Thursday, September 30, 2010
Why do you feel called to be a priest? How will your academic and pastoral work make you a better priest?
These two questions confronted me earlier today as I turned in my Pastoral Theology Class. After an incredibly busy week I am looking forward to the weekend! There is much to catch up on including: catching up with my cousin, a rat the size of a cat, Noah's Ark and a killer test! Hopefully tomorrow afternoon I will be able to share all of that with in the meantime I must devote my time to preparing for the killer test!
Below you will find the short two page reflection I turned on my call to priesthood and the academic and pastoral components that accompany the preparation process. It represents my thoughts as best I could organize during this crazy week. Please share your thoughts!
Today the Church is in great need of holy men and women who are willing to surrender all that they have, and all that they are, in order to serve God and His people. In a world so often filled with despair, we need authentic witness of the hope that is found only in Christ. As I reflect upon my own call to priesthood, I become increasingly aware of its beauty and power every day. For me the draw to priesthood is not about fully surrendering one’s life to God and the Church, serving the people, preaching the Gospel through one’s life, or living a life of prayer and holiness, since I sought to do all of these things well before I began seminary life. The draw to priesthood for me is about a response to a soft and beautiful whisper emanating from deep within my heart. I am drawn to priesthood not because I am worthy, or because the work of the priest is compatible to my loves and joys, but because God continually calls me to follow him in a special way. I do wish that words could communicate the power and beauty of this draw, but I know that they cannot. It is my profound hope that my life will.
The life of the seminarian is interesting and sometimes chaotic. Among classes, formational responsibilities, pastoral work, diocesan obligations, community life and prayer are many opportunities to grow and to be challenged. The beauty of the seminary is that it prepares one for life as a pastor. Whether balancing many hats, responding to brothers in need, or becoming a part of a community of faith, the seminary is a learning parish for each of us. While many guys are tempted to look only to the future and how things will be “one day” in “their parish,” the seminary offers the ability to begin that work today. Our pastoral formation and work begin just outside our door as a life lived in, for, and with Christ. The seminary does not form us to work as priests, but to be pastors, Fathers, and men of God. The seminary affords the ability to journey together, to integrate the knowledge of the mind with the call of the heart, and to witness authentically all that we are and all that we strive to become.
Academically the seminary challenges us to grow in our knowledge of the faith. Without proper academic and theological formation we can easily find ourselves overwhelmed and unprepared. Theological training is essential in laying the groundwork for our pastoral formation and cannot be understood apart from it. In the same manner our pastoral formation is vital to the application and living out of our faith and all of the theological knowledge we have acquired. I often see Theological and Pastoral Formation as the mind and heart of the seminarian. We cannot live without our hearts or our minds. The mind tells the heart to pump, but it is the heart that fills the mind with life. As priest I will need to be able to communicate the truths of the faith to the lives of the people. It is true that homilies will be one way this can be accomplished; however, an even more powerful tool will be how I communicate the truths of the faith by how I live and how I interact with the people of God. The pastoral formation element of seminary life is one of living out faith and communicating the love of Christ to all who are encountered. As a priest I represent not only the Church but also the love, mercy, and joy of Christ. My ability to do this rests not only on my theological knowledge but also on my ability to communicate effectively the compassionate face of Christ and the radical call of conversion He has for us all.
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