Crest of the Meath Diocese: ‘In Christo Confido’- In Christ I Trust.
Yesterday, I happened to take out the letter of acceptance I received from my bishop exactly a year before. I hadn’t actually realised July 31st was the day I was officially accepted as a student for my diocese. I was struck with a sense of profundity. I reflected, as we often do, how quickly time passes. It only seemed like yesterday that I had opened that letter at the kitchen table while my parents and sister were there. I read it the first time silently and got a nice little shock. The original plan was for me to begin Theology classes through Italian this October coming (it’ll be October next year) after my first year in Rome and I was quite unsettled by that. ‘I’ll have to learn Italian quickly,’ I thought. I read it for the second time aloud to my family. Thank God, I have a loving family and they were proud of my decision and congratulated me on my successful application.
So what have I learned during my first official calendar year as a seminarian? What have I experienced? I’m just after writing it all below, and I came back up here to say that!
A lot. There is no questioning that. Obviously, I already had faith in God before entering seminary but I was far from perfect. And I still am. Only it is now much more obvious to me how I am imperfect and just how imperfect I am. I could drive myself mad if I didn’t accept it as a part of my human nature. I need to grow to give God all that I am, and although I could never be good enough for God by my own merits, that doesn’t matter. If I give Him all of me, He will do the rest. His Grace builds upon my nature so that my life can be sacramental- a true meeting of God and man.
God. Where do I start? Words can seem so inadequate sometimes. Indeed, they more often than not are, if they seek to describe the Word. What I have come to ‘sense’ of God (see what I mean about inadequate?) is this: He is simultaneously infinitely beyond me yet closer to me than I am to myself. I don’t know myself perfectly. I thought I did, but this year has taught me I’m still only learning about me. Father, Son and Spirit, You created me together. You know me as only infinite being can… Infinitely. Therefore You know me better than I can ever know myself, unless I share in You.
There’s a place for me and you at the table there, where the chalice is!
This is why we need Jesus. He was the first human to be truly at one with God, because He is God. Two natures in one person- God and man. This is why Jesus says ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no man comes to the Father except through Me.’ (Jn 14:6) Our own human nature, as I said above, falls short of God. As He is infinite, we fall infinitely short of Him. Our own merits are not good enough. That is why Jesus is the Way- He is the way humans can now come to God. God and man are reunited in Him and in sharing in His ‘being,’ through receiving His Body in the Eucharist and receiving the other sacraments, through His Word in the Bible, through communal and personal prayer and through other people and life experience, we are made one with the man who is also God.
I didn’t mean for this post to turn into a theology discussion! I suppose, though, I cannot but view my experiences through that lense.
At the beginning of my first year in seminary, last October, I had many prayers, but none of them were more important than this one: ‘God, I want to be a saint. And everyone else too.’ This is not me looking for some post death glory as a venerated figure in the Church. What I meant was, ‘I want You, God. I want to be in Heaven, in You.’ This is no small thing to ask. Again, I’m asking for infinity! So I shouldn’t have been surprised to discover the truth in Jesus’ words ‘the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.‘ (Mt. 7:14) This is because it is tough. It is not an easy road to walk. It can be a physically and emotionally draining journey. ‘Even’ clergy can take it too easy in life. I’m not passing judgement on others, just observing reality. We are all imperfect, as I said. Please pray for me to keep walking and I’ll pray for you too 🙂 . EVERYONE IS CALLED TO SAINTHOOD, it is not the exclusive domain of priests and religious.
We are given an answer to weariness in the Bible, where Jesus tells all those who are ‘weary and burdened’ to come to Him for rest. Everything we need to reach Heaven is in Jesus. We just need to trust Him. Say a prayer and listen to Him too. A few minutes is all that’s needed.
I ask your prayers for me that I shall strive to do God’s will always. I will remember you all too. If you like, you can leave a prayer request in the comments below. It would be my honour to pray for you.
Ok, this discussion started off based on life experience and ended up spiritualised, but to me that is a happy coincidence, or providence, maybe. This is because it reflects our journey as ‘metaphysical amphibians’ towards the height of reality in God. Maybe next time I’ll write about more concrete experiences as a modern seminarian. May God bless you! Tony.