I visited a Seminary retreat this weekend


#1

I visited a “come and see” retreat this weekend at the local Catholic Seminary. A major thing to know before I make my remarks is that I am what is called a “neophite”, I’m new to the Catholic Church, despite having lots of experience in theology, apologetics, and church history. I often have to explain to Catholics what their faith is, why it is that way, etc.

I had a wonderful weekend, seeing a beautiful place where my faith could flourish amidst other dedicated Catholics. And let me be clear, my faith does not flourish on my own, whether in my old Christian faith or my new Catholic faith. My Catholic faith has certain strengthened my faith to higher points than ever in my life, but I reached a plateau a bit after I converted. I’m very much on an island in my church. My desires to find those who seek theological answers as I do and speak about theology in modern life is largely met with odd stares and spaciness.

Anyways, I was told I couldn’t possibly attend this next year, as I’m too new to the faith officially. I have mixed feelings about this, and mind you, I realize my feelings are irrelevant in the big picture, and what God calls for me.

  1. I understand how this “buffering period” can be reasoned as just a good process, to “take the time” to process wearing the cloak of being a member of the Catholic church. I was told how nearly any bishops around the country would obstain from allowing a new Convert into the seminary (I’m not certain if that’s true, it’s just what I was told). Mind you, I spoke to no Bishops.

  2. I understand my pride and ego in this equation. My conversion wasn’t the ordinary process. I went sobbing to my local priest after realizing my soul death within the Lutheran Church, and felt my mere pleas to God for forgiveness weren’t good enough. I craved the sacrament of Confession. I had hooks of old sin dragging me down with every step. I was amazing blessed to give my first Confession that very day in June, and was also gracefully allowed to forego the process of RCIA. I’m not sure if my knowledge of my faith allowed that, or my state of mind. It’s not the normal way it’s done, and I’m not deserving of it, but I gladly accept it.

  3. I understand much of what the church has to offer. While I was raised in a Lutheran home with a father who is an ordained Lutheran Minister and a devout Lutheran mother, my brother converted to Catholicism years ago, attended Duke Divinity school and achieved a masters in Bible and Theology. Needless to say, I had a crucial resource to inform me about my protestant misconceptions about the mother church. We had many long talks over long periods of time.

  4. I suspect it can make an institution feel good to make people wait to be Catholics for a bit before they would enter the Seminary. As I suggested before, there’s some head-nodding sense there. At the same time, I would offer that it’s certainly putting a halt to my progression in my faith, as my need for a community of believers who are beyond mere attendees is paramount. Being pushed to pray 3 times a day, and attend multiple masses throughout the weekend. To share a common goal in the most important aspect of my life with other people. This doesn’t exist in any Catholic church, or any church in general, I’ve ever gone to. Church is mostly filled with those who want to clock in for their hour on Sunday, and then get on with their week.

  5. Speaking of someone’s week, I have no true career. I work in special education at an elementary school as an assitant teacher. It doesn’t pay enough to live alone, so I live with my parents at age 33. There is no way in any way do I want to go back to college to finish my education degree. I’ve ventured into multiple forms of it, art education, history education, special education, but have been met with nothing but frustration in dealing with the whimsical idealists who make up academia. There is only one thing I would go back to college for, and that would be for my faith. I’ve said it for years now. I’ve worked my dead-end, mildly fulfilling job for years now, which offers its rewards, but isn’t where I’m supposed to be. I know this.

So after this weekend, where an opening to such an institution would offer a supercharge to my life in its most important aspect, I’m told to wait, to go back to my bland, unchallenging, life of ashes, not fire.

Now that this option has eluded me, I wonder where I’ll go, because I can’t keep doing what I’m doing. I just can’t.

Anyways, thank you for reading about my weekend and my thoughts.


#2

How is your relationship with your pastor, or any of the priests at your parish? Have you spoken to them, seeking guidance?

Are there any ministries or small faith-sharing groups in your parish? Do you volunteer your time to the good of the church? Could you begin your own faith sharing group?

There are a lot of ways you could grow your faith outside of seminary. I know there is this awesome, motivating quality to being immersed 24-7 in a community of men all striving for the same goal, but that’s different than being called to the priesthood.

I didn’t see you say anywhere in your post that you felt called to the priesthood, only that you were being called to seminary, but what will you do when seminary is over? I’m not a spiritual director, but seminary is only a stepping stone to something greater, and I think you may need to figure out if priesthood is what you want, or if you want something else.

Talk to people who know, I’m just a layperson, but call different religious orders, talk to your diocesan vocation director, but most of all, build a relationship with a local priest. Once they get to know you, they should be able to give you better advice

Pax!

Stephen


#3

It is a rule under Canon Law that neophites will not be considered for ordination. Under Canon Law I believe the minimum is one year, but individual dioceses might well set the bar higher than that.


#4

It seems to me that you are a very well-educated,well-prepared and knowledgable person who wants to talk about the abstract as well as the concrete. I can understand your frustration and I can also appreciate why you have been told it’s too soon - although each case must be different.

