Saturday, October 19, 2013

An Evening at Our Lady of Providence Seminary

I was privileged to spend an hour with the seminarians of Our Lady of Providence Seminary on Friday evening.  Here is some of what I shared with them.

What is Saint John’s Seminary?

It is a holy house, founded by the Archdiocese of Boston, which has formed more than 3,000 men to serve as priests throughout New England.

Its’ work is guided by our Holy Father, through Pastores Dabo Vobis and Optatum Totius and by the Bishops of the United States of America through the Program of Priestly Formation.

But most of all it is priests, each having discerned the quiet call of God deep within their hearts.  Men like our faculty, about a dozen full-time and another dozen adjunct, who have dedicated their lives to helping men like you to die to themselves that Christ might increase and we might decrease.  They are Priests who know they teach more by who they are than what they say, and so their first work is to seek after holiness in all the little things, that Christ might be praised in all the big things.

Saint John’s Seminary is people...85 resident seminarians and another thirty or so from the Oblates of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Redemptoris Mater Seminary, Redemptorists (C.Ss.R.), Franciscans (O.F.M.), and Franciscans (O.F.M., Cap.).

A quarter of them are from Boston and the rest mainly from Dioceses all around New England, although we have a few seminarians who will return to Vietnam and even one who will serve, God willing, as a Priest in the Apostolic Vic. of Southern Arabia for the rest of his life.

They are Engineers, oceanographers, craftsmen and scholars.  Several had doctorates when they arrived and each have the same eagerness and purity of heart I see in your eyes.

Saint John’s is the sixth largest Theologate serving the United States and the oldest and largest Seminary in New England.  Many of your brothers now live there, and they will describe Saint John’s with a different set of eyes than mine, but hopefully, with the same Shepherd’s heart.

The best part of this hour we have together is our opportunity for dialogue, that I might answer some of your questions about Saint John’s or anything else you would like to discuss, but let me do two more things before we get to that.

First, I would like to say something about how much I admire you.  Then I'd like to share an excerpt on the new Documentary on Saint John’s entitled A Seminary Life, which is playing on Catholic TV and will soon be available for massive distribution.

First, you.  You are a seminarian, and as a pastor of seminarians, a Rector, my heart grows bigger whenever I see you.  You are good for me.  You make me a better priest by your example, your fortitude and your faith.

I will never forget the seminarian I met with just a short time after becoming rector last year who was going through a tough patch.  With his whole heart and soul all he wanted to do was the right thing and he looked at me through the tears and said, “Monsignor, all I want to do is give my life to Jesus and to his Church.  And he meant it with every fiber of his being.

That seminarian is you on your better days, and I pray God, still sometimes me as well.  All we want to do is God’s will.  

But priestly formation is no easy task, and priestly ministry is no simple life in the first decades of the twenty-first century.  For, as the Lord himself assured us, the world will often treat the Priest as it treated him, the One whom they hung upon the cross for our salvation.  This Seminary must prepare men like you for ministry in a world of too many wolves who too often enjoy devouring shepherds.

When you preach the Lord Jesus, and not the latest self-indulgent fantasies of the world, you will be reviled and obnoxious to those who would deny the Truth who is Christ;

When you proclaim fearlessly that the life of every human being, no matter how young or how old, rich or poor, well or ill enjoys a dignity that comes from the Creator, you will be deemed foolish, old fashioned, or insensitive to technological advances;

When you live and preach fidelity and purity, you will be considered quaint or prudish and out of touch with the real world;

When you are peaceable, gentle and merciful, many will smirk with innuendo, spitefulness and cruelty;

When you live as servants and defenders of the poor, always seeking the last place, the world will call you naïve, and will tempt you with the pleasures of prestige and worldly treasure.

But rest assured, my dear brothers, that you have been called to be nothing less than living images of Christ, Head, Shepherd, and Bridegroom.  The Christ who corrects his ambitious and self-righteous disciples...Jesus, the Son of the Living God through whom all things were made, stooping down before arrogant men, embracing a child, and declaring that, unless you become like a little child, small and innocent, and pure, you shall not enter the Kingdom of God.

Such is the Priesthood which you are discerning and forming and grasping for.  And as such, you are the most blessed among men.

So sow, let me share with you A Seminary Life: Saint John’s Seminary.