Summer Update

I’m hoping to write a few different posts over the summer, but I at least wanted to write a simple update on seminary and what my summer plans are.

This past semester I decided to take a pastoral year, which means that I won’t be taking classes or living at the seminary, but will instead be living and working at a parish in the diocese. There are many different reasons that people take pastoral years, and for myself, there were several different factors, the most important being that this is what I felt like what God was and is asking me to do. For myself it was a difficult decision because it meant living the friends in my class, waiting another year for ordination, but the hardest of which was trusting in God that this was what He wanted me to do. All that being said I am very excited and looking forward to my pastoral year and I think that I will be an essential aspect of my formation to the priesthood.

For the summer I will be in Mexico learning Spanish with several other guys from St. Meinrad. I’ve so far been here for one week and its been a really good experience and have learned a significant amount in my classes so far.

         Crux Sancta Sit Mihi Lux

 

Celibacy: Why would anyone what to do that.

Celibacy is probably the most misunderstood part of the seminary and the priesthood. I think many people’s view of celibacy is that its an ancient practice that is archaic and out dated, that this way of life is unhealthy and unnatural. Basically, if we boil this viewpoint down, it comes down to the idea that Celibacy doesn’t have any value. For so many people the idea of living a celibate life make no sense, the current generations are more and more of the thought that religion doesn’t matter, and that God doesn’t exist. And if this is what you believe then it makes complete sense to think of a celibate life as crazy, but for those who know the true reality of God and our relationship with Him, then Celibacy makes complete sense.

While I’ve been in seminary this topic has come up several times in conversation with people who I encounter in day to day life. One of the common themes that runs through all my different experiences is a misunderstanding or a complete lack of knowledge on Celibacy. There seems to be a kind of taboo nature to celibacy in our culture today, but inevitably in our conversation the topic is brought up and we discuss what life is like for a person living out this discipline.

While there are many different questions that I’ve been asked, there seems to be something underlying all of them. The themes within the questions are often that the life and discipline of living out a celibate life is impossible or even tragic. As though the person is giving up so much of their life for something of such less value and will somehow be a less happy person because of this choice. Also, as I mentioned before, people often see living a celibate life as something that is unnatural, as if there is something wrong with men that don’t have sex. But what these views seem to lack an understanding of is that, just as marriage and other vocations, the vocation to celibacy is completely and entirely centered around love. It’s centered around the love of God and the persons deep and unquenchable desire to attain union with God. w

Along with the other misconceptions and misunderstandings of celibacy that are above, loneliness is another key area where people don’t correctly understand the celibate life. People seem to equate loneliness to a lack of being in a relationship with another person, seeing their respective relationships as a means to avoid loneliness and a sense of not being valued or understood. But this is critically false. I think if you were to ask anyone who has every been in a relationship before they would all say that at some point in time they have felt lonely. And why I say this is not to diminish marriage, but to point out the fact that our relationships with other humans will never be able to fully fulfill our desire for God, and to be with him. In our human relationships we are never truly and fully known by the other, but are only known to a degree. And it’s this reality that is the cause of our loneliness. It is only through God and our relationship with Him that this desire to be known is able to be satisfied.

So what does any of this have to do with Celibacy???

As Br. John Mark, a monk of St. Meinrad, put it, Celibates are taking a fast track to loneliness.

Ok, but still why would people want to live a lonely life???

As with most questions on the topic of religion, the answer is God. The Celibate life is about embracing the idea of loneliness and taking this issue head on. As Catholics, and all Christians for that matter, we believe that this life is not the end or the purpose of our existence. As the Baltimore Catechism would say, Our purpose in life is so that we may know God, love God, and to serve God in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven. Or as St. Theresa of Lisieux said, “This would is a ship and not thy home”.  So celibacy is a matter of ordering ones self entirely towards God, all because we have realized that this world and the love that we experience is fleeting and is only an image of what we are to truly experience when we come to be with God in heaven. It is really this love of God that is what will sustain and fulfill ourselves. And while there are different and more complex aspects of theology within celibacy, this is what I’ve come to learn to be the basic and underlying meaning of this celibacy.

