Ask a seminarian

Hello all, I am a current seminarian studying at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, California. I would love to answer any questions anyone has concerning seminary life, discerning a call and anything else you can come up with. God bless you abundantly!


First, thanks for taking the time to do this. I’m currently discerning the priesthood, so I’m sure this will be a fruitful thread.

I have some questions:

What books helped you the most during discernment? I’ve read Fr Brannen’s book, (he was a priest at my old Parish in South Georgia) and I’m currently reading Time for God by Fr. Jacques Philippe on the advice of my spirtual director. Are there any other books you’d recommend for discernment and the prayer that goes with it?

Where are you in terms of finishing your seminary education?

What would you say has been the hardest part of being in seminary?

What has been the best part of your seminary experience thus far?

Is there anything you wish you knew before entering seminary that would have made the process easier?

Can you describe a typical day for you?

I have about a billion more, but I’m trying to be respectful of your time and limit myself

Thanks to the OP for this opportunity to ask questions; the poster above me asked mine
so I’ll await the answers when time is at hand.

God bless,

Hey brother, thanks for responding :slight_smile: I hope that I can be a help to you at this point in the journey.

What books helped you the most during discernment? I’ve read Fr Brannen’s book, (he was a priest at my old Parish in South Georgia) and I’m currently reading Time for God by Fr. Jacques Philippe on the advice of my spirtual director. Are there any other books you’d recommend for discernment and the prayer that goes with it?

The first book I would have recommended is Fr. Brannen’s book. That is great that you have read it. I think it is based on a lot of solid experience and wisdom. I’ve read a few books by Fr. Jacques and have really been blessed by them. He will be in our area giving a retreat at the end of this month. Glad you mentioned him! Others that I can recommend would be The Joy of Priesthood by Fr. Stephen Rossetti and Men of Brave Heart by Archbishop Gomez. Those two were enlightening and encouraging.

Where are you in terms of finishing your seminary education?

I am in what’s called Pre-theology 2. Here at our particular seminary, we have a total on 7 years of formation. The first two are pre-theology, where we lay the groundwork for theological studies. Then we have theology 1 and 2, then a pastoral year working in a parish and finally theology 3 and 4. Deaconate ordination happens around the end of theology 3 or the beginning of theology 4.

What would you say has been the hardest part of being in seminary?

A priest who gave us our initial orientation said that the hardest part of seminary life is living in community. You will be living, eating, studying and praying in a kind of community life. Like any family there can be differences and squabbles. Another thing that can be difficult is giving up your time to study and pray. We do begin living out Jesus’ call to leave everything and come follow Him.

What has been the best part of your seminary experience thus far?

There are many great parts of seminary. First of all I would say is the community life, haha. It is a blessing to have brothers in Christ who you can have fellowship with. We are forming awesome friendships that will last for eternity. The environment we live in, our bubble if you will, is blessed. We live a life set apart from many of the activities of the world. Our meals are provided for us and we don’t need to work a job as we study and pray. Prayer daily is awesome, and the blessed sacrament is just right down the hall. You can visit Jesus at any hour of the night.

Is there anything you wish you knew before entering seminary that would have made the process easier?

For me, I wish that I had moved forward sooner and entered earlier. I put it off for way too long.

Can you describe a typical day for you?

A typical day would be Morning Prayer at 730, Mass at 8, breakfast at around 845, first class at 940, classes until 1230 then lunch, many another class depending on if you have an elective, free time to study or rest, then evening prayer at 5 followed by adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, dinner at 6 and then again free time to study or do what you need to do!

I hope that this helps. Feel free to ask me more questions!

You are very welcome, I hope that the answers I gave helped.

So, do you ever have any doubts about the Catholic Church?

I was talking to my parish’s priest one time and he said something around the lines of, “As you delve deeper and deeper into Catholicism and its history, you will find that the Church has done many horrible things and you might ask “How can someone still be Catholic?” But God is always with us and with our Church and when an area of the Church is struggling, another place out there is flourishing”. Then I think he started to relate it to what we were talking about (I was explaining to him the doubts I had before of the Church, among other things).

This is somewhat out of context, but could you weigh in on what he said? How have the things you learned, historically, theologically, and your delving deeper into the faith changed the way you see our faith? Did it sometimes require you to have “thick skin”? If there were times when you were surprised or “shocked”, how were you able to be reconciled with it?

Thank you.

So, do you ever have any doubts about the Catholic Church?

