Future Priests of the Third Millennium

A little insight into the life of seminarians from various dioceses preparing for ministry as Roman Catholic priests, including daily activities, personal interests, special events, the spiritual life, news from the seminary, and almost whatever comes to our minds!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Ad novissimum. (a soap box of mine)

Most people who have read St. Thomas' Summa Theologiæ and utilized the original Latin version would recognize from my title that I'm responding to something. "Novissimum" means last, newest, most recent. The title could read: "Response to the last one." So, with all due respect, here goes.

This past week, I made a trip up to the cities on my "day off," if you want to call it that. Some priests prefer to call it their "day away." Whatever.

I made the trip for a number of reasons:

  1. I had a book to return to the Ireland Library.
  2. I wanted to pick up a number of books on how to serve in the Roman Rite (the form prior to 1970... which it sounds like the Pope might start calling the "Gregorian Rite", helping people to understand that this form was largely set ever since the 6th century) (oh, and this is another post which has been mulling around in my head for some time and will make it to these pages someday this summer. Probably after Sunday, July 6, when I plan on serving as deacon in a Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form).
  3. I had a late paper to turn in! (Ugh! I know, I'm a horrible example. I'm a terrible seminarian and quite a weak man. And yes, the book I returned to Ireland was a primary reference in this paper.)
  4. I wanted to have lunch with my classmates and see how their placements are going.
  5. I wanted to check my mail at the seminary. I am supposed to have received a faculties sheet from my Vicar General, but I am as of yet unable to locate it. Along with this would be a form which I bring to a court house so as to get the State's approbation to witness marriages. Only minimally important!

I had a very interesting reflection, however, while at the seminary. I was sitting, waiting to speak to one of the office ladies to ask her to open the mail room so I could receive my mail; she was on the phone. One of the priests on staff came out of a meeting room after meeting with someone, walked by me to his office, and then sped off to do something else. The same was true of a number of people running about the office: they all looked hurried. Without judging them, yet putting it politely but frankly, some of them looked stressed. It reminded me of the stress that has so often been referenced in the past on this blog which almost every seminarian experienced this yaer.

This stress comes, in part I am certain, from this modus vivendi (mode to be lived) which has one constantly preoccupied and "busy." In talking with one of the other men at SPS before the end of the year, he was reflecting upon his own experience in seminary and grappling with that feeling of needing to be busy and simply being busy.

So what was my reflection while at the seminary this week? For some reason, city-folk seem more likely to find satisfaction and (perhaps sadly) valuation in having many activities and things to run off to and have to do. Perhaps that's the necessary evil of living in a more populated locale. Rural life just isn't the same (though the same is creeping very definitely into rural life). Objectively speaking, ministry isn't based upon how many people you saw, how many Masses you said, how many infants you baptized, how many people you buried, how many converts you won over. Priests all too easily fall into this trap! And we as seminarians have received formation sessions which deal with this very topic.

I don't mean to imply that all priests/parishes measure their "ministerial effectiveness" by how busy they are. Nor do I mean to imply that urban/suburban priests/parishes at large do such. Yet, by and large, I have seen a marked difference between those in cities who feel cramped and feel the need to cramp their schedules and those in more rural areas whose schedules and lives are much more free.

Is this to be accredited to laziness? I don't think so. Perhaps it's just that life, ministry and evangelization happens differently in rural communities. Perhaps it's that, in our day, even many Catholics (dare I say, priests?) have fallen prey to the myth of fragmentation and materialism, which requires physical productivity and immediately tangible results. Perhaps, as I mentioned before, it is the necessary evil of living in a more populated region. Perhaps it is that rural people are too lazy. But then, in a similar way, are we to say that Carthusian, Benedictine, Trappist, Carmelite (the list goes on) monks and nuns are lazy?

I guess the point is that receiving the opportunity to go on a flight and then actually fly a plane (or in my case most recently, to go strolling through a country park) might contribute to the perfection of man, which contributes to the sanctification of God's holy people, the building up of the Body of Christ and, thereby, the glorification of God (the true measure of ministry).

1 comment:

Jonathan said...

I think that when one lives the 'unhurried' rural life, that there is much more time for silence, if one wants it, and self-reflection. At least for the average minister, he or she must be somewhat well-adjusted in order to continue to function in the rural context. There just isn't enough to do to distract oneself from oneself. Like a friend of mine says, "You can only paint the walls of the rectory so many times before you go to rehab."

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