Formation for the priesthood is serious business, but even people engaged in serious business need some time to relax. Mount Angel has a monthly “Free Weekend” to make sure that we seminarians take the time to recreate ourselves. Every weekend has free time, but on Free Weekends seminarians can return home, go camping, or spend a couple of nights away from the Hilltop.
This last Free Weekend (February 20-22), four of us Sacramento guys—Ivan, Ivan, David, and myself—took the opportunity to visit Portland (Preston, a seminarian from the Diocese of Honolulu, also joined us). The biggest city in Oregon is just an hour away from Mount Angel, but there’s a huge difference between the bustling city and our peaceful Hilltop.
After Saturday morning Mass, we set out for Portland. Our first stop was The Grotto, a Marian shrine with an incredible view. We spent time walking the Grotto’s replica of the Chartres Cathedral labyrinth and enjoyed an incredible view from a cliff-top chapel.
After the tranquility of the Grotto, we jumped into the activity of the downtown. We lunched at a burger joint, browsed the largest bookstore in the world, and finished off with a visit to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
We didn’t spend the whole weekend away from our studies, but it was a well-needed break in the middle of mid-term exams. Even better, it was a chance to bond as friends and diocesan brothers. Thanks be to God for free time!!!
This semester we have two new seminarians from Sacramento at Mt Angel. This is the (I think) the second time we have had men join in the middle of the year. It’s something we aren’t used to, and it has made me think a lot. As I get to know my new brothers well I realize just how much of a process of discernment is and how the beginning and the end look different. I remember when I was at the beginning looking at guys where I am know thinking it must be nice to be done discerning or coming to points where I thought I was done discerning. Which made me realize discernment, while on going, isn’t the same thing at all times.
It is true that at this point I am not struggling with the question “is this God’s will for me?” just four months from diaconate I’m pretty sure it is and it seems the Church, through the seminary, is as well. But let’s not loose sight of “pretty sure” perhaps I won’t be recommended or called to orders. So what is it that I am discerning now? That’s a good question. Let’s take the long road to get there.
Discernment of the priesthood starts out in a very subjective way. “Is God calling me?” “Should I go to seminary?” “Diocesan or religious priesthood?” these are basic questions and then there is the doubt, the questions, the hesitations. So it’s all about the person and is what he hears a call and what to do with it. From there he brings in the Church by seeking counsel talking to a vocations director and perhaps from there enters seminary. Where he is formed and known. In the early years it is still subjective but less so, the Church starts to form an opinion. Then a sense of surety, that one is called to the priesthood. The discernment shifts, “what needs to be done to be a good priest” “Where do I need to change to be a holy and good priest” “What gifts do I have and I do I incorporate them into ministry”. It seems a little subjective still but is more directed toward ordination. All along the seminary and diocese is discerning as well. “Does he seem inclined to pastoral ministry? “Does he sustain a spiritual life which corresponds to his vocation?”
These are just some of the things that go on as one progresses in his discernment. So the real message, point isn’t to share where I am at with my discernment. But rather to let you know that it’s a process and where you are at is okay, as long as you don’t stay there! Like many things in life, discernment is about moving or else you fall backwards. You’re not going to have the answer definitively in a fixed amount of time. Nor is moving forward a solemn and irreversible commitment to priestly ordination. So take courage where you’re at in this moment and move a step forward. Perhaps you need to call a vocations director or perhaps make a retreat or perhaps to own that you’re next step is to join a diocese or religious order and discern with them.
We’ve been back in school for about a month now so I’ll try and recap the events of the last month.
We were very happy to have our two new brothers with us. I’ll have (hopefully) their bio’s up soon.
We begin our Spring semester with our annual silent retreat. The retreat this year was given by Msgr Joseph Hanefeldt, who will soon be ordained Bishop and installed as Bishop of Grand Island, Nebraska. Msgr Hanefeldt gave a series of conferences on priestly virtues. The virtues he presented were: availability, generosity, receptivity, and pastoral charity, at least those are the ones I remembered. A virtue is classical understand as a character trait which one cultivates and develops. It was a spin on a classic topic and very well done! Retreats are a great time to focus on the spiritual life and gain insight. While the conferences are important equally important is the time spent in prayer and listening for God’s voice.
Classe came in with a bang! After the weekend off we were back at the books and the Walk for Life came upon us quickly. Half of the seminary went and the other half stayed and participated in our annual “Peace and Justice Day”. It is a day of service which is done in conjunction and in solidarity with the Walk for Life. It involves a lot of community outreach and so serves as an important reminder that while we fight the ever important battle for respect for life, from natural conception to natural death, we have to care for life as well. I’ll write more when the pictures come in and we have some from Walk for Life as well. We spent the morning at a food bank or school and the afternoon in community gardening; the day was spent helping illiteracy (a huge factor in poverty) and hunger Here’s some of us at work!
Yesterday, Super Bowl Sunday, we had our annual party which was great fun. I was surprised that despite being in the Pacific Northwest we had a number of Patriots’ fans. Part of our party is a chili cook off. My class participated but sadly didn’t win. But we have a final chance for victory next year. The Super Bowl game is proceeded by our own flag football game. The teams are the “New Men” (those guys who started this year) and the “Old Men” (those who have been around) for some reason we’ve changed the name to “Returning Guys” I think it’s because the age span has increased here ;) ;)
Today we celebrate the Presentation of the Lord and in some ways closes our celebration of the Incarnation. This feast marks when our Lady and St Joseph brought the Lord to the Temple. Here at Mt Angel we have Mass in the evening and it begins with the blessing of candles outside and a procession into the darkened church. It reminds us that Christ is the “light to the nations and glory of Israel”.
Lastly please keep our Theo III and Theo IV guys in prayer as they begin the process for diaconate and priestly ordination. As the details of my diaconate start being settled there’s a sense of excitement and joy but at the same time it is a sobering feeling as well. As our Lord says in the Gospel “to whom much is given much is expected” (Luke 12:48).
This new video came out and while a bit longer than normal it is a very good one. It presents the reality of discernment. It should encourage you in your discernment, not by inspiring you but hopefully by showing you how down to earth and human the process is. Enjoy!
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