Martin McElroy Diocese of Portsmouth

Martin McElroy

Diocese of Portsmouth

“How long have you wanted to be a deacon?”
​This is one of the most common questions I am asked by parishioners and friends. It surprises them when I reply: “I didn’t want to: God called me.”

Now I wouldn’t want you to think that my vocation is unwilling: far from it – it has been the greatest joy of my life, alongside my wife and my children. But I spent 8 years resisting the Lord’s call, until I could no longer avoid his patient prompting. However, now that I have let myself be mastered (Jer 20:7), I have found great peace.

I had not thought about the diaconate, until my parish priest took me aside 11 years ago, and asked me whether I had considered it. I went away and diligently considered it. And, for 8 years, I said “Not now”:

  • “Not now, I’m busy with a demanding job and a long commute”;
  • “Not now, I have young children”;
  • “Not now, my daughter is seriously ill”.

All of these were true – but were also me trying to make the Lord go away.

After my daughter began to resume normal life after nearly 2 and a half years of treatment, it took me a long time to get myself back to normal. And then I began to hear a voice inside me saying: “Well, what about now?”

So, in Lent of 2014, I committed myself to a period of intense discernment, so that I would determine how to answer this persistent call. On Holy Saturday afternoon, I went into my study at home, and resolved that I would not come out until I had made a decision.

As I have done for all important decisions in my life, after praying for guidance, I divided a sheet of paper in 2, and put “Yes” at the top of one column and “No” at the top of the other. Then I began to list the thoughts and arguments on both sides: am I being called to the diaconate? When I reviewed the list, I found I had many more points in the “No” column than in the “Yes” – but I also saw that they were all about me: about my faults, my fears, my holding on to myself. And on the other side, the only points I had were about the Lord: His love, His grace, His gifts that He had given me. He was asking me to trust Him: to “put out into deep water” (Lk 5:4).

So I submitted, and entered formation in September 2014. Now, 3 years further on in my journey, I hear the same message – to trust in Him, because without Him I can do nothing (Jn 15:5). None of us know what the Lord has in store for us; none of us can see the end of where He is leading us: but we can carry on, one step at a time, following in the path that He will set (Prov 16:9).

Many of you reading this, are considering your vocation because you do a lot in your parish.
But in the busy activity of your life, are you setting time aside to listen to his gentle prompting?
Could he be calling you? And will you respond quicker than I did?