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!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


It is said that the Aztec Emperor Montezuma had a zoo filled with exotic creatures as well as people with deformities, physical oddities, or birth defects. He was not the first or the last emperor to have done so. The concept of the zoo was taken to new heights, however, with the "freak shows" of days now hopefully past, where traveling circuses would make money by asking people to pay to see amazing collections of odd people.

I think there is something in us, as humans, that makes us want to see other humans, especially the odd, the uncommon, and the bizarre. Perhaps it is our curiosity, wondering how others must live. Maybe we are simply cruel - we like to see the deformities and sufferings of others because it reassures us about our own goodness and value. Perhaps it is rooted much more deeply - animals, especially herd animals, recognize differences among members of the herd, and drive the odd ones out as a means of protection. One white cow in a herd of black cows draws a lot of attention from predators. Whatever it is, we like seeing "odd" people, and often, we fail to see them as persons deserving of the same respect we desire for ourselves.

There was a time when I used to joke that I wanted a people collection. I would have a Gypsy, and a firefighter, and a whole array of people that I could display and watch. It occurs to me now, well after the fact, that this was not particularly funny. It really did suggest that some people were less than people, and that I could simply use them for my amusement. That being said, I still do have an interest in who are other than me. I want to keep a part of them and their life for myself.

These reflections were all prompted a few days ago when I returned home to my family for Spring break, and distributed the gifts I had purchased for my parents. For my dad, a heavy "brass-ish" figurine of a Roman Gladiator. For my mother, a figurine (doll?) of a Swiss Guard. These were added to the mantle, where there already stood a paper mache campesino I had purchased in Mexico, a small collection of dolls made of corn husks given to my mother by a friend from Slovakia, and a figurine of St. Peter given to me by a friend from college. Near the fireplace are paintings; each has a different image of a cowboy. On other walls in the room are photos of family, some of whom were dead long before my own birth.

These, I realized, have become my people collection. It is not as though I possess the people, but I have access to the gritty truth of who they are. Through them, I find a point of departure to discover and rediscover the reality they represent - the life, the hardship, the struggle, the heroism, the goodness, and the wickedness or each. To possess these figures, to look at them - to look through them - is, I think, ultimately an expression of love. It says of the other, "You are meaningful. Who you are and what you do are are important enough to me that I want a way to always remember." And this, I think it is safe to say, is a far cry from the zoos of the likes of Montezuma.