"So picking up a towel on the floor or a shoe or putting a single cut flower in a vase became a way to grow in love and unity," he said. "That practice continues to this day and the love grows."
Throughout his marriage, Coney said he has jointly discerned the will of God with his wife many times. As an example, Coney and his wife jointly discerned to turn down a transfer in his career and a promotion that would have meant uprooting their (at the time) six children.
"Our discernment had told us that money and success were not as important as what was best for our family," he said.
Coney's decision to become a permanent deacon was also a joint discernment, brought about by the couple's experience with the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, a movement with a particular emphasis on the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
"Like many people and most guys, I saw very little to like in Charismatics," Coney wrote of his first impression of the movement. "I dodged it until I was trapped into attending a Life in the Spirit Seminar. When prayed with for a greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit, nothing happened. Then later that night I began to speak in tongues."
"More importantly," he wrote, "I was filled with an insatiable appetite for reading scripture and spiritual books. Making time for personal prayer became important. I sensed a call from the Lord to serve."
His wife independently confirmed that she had also felt a call from the Lord that Coney should enter the permanent diaconate, a decision that Coney said is always best discerned as a couple. By the time Coney was ordained, he and Linda had four children. After ordination, they had three more, becoming a family of nine.
He had to learn to "juggle" life as a husband, father, lawyer and deacon, he wrote, but he said the Lord helped him by making smaller stretches of sleep feel longer and by helping him write his homilies in about an hour.
His prayer, he said, became: "Give me wisdom, knowledge, discernment and sound judgement."
It was also after ordination that the family felt called to join People of Praise, an ecumenical lay covenant community - to which Barrett continues to belong - that would allow his family to live in "a close knit Christian community, one like that described in the Acts of the Apostles, one that would help form our children into good Christians and strengthen our marriage and family."
"The glue which binds the members of the (People of Praise) is a promise to share life together and to look out for each other in all things material and spiritual," Coney added. "In this ecumenical community my faith has been nourished and my commitment to my friend Christ has grown deeper and stronger and has borne good fruit."
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
In his conclusion, Coney wrote that reflecting on his testimony made him grateful for the generosity of the Lord in his life.
"This scripture from Deuteronomy sums up how I feel. 'Do you not know that the Lord your God has carried you as a Father carries his child all along your journey?'"
Deacon Mike Coney continues to serve the parish of St. Catherine of Siena in Metairie, Louisiana.