Michael Duffy will be ordained a transitional deacon on December 8, in anticipation of his ordination next June. Some may remember his contribution, last year, to our “Habit of Witness” series, when he wrote about “The Collar as Yoke and Witness”
We are all called to follow and to conform to the promptings and teachings of Christ. But for the seminarian who will one day stand in persona Christi at the altar and offer His Body and Blood, this takes on new meaning. In a special way, priests are called to unite ourselves with the suffering of Jesus. It is only in this way that we can then stand in His Person. The Seminary is a time that helps us to inculcate this reality.
Formation is broken down into four areas, known as the “four pillars” of formation, which are human, spiritual, academic, and pastoral. In each area, every individual seminarian is challenged to grow. No part of us can remain unchallenged. We put our whole lives into this process. Because we do this while living with others who are equally striving toward this common goal of service, our time in seminary cannot be half-hearted; rather it takes the investment of our entire selves. We submit to God, which requires a great deal of prayer, and a willingness to be humbled—to see our strengths and weaknesses with clear eyes, so we can encourage the one or forgive the other, both in ourselves and in those around us. With Our Lady, who submitted her entire being to that of her Son, we seminarians have a model upon which to build our vocations.
You’ll want to read it all, and maybe pass it around!
Also going live tonight on the page, is our own Pat McNamara, writing on the joy he takes in assisting in seminary formation as a Professor of Church History. The seminary, he says, is a living thing:
. . .a place where vocations are nourished and future leaders are formed, intellectually, pastorally and spiritually. It’s an exciting place to be; there is within it a sense of urgency you don’t get elsewhere. Since 2003, I’ve taught Catholic Church history to young men studying for the Roman Catholic priesthood, as well as to laypeople pursuing advanced theology degrees. Having taught at every level from grammar to graduate school, I can honestly say that I have never enjoyed teaching anywhere as much as I do at St. Joseph’s Seminary.
It was St. Vincent De Paul (1576-1660) who said, “There is no greater work than the formation of priests.” As a layman, I can think of no greater honor than helping to form future priests. What an honor it is to be present at their ordinations. And there’s nothing like going to Mass and seeing one of your former students up on the altar. I pray for their vocations, and their commitment inspires me to want to be a better teacher, neighbor, husband and father. As Dorothy Day once told a priest relative of mine, “We need priests.”
And we need lay leaders, too. The men and women I teach in the Institute of Religious Studies are some of the most motivated students I’ve have ever encountered. Some are retirees, but most are religious education directors and catechists, Catholic school teachers and administrators, pastoral associates and music directors. This isn’t just another class to them. It has direct relevance for their pastoral work, in the classroom, the parish and elsewhere.
It all seems counter-narrative, doesn’t it? I’m enjoying reading these enthusiastic musings from the people actually in the seminaries!
UPDATE: Jennifer Fulwiler on the need to break the prevailing stereotypes:
I don’t know that I would necessarily advocate for less coverage of this kind of wrongdoing within the Church. The sexual assault of a child, or any similar offense, is a grave crime against humanity that we cannot take seriously enough. But there should be much, much more discussion of these kinds of cases when they come up within other institutions. Even someone who doesn’t care about the Catholic Church (or all the good priests whose reputations have been damaged) should be concerned about the wildly unbalanced media coverage of this issue, and the impact it’s had on the mentality of the general public. Because, as any Catholic who’s lived through the scandals of recent years can tell you: There are few things more dangerous to children’s welfare than the phrase “it couldn’t happen here.”