 

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This part is a joke 

Vocations

Growing up I’d been serving at Mass since I was about 6-7 years old, but all throughout that time the idea of priesthood or the notion of vocations as a whole was never actually brought up, and it wasn’t until I was in my Freshman year of college that someone asked me if I’d thought about the priesthood. While this was most definitely God’s plan, this still shows the current state of vocations in our Church.

Within the past 50 years or so the Catholic church we have become much more a part of the culture of this country, and while this has it benefits, there are also some adverse effects, and from my eyes as a seminarian, this has affected the notion of religious vocations very negatively. The focus on materialism, and how the worth as a person can be calculated by how much money they make or how big their house is, has infected our idea of life, and now this idea is the lens through which we view ourselves, others and how to go about living our future. When in reality we should be thinking about how am I using what God has given to me to serve Him best, and how I am devoting my life to growing into a deeper relationship with God.

To me, there seems to be a connection and an effect that must be overcome, between these two points: lack of response to religious life/Priesthood, and the increased focus on materialism by the Culture.

In the first year or two after I entered seminary I would talk with people and they would ask me questions about seminary and inevitably the conversation would lead to the person making the statement of something to the effect of ‘Wow you’re giving up so much’ or ‘don’t you like women and want a family.’ While on the surface level you can see that this question is focused on my good, and concern for my welfare, but when you look deeper into these kinds of questions, the implication can be seen. The implication is that how can you be happy living a life for God, a life without wealth, family, etc. “Won’t you be lonely”?

These were my concerns when I first entered seminary too. Will I be lonely, What will life be like without a family, will I have enough money. But the more that I focused on what was fulfilling to me (The Mass, Prayer, Participating Actively in the Parish) the more that I discovered what God was calling me to, and the more that these prior fears drifted away. This is the task of discernment, the allowance God into one’s life, letting go and giving God the reigns to guide your life.This is where our prayers need to be focused, asking God to give grace and strength to our young men and women so that they might respond with open hearts to the will of God.

So often at Mass we pray for “an increase in Vocations to the Priesthood,” but really what we should be praying for is “That people respond to their Vocations.” God already knows who He is calling to the priesthood, religious life, married life, etc. but it’s the response that we should be praying for, its our choice to respond where we needs Gods help.

Just as a side note, the Vocations Office did a study and found that if each parish in the diocese had one man, every ten years enter seminary the priest shortage would be completely solved. I was talking with one of the other Indianapolis seminarians, and we were talking about what would happen if each parish got one guy to attend seminary. This would be amazing, and this should be the goal of every priest, and parishioner.

I say this for the purpose of helping the members of my parish and those of the whole Church to understand better the challenges and doubts that young men and women were discerning a religious vocation face so that the laity will be better equipped to encourage Vocations.

If you think someone would make a good priest or member of a religious community, then please tell them that. Sometimes that’s all it takes to get a person thinking about their vocation.

A Day in the Seminary

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So for my first actual post I thought I would begin with what my day, and St. Meinrad is like.

I know what I first started telling people that I was going to seminary, and after they knew what seminary was, some people had a negative response to this choice. And after further discussion it became evident why these people feel like this, it was because they thought that I was about to undertake a life devoid of any joy, happiness, and fulfillment. But in reality the exact opposite is true. Seminary is a place of immense joy and happiness. It’s a place of laughter, jokes. But it’s also a community focused on discerning their vocation and what God is speaking to them in the depths of their hearts, that only the silence of seminary is able to discover and come to understand.

So with that in mind what is my day actually like.

So most days it begins with waking up at around 7am, getting ready, and then heading down for breakfast at about 7:30. I have about 30 min. to eat and talk with people before morning prayer begins at 8am. And this is the aspect of seminary that many people either don’t understand or miss, but it’s that our lives are formed and structured around prayer, the prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours, Mass and Adoration, I’ll take a bit more about this either later in the post or in another post all together.

