“The future starts today, not tomorrow.” St. Pope John Paul II
A number of years ago, ten to be exact, my oldest son started high school at Guerin Catholic. His principal at the time was a likeable guy named Rick Wagner. He hadn’t yet been ordained a deacon, but one could spot that Jesus-loving twinkle in his eye from a mile away. Although we’ve met briefly (several times) since then, the truth is that we really don’t know one another at all. Candidly, this is precisely the reason I have chosen him as my “Person of the Week”.
Allow me to explain.
Deacon Rick has a rather special charism through which the Lord clearly uses this particular man. He is a profoundly gifted storyteller. What makes him especially effective is his accessibility. Conveying the importance of loving and serving the Lord with one’s life in a way that each person in his path can clearly understand is a piece of cake for Rick. Fancy, complex language is not his thing. Authenticity, genuine care, and kindness are more his jam.
From afar, I’ve noticed the way he honors his marriage and expresses his love for his wife, Carol, and his children and grandchildren. Just yesterday, for instance, he posted a beautiful and touching “Happy Birthday” message to his wife on social media. What made it spectacular was the photo he chose to accompany his touching words– he was dressed in an inflatable “Pillsbury Doughboy” costume and Carol was in some ridiculous dinosaur get up. To me, that was a life filled with love and laughter summed up rather succinctly, and I found it inspiring. It was also hilarious!
If you follow Deacon Rick on social media, and I sincerely hope you do, you’ll quickly pick up his impressive ability to shepherd others towards Christ. He’s self-effacing, but he’s also convicted. He gives guidance about how to draw closer to joy, peace, and love itself with humor and patient reminders about what truth looks like.
Author Bob Goff is one of my favorites for his uncanny ability to spot the Lord in the everyday. Personal storytelling is his forte, and just like Deacon Rick, the thing that makes the humorous personal anecdotes truly work is that they are reliably other-focused and Christ-centered. I don’t know either of these men, but it hasn’t stopped them from making a significant impression upon my life and a difference in my daily choices. Both of them are personal heroes of mine.
Over the years, Rick Wagner has written down so many lessons and given countless numbers of beautiful talks and retreats. The following are among the lessons I’ve taken in and tried to improve upon in my own life, largely due to hearing them as themes in his work or talks. I’m saying them much less well than he does, but you’ll get the idea. Here’s one for each day of the week.
- I can notice others, make sure they feel seen.
- Invest in relationships– with God and others. It’s worth the time.
- Be yourself. It makes people feel like they can be real too.
- Christ is with me, THIS SECOND.
- TODAY is a powerful word. We are called to be the light of Christ for others- NOW.
- I am not worthy or capable? Fake news. Not of God.
- We can be joyful in all circumstances. Yes, I said ALL.
The badassery of Deacon Rick’s giftedness is not properly conveyed here, though I’ve tried to give you a taste. In many hundreds of previous blog posts, I truly don’t think I’ve ever suggested you fine folks follow anyone on Twitter. Let’s be honest, it’s the wild, wild west online. That said, you brave souls who want to find the sparkly part of the internet should give him a peek @DeaconRWagner or check out his blog at fromthedeaconsdesk.wordpress.comfromthedeaconsdesk.wordpress.com.
Yesterday, on the feast of St. Francis de Sales, the good Deacon shared this quote, which is an apt description of exactly what I see in him and why I chose to tell you about him today. But first, I want to say one more thing. It’s important that each of us remembers that our little bit of sunshine can bring light to others– even those we do not know. That’s what Deacon Rick has done for me, and so many others. So many, in fact, that I found myself talking about him behind his back at a meeting today. Essentially, what I attempted to say about him i that meeting is contained in this quote he shared just a day ago.
“Faith is like a bright ray of sunlight. It enables us to see God in all things as well as all things in God.” –St. Francis de Sales
THANK YOU, Deacon Rick, for all you do each day for others. You have been the face of Christ to me on many occasions by sharing your faith journey, and I am way past overdue to express my gratitude!! Your reward is my “person of the week” honor, which comes with exactly zero prize money and even less prestige. CONGRATULATIONS, ha?!
Deacon Rick Wagner serves at St. Pius X in Indianapolis and is currently the President at Guerin Catholic High School in Noblesville. He’s a proud husband, dad, and grandpa to a family full of truly blessed humans.