This is one of the most challenging things about being Catholic. How do we reconcile things like the clergy abuse scandal, popes who had mistresses, and other abuses with our notion of the Catholic Church being the true Church? For me, these seeming inconsistencies can actually lead to a greater appreciation of what the Church is. The Church, as Pope Francis has said, is a “hospital for sinners.” And the truth be told, even our leaders can get sick from time to time, some more seriously than others. So if we are the sinners, all of us who make up the Body of Christ, then how is the Church a hospital? I am strongly convinced that the sacraments that our Lord instituted are living and effective, and so is the Word of God. They are healing for our souls. Because of this faith, I can and must remain catholic, because I desperately need the graces that the Church can offer me. Even though I might see the sinfulness of her members, I have faith in the gifts that God has given His Church, which itself cannot fail because “the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” Mt 16:18

and yes I have had to put on a “thick skin.” I think my intentions for being catholic have been purified to some degree because of the realizations. In a mysterious way, I can somehow love God and his people more now because of it. Most definitely there has been a shock factor. I think the way I reconciled was by saying to the Lord, who asks “Are you going to leave as well?”: “To whom else can we go Lord, you have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68

Thanks for taking the time to answer. I guess I am more asking if you ever have doubts that THIS church is the way. I totally get the higher power thing, but the actual Catholic Church thing is much harder. I want to always believe but I don’t always. Do you ever get that? :shrug: if yes, how do you deal with it. If no, why? Did God tell you?
I always figure that those who dedicate their entire lives to the church must have some "Devine " experience. Did you?

What, if any, education do you receive on religious orders and monastic life?

Oh now I understand what you meant. Yes I did have some spiritual experiences that led me to the Catholic Church and gave me the understanding that it is God’s true Church. To give you a little background, I was baptized as a child and went to catholic school for three years when I was young. After that I had no religious teaching as my family never practiced the faith or spoke about God. I became an atheist. A long story short, I began to seek the answers to life’s big questions when I was in my mid twenties. I asked for the first time what is the meaning of life was, what the purpose of life is. That led me on a journey through many religions and many spiritual experiences. In time God revealed to me that Jesus Christ was His son and my savior, and then later He also showed me that the Catholic Church is His Church. I wouldn’t be here today without many divine experiences along the way, leading me home.

I did some personal study of the orders, reading about them. It was more of a general overview of their histories and how they lived out their charisms. I read about the lives of Franciscans, Carmelites, Jesuits, Dominicans and a few others.

Thank you so much for taking your time to answer, I really appreciate it! I don’t know what else to say other than that the way you have come to see things in the light of Christ is inspiring!

I really appreciate your kindness bro

I’m a 26 year old Catholic female. I’ve been Catholic for a long time but really started being Catholic a few years ago, which is around the time I was introduced to the Latin Masses. At first, I didn’t like it because I couldn’t understand it but I wanted to keep going because my soul was craving what it offered, actual prayer during mass.

I spent a long time praying & getting closer to God - praying to meet my soul mate. I received a message from the Holy Spirit telling me that the next person I enter a relationship into with will be the person I marry. Not too long after I began praying did I meet my current boyfriend but our relationship was turbulent at first because he wasn’t Catholic and was very much living an immoral lifestyle so I chose to walk away.

Fast forward to today - My bf has cut out watching porn, playing addicting violent video games, ogling other girls(ones dressed immodestly are the issue), internet searching for “hot girls” in compromising positions online(even the dressed ones), and even gave up lying and an inappropriate friendship he had with a female who he at one point was having sex with( she was also still very attracted to him - she was nasty to me and she didn’t like him having a gf). He does struggle with keeping custody of the eyes but he’s working very hard to change this behavior.

We as of right now, live together. He started classes to convert to Catholicism and our parish priest gave him a pamphlet stating that living together before marriage is always a mortal sin, the only thing it emphasized and explained was that premarital sex is wrong. It also read that living together out of convenience is not a reason to live together – which is not why we live together, our relationship is anything but convenient. It states that couples are attracted to living together to have more free to have sex – which we are actively abstaining from, it also stated that unmarried couples use sex as a way to avoid communicating real issues and dealing with them which leads to shallow communication and breakups because couples don’t talk their issues out - we talk about all of our problems and find solutions to them together, we’re definitely doing the resolving issues as they come. We even refrain from “heavy petting” as we understand it could lead to having to stop ourselves from having sex. We have both agreed that it is better to be abstinent. Our priest told him that even not having sex gives the appearance that we are - I have no problem telling people we are abstinent and that there are extenuating circumstances for the reasons we live together.

I moved from my grandparents house and I’m not able to live there anymore - not because of this because they know we’re abstinent but because my grandfathers mother may be moving in with so they can take care of her and they need the room I was using. I do not have any other options at this point.

