat in pace.