Hello to all of you! My name is Steven Wood, and I attend seminary at Mount Angel along with Alex and a few other Sacramento seminarians. For those of you who don’t know Alex, he’s the force behind every other blog on this page. As for me, this is my first, so thank you for reading!
Pope Francis famously compared the Church to a field hospital, emphasizing its mission of mercy. He declared in 2013 that “the thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful.” At Mount Angel seminary, we just finished a five-day silent retreat on the priestly virtues. One of those virtues is–you guessed it!–mercy, the virtue that moves us to help people in difficult situations.
The retreat leader reminded us that the priesthood is an image of mercy. Priests have the responsibility of being Jesus–of being mercy–to others. And that’s the most beautiful things about the priesthood: God, “who is rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4), gives life to hurt and broken persons through the priest, who participates in Jesus’ own ministry. Every Mass, Confession, and Baptism is an experience of Jesus himself ministering in the person of the priest. It’s mind-staggering and heart-humbling to think that God shares so much with us!
I want to share two questions from the retreat that really got me thinking: (1) What does God’s mercy feel like in your own experience? (2) What situations or persons in your life right now need you to share mercy with them?
What’s your answer to those questions? As you think about them, know that all of us Sacramento seminarians are praying for you. Including this one, who has just been ‘baptized by blog’!
I was invited to attend an evening of recollection last night and so my reflection is inspired by Father’s remarks, with discernment in mind. Discernment is at the same time very similar and very different for each person. In this reflection I hope to bring up two points which will help us all through these things. I have to admit being on the tail end of my formation the active part of discernment is pretty much over. It is the Church is who is doing the active discernment and even that will come to and end soon. I am looking back to my beginning some long eight years ago and also to what other men have shared with me in the recent past. So here it goes!
We are all familiar with the greeting of the angels to the shepherds “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of goodwill”. (Luke 2:14) Father began his talk with this point and said that “men of goodwill” are those who seek God’s will. For those of us who are familiar with the early stages of discernment we know this does not seem to be the case. We seek God’s will but peace isn’t very stable or present. And it is to this reality that I want to speak. It is very true that our peace comes truly from God, in knowing Him, loving Him, and serving Him; in other words from knowing and doing His will. So how can this peace be absent, or at least seem absent, when we are discerning His will for our state of life?
I don’t believe it is absent, I think we loose sight of it and so the question is how to regain it. And that is where Divine Providence comes from. There are many variants of this expression “There is no evil from which come no good” this expression simply means that God’s providence, if we allow it to work, always brings us something good no matter how disagreeable or undesirable the current moment is. Turning our attention back to discernment and providence this is key.
Those who genuinely seek God’s will in their lives do so because first and foremost they have had an encounter with Him. For some this is a dramatic moment, a conversion where they feel like St Paul being knocked off a horse for others it is a reality much more gentle and subtle. They’ve been close to God or have gradually grown closer, with a keen sense for His presence and perhaps even His call. Regardless of how it happens we all begin on this quest to find His will and from there things become different.
As we go through the experience of discernment and we begin to lose our peace or get lost in the lack of peace we do well to look at how providence has worked in our lives. Begin first of all by prayer, a frank and honest conversation with God about how you feel. Then ask yourself “How did I get to this point” look back at your life and revisit those moments when you first began to think about the priesthood or to experience this call. Look back in recent events for moments where God was working in your life. This sounds easier said than done, and perhaps it is. While Divine Providence was Father’s second point, his third was recollection
Perhaps this will sound cliche but it is true, especially in discernment. So here are the practical steps, 1) consistent and regular prayer 2) brief pauses where we can turn our mind and heart to God and 3) a nightly examination of conscience where we can look for God’s Providence in the day and our life. In conclusion I leave you these words of our Lord, words we hear in every Mass “My peace I leave you, my peace I give you”.
It’s been a long time, a very long time since I have written anything and that’s shameful! So we will spend a lot of time catching up, especially as I find photos of events which I will mention here. During this absence I have spent time thinking about how to improve the content and have more of it. The ideas are pinned down, for the most part, so stay tuned for the new developments. Our Discernment Reflections and Highlights from the Hill will still be here. I hope to add a section on current events and spend some time dedicated to the Holy Father. Also I will be working on getting a lot more pictures up, that way you can see life in the seminary.
The biggest and most exciting announcement is that we have two new seminarians for our diocese! There info is not yet ready to uploaded but once I have it will soon be posted for you all. These two new seminarians are Mr. Ivan Mora from Chico, CA. Ivan is a recent graduate (or almost, he graduates at the end of the Fall term there) from Chico State University. The second is Mr David Panduro of Fairfield, CA. Both Chico and Fairfield have the unique blessing of having more than one seminarian. The only other parish is St Basil’s in Vallejo. Please keep these men in your prayers as they begin there formation. The beginning of the seminary is always marked by intense discernment and transition. I am especially happy to share that both these men will be at Mt Angel Seminary. Pray for more vocations to the priesthood, in particular those men who struggle to accept or respond to God’s call. It is a great moment of rejoicing but we need more men to answer the call. If this moves your heart I challenge you to contact your local VD and see what God might have in store for you!.
This past Sunday was our annual Seminarian Christmas Party. It is always a great time to get together with the brethren. We started with Mass and then had a wonderful dinner which was followed by our traditional gift exchange. We are blessed that Marriage Encounter hosts our party for us. This wonderful apostolate not only works to strengthen marriage but also works very hard over the course of three days to prepare our formation house into a Christmas wonderland for our party. We were graced in particular by the presence of Bishop Soto and our Auxiliary Bishop, Myron Cotta. Pictures of this and many other events to come soon! I leave you with this video, one of my favorite short videos. Consider it! Consider Priesthood!
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