Our schedule goes like this - My bf works from 12:30pm to 10pm - I clean the apartment, do my homework, and look for a job (I had a job but needed to leave it) - then I make dinner, when he gets home we eat dinner, talk about the day briefly, brush our teeth, pray, and go to sleep. We fall asleep next to each other but it’s honestly just sleeping, we don’t even touch each other in a way that could lead to anything else. We’re both old enough to understand what leads to what and refrain from doing that. We’re both committed to abstaining. I’d love to marry my boyfriend, I have expressed this to him. We’ve been together for almost 9 months and we are each other’s best friends. Part of the reason we aren’t engaged is because we are both undoing much of the damage that has been brought about from the unhealthy relationships we had before, we’re figuring out how to handle issues and how we can be better for each other and for God. Our relationship is very healthy and we care deeply for each other. He’s working on his relationship with God and I believe that with time he will understand the importance of marriage and want to do right by God, so far he has but he needs clarity on the marriage issue (he’s 24). He said that he would consider getting married eventually, as of now we have no plans but I know that with time that will change like everything else has thus far. So far, the Holy Spirit has been right with how our relationship would go and I continue to have faith in God. We’ve been attending mass every Sunday together. We do adore each other and look at each other with admiration. We are attracted to each other but we look at each other in a loving way not an animalistic flesh devouring way like the pamphlet and many people’s opinions on this issue seem to envision with this type of relationship. There’s a genuine goodness between us.

Our priest has asked him to tell me that I should refrain from receiving communion until we both sit down and speak with him about this next week. Will someone tell me where it specifically has been said not to live with someone even if you aren’t having sex or how it’s a grave matter when nothing is going on? I want to be able to describe to our priest that this relationship isn’t what he may think it is, I understand his concern however.

I’ve prayed about this and I asked someone close to me who is about to become a priest if it’s a grave matter if we’re abstinent and I was told there’s no grave issue because the act of sex without marriage is removed, simply living together isn’t a mortal sin. He did say that there could be near occasion’s of sin but we are proactively not being inappropriate, it’s really not even that difficult to not be inappropriate.

I have read it’s more of a preference of the priest that a couple shouldn’t live together before marriage even without sex. Most information I find on this topic is surrounded by two people having sex. Yes, we could easily have sex but we are strong enough to resist together.

First of all, you and your boyfriend are in my prayers. Your situation is not an easy one to deal with, because you want to do the will of God but are being shown that you cannot do so living with your boyfriend. I commend you for not having sex with him and I hope that you keep practicing chastity. Living together before marriage is not what God intends for anyone though, the reason why is not just because of premarital sex, but also because it is a near occasion of sin for both of you (which we promise God that we will avoid). The near occasion of sin makes life even harder to live, and it is probably a temptation that your boyfriend has often, based on your description of his difficulties. Your not living with him will actually help him in several ways. Psychologically, living together before marriage can form a bond between the persons involved, even though not acted out sexually, a form of union takes place that is meant to be reserved for marriage. Without the commitment that marriage brings, psychological damage occurs when living in such a way. I hope that this helps. I pray that you can not only find a better living situation, but that you and your boyfriend will give God your absolute yes, because he has great plans for each of your lives. May God be loved and adored!

thank you so much for answering this call to serve Christ. my husband and I are just now starting our formation program to become missionaries (we roughly have the same schedule with prayer and study). we just moved to L.A. and are living in an old monastery (community life with six single women and one married couple… pray for my husband).

my question is:
where do you see yourself once training is over? is there a specific branch within the church you hope you will get to work in?

God bless you and take care. : )

The caution is there because it invites scandal. Scandal does not require you to actually be fornicating, rather it has to do with how it is perceived. Frankly, if I see two people I do not know living together, I’m going to assume they’re having relations outside of marriage.:shrug:

It’s not a mortal sin, but scandal itself is a sin, possibly mortal depending on the circumstances. This is most obviously seen in Matthew 18:6; while you may not, in fact, be having sexual relations, others may have the perception that you are, and may themselves take that to justify it in their mind.

It is not just the preference of the priest, but the Church; again, due to the possibility of scandal.

Thank you also for your service to the Lord. It is encouraging to hear that people are giving their lives to serve God in the way you and your husband are. To answer your question, I would say that after my training is over and I am ordained (God willing) I will most likely be placed at a parish as a parochial vicar. There I would hope to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments. I would also help counsel and walk with the people of our parish. I also have a desire to work in the area of evangelization. Hopefully our parish could reach out to others locally to invite them into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ in His Church. Please pray for me!

Dear Flame of Christ,
I’m trying to get psyched up to do some fasting for various areas in my life–and for intentions
like conversion of my son. Do you have any suggestions to help me start fasting?
Thank you.

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