Time has really flown by and I am sorry I am late in posting again. To recap is gonna be quite the event but let’s give it a shot! There’s two weeks to try and cover but I”ll do my best.
I don’t think we have ever laid out the process to priesthood here but there are certain events which happen in formation which manifest the progress we make to ordination. Some of those are directly related to the process of preparing for ordination and others are related but not part of the process itself. Examples of this last group are really the institution to the ministry of Lector and Acolyte, these ministries are open to any layman who wishes to prepare and receive them, assuming his bishop consents, but in the seminary they are part of the process in preparing for priesthood. There’s a caveat though, receiving them does not mean is graduating toward priesthood, or that one will be ordained a priest. Rather these ministries are conferred upon us so that we may be formed to be men of the Word, men of the Eucharist, and men of the Liturgy; not just by carrying out rituals but by living out what they signify. As we receive and prepare for lector there is a new importance to the place of the Word of God in our lives and our prayer, to know it, to pray it and to teach it. Similarly in acolyte we prepare to live Eucharistic lives and deepen that part of our spirituality. So why do I write all of this? Because on Oct 16 our second year men at St Patricks Seminary in Menlo Park received the ministry of acolyte, we offer our congratulations to Clayton Baumgartner, Ryan Francisco, Jesus Hernandez, Hector Jauregui, and Joshua Keeney! This is photo is of them and their classmates after being installed acoyltes.
A week later at Mt Angel we had our annual Regents’ Meeting and that includes another important step to ordination, the Rite of Admission to Candidacy for Holy Orders. While all seminarians are, in a sense, candidates for holy orders, this rite is a solemnizing of that reality. Before a Bishop and the Church, assembled for the Eucharist we declare our desire to be ordained and to complete our studies to be ordained, the Bishop, on behalf of the Church, accepts that intention and promises the Church’s support in that quest and if all goes well to be ordained. So while we are not promised ordination it is just around the corner for us. This rite takes place most commonly at the first or third year of theology. At Mt Angel we do it during third year, so this year my class made candidacy. It was an exciting day and at the dinner that evening became more than exciting when Bishop Soto turned to me and started talking about MY ordination to the diaconate. This photo is of my class, the bishops and priests who were here for the rite and then the meetings that followed.
The Regents Meeting is an annual affair where the administration, Bishops and Vocation Directors discuss what has happened here at the seminary and any future plans. The same evening of the meeting we have the Regents’ Dinner which is a nice meal spent together to celebrate the many good things there are to celebrate and just be in each other’s company. During this event I found out that we have three men who are applying for seminary, given how early it is that is a good sign! Here’s a pic of the party!
Please keep them and us in your prayers, while we have much motivation given these events we need your prayers.
In the midst of our celebrating here the Extraordinary Synod of Bishop concluded and despite all the talking, all the speculation, and all the cries that everything was up for grabs not much changed. The closing document was very different from the “progress report” that excited so many in so many ways. It just goes to show that theology is not nice and tidy business, rather it’s a lot of fist throwing and mud slinging AND, if everybody is nice, they help clean up after. In the end the conversation is guided by and returns to the Church’s definitive teaching.
All of these activities were marked by the regular appearance of midterms, that fortunately passed quickly and as far as I can tell with few victims. Now its time to study and write, especially the guys (like me) who are doing an MA thesis.
Some years ago Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas gave the retreat here at Mt Angel for the seminarians. It was one of the best retreats we have had here. In one of his talks Bishop Flores talked about discernment. He put it, roughly, like this “first you ask is it God’s will, then is it your will and then you beg God to be ordained”. This is a key insight into discernment. Many people would like to discernment is a simple question one asks God and He replies with an immediate and clear answer. Others think that it is a powerful movement, like St Paul when he encountered the Lord. God has given us free will and so discernment is neither of those.
Discernment is a movement between those two realities. It is really those two points from Bishop Flores is it God’s will and is it my will? In the mix of those is also the question “Do I want to conform my will to that of God’s? ” Do I want to lay aside my own hopes, dreams, plans, and desires to take up the mission God has given me?” Even more difficult is the actual doing of those things. Part of the discernment process here in the seminary is answering those questions and doing that work. A man doesn’t have to do any of these things, his free will allows him to say “no”. However if that is the case I would recommend he read the last discernment reflection “The Call”.
God, in His wisdom, (which is a pious way of saying “I have no clue why He does this”) depends on us and so when we reflect on what is God’s will and what is our will we have to take that into consideration. That in the plan of salvation God works with us. St Paul talks often of the will of God being accomplished in us through Christ Jesus. This doesn’t mitigate our will, rather, it fulfills it in ways that we cannot imagine. This reality also forces us to ask “why am I saying ‘no’ to God”. True discipleship is about following the Master, learning His ways, and sharing in His plan and mission.
So, in the end we are free to say no to God’s will for us and let our own will guide and direct us, but we also have to take into account, and trust, the will of the One who made us, who knows and loves better than most. When we respond fully to His will and make it our own He truly says to us ” I no longer call you servants but friends” (John 15:5).
This series called “Highlights from the Hill” is about life in the Church seen from the perspective of this seminarian from Mt Angel Seminary which I attend and sits on a butte which we call “the Hill”. There isn’t a particular focus but just things that were noticeable around here. This one is gonna be kinda random because among the goals is to let people know what life in the seminary looks like. Somethings have happened, others are being talked about or something just struck me and I feel moved to share. By the way, if you don’t know who I am click the tab “our seminarians” and look up Alex, that’s me.
So seminary has been in session for about 8 weeks now. We had this day called “community day” and it was a day of games and competitions to build community and break the ice here in seminary. We also had a symposium, an academic discussion on a topic. Every year we start with the Mass of the Holy Spirit, an inaugural address, and a talk from the rector. So it was a healthy balance of fun “stuff”, spiritual “stuff” and academic “sutff”.
Every Monday we have a conference in the seminary and last night was our spiritual conference, it was on the virtue of pride. It was really well done and I can say that because I wasn’t the presenter. We spent the rest of the night in silence to consider the material and our spiritual life. I enjoy this night very much because it is a breath of fresh air every month, no noise, no studies, no friends, just a man and his thoughts.
Saturday was a day of great joy here at the seminary, six men were ordained transitional deacons and in the spring and summer will be ordained priests. Two were from Sacramento, Rev Mr. Victor Gutierrez and Rev Mr. Michael Ritter. Two great friends of mine, you can meet them in the Our Seminarians section as well. This was an interesting experience for me, it was the last ordination I was going to witness before my own, God willing, and a wide variety of emotions as I watched these two men to whom I am close make those promises and be ordained.
As many of you know the Church is in the middle of a Synod and some of the information coming out seems to be making quite a splash. It’s definitely a conversation but a brief conversation here. You see, this synod is a preparatory for a greater synod next year and any conclusive teachings are still away out. Bold discussion has always been part of any synod and that is happening now. This is a good reminder that we always we need to read the original text and not just commentary.
Tomorrow (Thursday) our second year men at St Patrick’s Seminary will receive the ministry of Acolyte. While not a proper step to the priesthood it is part of the process and required for ordination. The acolyte assists the priest at the altar, distributes Holy Communion when the priest needs help, purifies the sacred vessels (with or in the absence of the deacon) and takes the Eucharist to the homebound. It is a significant step as we begin to identify with the liturgical role of the priest. So in your kindness please keep these men in your prayers as they make this step, that they may become true men of the Eucharist.
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