I took part in RCIA and really wanted some deep discussion, but the rest of the group would probably have felt uncomfortable (several of them were not native English-speakers) - so I didn’t raise anything and simply took part in what was offered to us. It was still a good experience, even if it wasn’t the experience I’d hoped for.

Are you able to locate an academic priest who can advise you further? We have a priest in residence at my present church who occasionally celebrates Mass on Sundays when he’s not abroad - he speaks numerous languages (including the classics) and teaches philosophy to seminarians in Rome. His homilies are very thought-provoking and full of literary references. It seems to me that that kind of priest would be the sort of person to seek out (but probably hard to find).

Seems to me that you need to get involved somewhere to slake your thirst for further growth. I wish I could help you more.


#5

I am a seminarian, soon to be ordained to the priesthood. You may PM me with questions if you’d like.

One thing I’d point out though is that you’ve said nothing in here about feeling called to the priesthood. Everything you’ve said is about a desire for a more intense experience of your newfound faith, which is great, of course. But you didn’t really say you felt called to the priesthood. Just something to think about and discuss with a priest you trust.

-ACEGC


#6

Speaking as just one of the flock, a couple of things in what you wrote struck me as indicative of matters that could need some soul searching.

In #4 you wrote:
“… As I suggested before, there’s some head-nodding sense there. At the same time, I would offer that it’s certainly putting a halt to my progression in my faith, as my need for a community of believers who are beyond mere attendees is paramount… Church is mostly filled with those who want to clock in for their hour on Sunday, and then get on with their week.”

In my humble opinion, viewing practicing Catholics as “mere attendees” and questioning their motives as wanting “to clock in for an hour on Sunday, and then get on with their week” does not indicate that you are at this point suited for a religious vocation in the Catholic Church.

Also, you are very clear on how entering a seminary will serve your needs, but you make no mention of ways in which you hope to serve.


#7

I am also a neophyte, but the above counsel I have heard given to others. Take my opinion for what it is worth which may not be much at all.

Perhaps prayer regarding the finding of your true vocation in life and the courage to follow the footsteps that God lays down for you might be helpful. God opens many doors when the person is ready. If you haven’t been able to figure out life’s purpose for you, ask God. God may simply be waiting for you to ask Him.


#8

I rather strongly relate to your situation and feelings. I have known since I was a small child that my life belongs completely to God. I was confirmed in the Catholic church on Pentecost of last year. Prior to joining the church I was an interfaith minister. I find it frustrating that I have to wait before I can even discuss or seek out in any way to go to seminary. I am not sure if I am being called to the priesthood or to the diaconate, only that it is likely one or the other. It’s possible that God has in store for me to be a monastic brother; not ideal from my current perspective, but God’s will is most important. Financial issues aside, I find it difficult to just be.

The financial side is a separate discussion, but I have found a few ways I can serve and fulfill my need for deep spiritual discussion. For the former there are all kinds of parish ministries in which you can participate. I joined the choir, and I am waiting to be trained as an emhc. I am also seeking to be a lector. As for the latter, I have found some good spiritual discussion through joining the Knights of Columbus, and even more by attending Secular Franciscan meetings. I am now in the long formation process with the Secular Franciscan Order, and perhaps they will have the fullness of where God will have me serve. Other paths (Benedictine, Carmelite, etc) also have third orders or something similar. Seek them out if you can. Some of them want you to be Catholic for a year, but they will usually allow you some level of participation and sometimes they will waive the waiting period. I would also recommend visiting nearby monasteries and getting to know some of the fathers and brothers: they’re wonderful for finding engaging spiritual discussion.

I could have easily written much of your post, other than the Lutheran part, and I wish you well on your journey with God. God bless!


#9

Had you considered becoming a member of one of the tertiary orders? This would allow you to deepen your experience in the faith, you may find that you’re called to enter a monastery rather than be a priest.

It does worry me that you do not mention being called to the priesthood, I see a lot in your post about what YOU want, but no mention of God’s wants or will…


#10

I’m curious to know about tertiary orders.

As for what I want, and what God wants, I’d like to know what God wants. I’m not committed or invested in this single issue. It was a good experience for me regardless.

As for priesthood, any seminarian I’ve spoken to acknowledges that you don’t enter seminary the first year certain or fully intending to be a preist. The path of discernment takes time. Merely stepping in the doors leaves the possibility open, if you are called to it.


#11

Tertiary orders are those that the laity may join, living in the world but following the Rule held to by the Order. The Benedictines, the Carmelites and Franciscans are among some of the professed that have these organizations. It can be a step on the path to discerning a vocation.


#12

I particularly enjoy the secular Franciscan order (third order Franciscan.) Even the tertiary orders have rules about how long you need to be in the church first, at least the Secular Franciscan Order does, but sometimes the formation director can make a call and let you begin formation earlier. With the Secular Franciscan Order whith whom I am in formation, the process takes 18 months, but it is a wonderful process with incredible discussion and help with discernment of one’s calling.

As I mentioned earlier, groups such as the Knights of Columbus can be wonderfully enriching as well, and so can getting involved in ministries in your own parish and diocese.


#13

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