An interesting article written by a good friend Jason on seminary life.
A wise man once told me before I entered seminary that I should always remember that my vocation is not to be a seminarian, but to be a priest. He said that if I ever confused the two my vocation would certainly be in danger. When this man first shared with me this piece of wisdom I thought it was a riddle. This riddle receded into the back of my memory as I entered my first year of seminary only waiting for it to be solved at some unknown point in time in my seminary experience.
With ordination five or six years away it is easy to disconnect our formational activities from priestly life. Often times, we can focus too much of our attention on the activities themselves while losing sight of what they are preparing us for. When we begin to separate seminary activities from priestly life, seminary life can easily become unsatisfyingly monotonous and mundane. This fatal separation strips our seminary activities of any sense of real purpose or meaning. It would be like going to medical school without the intention to become a doctor.
If a medical student never connected their studies to what they would be doing as a doctor there would be a couple of consequences. The first is that the material being learned would seem horribly abstract, having no real connection to everyday matters as a doctor. Another consequence is that the material would never come alive for the student and would never confront the student as to whether or not the profession of doctor would be a proper fit. In the same way, if we disconnect the material and the skills we are learning in seminary from priestly life, this material and these skills will become horribly abstract and purposeless. We will find no real connection to our daily efforts in the here-and-now to what we are called to be as a priest.
If you are experiencing this strong sense of purposelessness in daily seminary activities or if you have become a (somewhat agitating) professional seminarian I offer you this word of warning: your vocation is to be a priest, not a seminarian. We must make the effort before we ever sit down to read an assignment, before we ever try to write a painstaking paper, before we ever sit down for a rector’s conference, before we ever approach the Lord in prayer, that we are called to be priests; priests who serve the people of God first and foremost. We must always remember them, the people we are called to serve. For if you lose sight of those whom we are called to serve our daily activities in the here-and-now can easily lose its noble character, they can easily become selfish and solipsistic. If we do not constantly remind ourselves of those who are waiting for our future ministry, we will find ourselves living out a selfish existence off of very the funds of those who have placed their future hopes in us.