So we have Morning prayer at 8am as a whole community, which is about 125 guys from all over the world. This normally takes about 20 – 30 mins. So we’re done at 8:30ish and then we go to classes.

So on a typical day we have two classes in the morning and then the afternoons free for studies and some recreation. So this semester I have 5 classes on Mon and Thur I have Early Church History and then Foundational Theology, both are great classes that I’m hoping to talk about in the future, and then on Tue. and Fri I have Liturgical Theology and Pentateuch and Historical books, which is an Old Testament Scripture class. Then I have one elective which this semester is History and Culture of the Church in the Americas.

Following these two morning classes we celebrate the Mass at 11 am. One of the wonderful things about being in the seminary is going to Mass every day. One of my favorite things is when I’ve been gone from seminary, over the weekend or summer, is when the first Mass is celebrated as a community together again. There is something surreal about going to Mass with 100 other men, singing loudly with really good music, I find its one of my favorite things, and is something that so many people don’t even know about because most people haven’t been to Mass before at a seminary.

After Mass we have lunch and then have free time to do homework or whatever we need to get done that day. Then also about once a week we will have an afternoon class which is from about 2-4.

So following that free period then we have evening prayer together as a community, or some smaller segment of the community. What the idea behind this is to have the day schedules in such a way as to have prayer being continually incorporated and on one’s mind throughout the day. This is that point that I mentioned earlier. The palms say we must praise the Lord God without ceasing and what this schedule does is that the prayer we have together is supposed to continually affect us to that we are constantly growing closer to God and living our lives more and more in line with how he is calling us to live.

And this idea isn’t merely for seminarians and priests, many lay people do this as well. They will pray the Liturgy of the Hours and this has the same purpose of continually conforming ourselves to Christ. So I would really encourage people reading this to think about praying the Liturgy of the Hours as a way of continuing to keep Christ in the front of our minds and allowing these prayers to influence our actions through out the day.

Then in closing the last part of our day in several times a week we will end the day with Night Prayer together in the chapel, and this is a kind of cap stone for the day and a way to offer our final days prayers to the Lord, while at the same time asking for protection for the following day.

So what is a day in the seminary like? Well it is full of prayer and studies. It’s a place focus on becoming the men that Christ has made us to be, and while many of us fail at this, this is the whole point of seminary, it’s a place where we are allowed to grow and come into a relation with Christ so that when and if God wills us to be ordained a priest we already have that solid foundation of prayer and studies, so that we are able to more affectively offer the message of the Gospel to the world around us.  Continue reading

What Is The Point of This Blog

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As I begin the adventure of this blog and the telling of my experiences and stories to you, I would like to first begin this blog by dedicating it to Our Mother, that through the reading and writing of these posts the kingdom of God my be glorified, and that together we my grow into a deeper relationship with God our Father in Heaven.

Now to the main purpose of this blog. In seminary we experience so many things that people, even family member, don’t realize happen. Because of this there seems to be a disconnect between the laity and the seminarians of their diocese, so my aim with this blog is to keep a kind of public journal that allows people to look into the life of a seminarian and the seminary as a whole, and see what life is really like. The classes we take, the summer programs that we are sent out to, and the ministries that we engage in are full of material that needs to be shared because we are a people of hope.  I often think how hard it is not to fall into despair in this world of darkness, but we are an Easter people,  a people of hope and light.  So through my witnessing to the faith I hope to cast out this darkness and give hope to all those who are assaulted by this temptation. So that through the reading of my, however insignificant, blog posts God may use them to help people fight the good fight and finish the race.

So to close this first post I would like to say thank you to all the members of my parish  for all the support and prayers over these past three years, and hope that these posts keep me more deeply connected with you and the parish and if there are ever any questions that you would like to ask, feel free to email me.

Email: Michaelclawson1993@gmail.com

– I ask for your prayer and know of mine –

Peace