BEING late for Mass or even arriving just in time is no longer an option for 29-year-old Brisbane man Phillip Eid.
His bishop expects him to be there before anybody else and to be busy in the church. It’s all part of the commitment Phillip has made as a sub-deacon in St Clement’s Melkite Catholic parish at South Brisbane.
He has completed his first Christmas in the role and couldn’t be happier.
Sub-deacon is a minor order in the Melkite rite.
Melkite Eparch of Australia and New Zealand Bishop Robert Rabbat blessed Phillip as a sub-deacon at St Clement’s on November 28.
Sub-diaconate is a possible step towards priesthood in the Melkite rite, and Phillip is studying and preparing with that in mind.
Bishop Rabbat said however that not all sub-deacons necessarily went on to become priests.
“I always tell them (sub-deacons and men hoping to become priests) that patience is a virtue of sainthood,” he said.
“Nowadays we live in a world where people presume, because everything is at the speed of light, so everything has to be at the speed of light.
“I always tell people, ‘You might just be called to be a sub-deacon’.
“It is hard for people – when I mention that – for them to swallow it because we grow, as I say, in a world where if you work hard and produce then you have to be rewarded.
“I always tell people, ‘Remember one thing – the biggest reward we have, whether you are a sub-deacon or a lay person or whatever, is that God is there to welcome you regardless’.
“Now, of course, things might change on your calling but some people are called to be a sub-deacon and I tell them, ‘If you live this calling you might be also sending another example to people that, you know, you don’t have to be a bishop …’, because sometimes people associate these ideas that only bishops might know more than we do but, for God, you’re a child of His creation, however, he might have called you with different talents for different reasons.”
Bishop Rabbat said many young men requested to become sub-deacons “but then sometimes, for whatever reason, they might shy away, because also, with sub-diaconate, comes a commitment”.
“He has to make sure that he is there (in the church) for all prayers,” he said.
“It’s no longer like as a lay person who might say, ‘Well, maybe it’s Vespers, Evening Prayers; I have something else to do’,” he said.
“He has to be also earlier than anyone else, of course with the priest, to make sure that the candles are lit, to make sure that the altar is well prepared and worthy of the Eucharist, to make sure that this house of the Lord is not just mortar and bricks but a place where, when people come in, they have a foretaste of Heaven.”
Bishop Rabbat said the blessing of Phillip was a sign of hope for the Melkite community which includes many Lebanese and Syrian Catholics.
“We sometimes have a kind of, not dark, but a little bit of pessimistic outlook at the future, whereby we say, ‘Where are the young who seem to be more spiritual?’, or maybe people no longer feel that the Church listens to their voice or offers them something,” he said.
“Well, here we’re telling them, through God’s grace, that, ‘No, here is a young man who has taken the time, listened to God’s call, guided no doubt by the prayers of the community and the guidance of his priest, and is saying Yes to God’.
“It’s a sign of hope that we have a young man (giving the sign) that the young people are really not all staying away as sometimes we might think.”
Phillip has been touched by the support of the people at St Clement’s.
“You actually see the love the community has for the Church,” he said.
“The amount of support people give you to take that step is overwhelming.
“They fill you with joy.”
Phillip has been working in the hospitality industry and will continue to juggle part-time work and theological studies.
He will continue serving in the St Clement’s parish under the spiritual guidance of parish priest Fr Elie Francis who will help with exploring the richness of the Melkite liturgy.
By Peter Bugden