I completed my first year in the major seminary (Pre-Theology II). Currently, I am studying at the Mexican American Catholic College in San Antonio, Texas. I am here for the entire month of June studying Spanish. The rest of my summer involves spending time in my great diocese of Springfield and then back to the seminary to begin my theological studies (as a seminarian, that is).
I wish I could say the past few months have been easy, but they have not been; far from it, as a matter of fact. I learned so much about myself this past year in Pre-Theology, but especially from my experience in Arizona on the Tohono O'odham Nation in February and my time in formation in the spring quarter (March to May) at the seminary.
I was blessed to be under the care of a great spiritual director this year who, not only came with my class to Arizona, but also accompanied me throughout my first year in the major seminary. Unfortunately, he was asked by his archbishop to go elsewhere, so I will be under the care of a new spiritual director next year. With that said, though, my former spiritual director and my new spiritual director are some of the best at the seminary, at least in my humble but always expressed opinion.
These have also been trying times on the home-front. Not to get into the gory details, but my family has not been the same since my father died in February of 2012. Many fractures and splits have occurred that, at least for right now, seem irreparable. But as a wise priest-friend of mine remarked, priests need to be ready to hear anything and not be shocked; I know the Lord has given me this burden for a reason.
My relationship with our Lord has also improved, though it could always be better. (Then again, I'm sure Mother Theresa or Padre Pio would say the same about their spiritual lives.) Still, I have begun to see the vital importance of personal prayer being informed through liturgical prayer, and vice versa. Cultivating a spiritual life for a diocesan seminarian may seem a little strange at first, but the diocesan priest is still a priest. He brings Christ to others, not just through the celebration of the Sacraments, but also through his presence to his sheep. Many friends ask me, "What do you want to do as a priest?" Maybe a year ago I would have said something like: "I want to get an STL and teach theology at a university." Now, after much discussion with God, many priests, and my brother seminarians, I say something like: "I only aspire to be a holy priest who loves his sheep."
I cannot say it was an easy path to arrive at that answer. Being a Christian is about emulating that kenosis (emptying) of Christ and taking on whatever vocation God is calling you to. During my time in the high school seminary, I often said that I wanted to be a priest. Now I say God wants me to be a priest. With that realization comes the revelation that my life is not my own (it never really was mine in the first place). I want the Lord to use me however He sees fit, not because I do not like my freedom, but because I am truly free in Christ. I cannot count how many priests (and others) have told me to turn to Christ in my hour of need. This is not just hogwash like anti-theists would have you believe, this is a real, tangible idea. In Christ I am truly free because He knows my pains and my sorrows, He knows how I feel at every moment of the day. As Paul says in his Letter to the Hebrews, "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). I wish I could say I turn all the time to the Lord in my hour of need; I wish I could, but I don't. With that said, though, I know my God loves me, just as He loved the Israelites even after they turned their backs on Him so often.
So, that is "what's up."
As I begin my time in Theology, please pray for myself and my classmates and for all seminarians throughout the world. Pray that we may be good and holy men, constantly seeking after the heart of Christ, and loving everyone as God loves everyone. Please be assured of our prayers for you.