Dear brother in Christ,
I read your recent thread regards your experience of seminary life and I thought I’d give you some advice.
Firstly, well done on finishing your first year of priestly training! Following a vocation is no easy task these days so you should be very proud of your achievements thus far.
I’m a seminarian myself and have just finished my first year of theology studies. Thank God it’s going well and I have felt my vocation to Christ deepen as the years go by; however like yourself too have found some aspects difficult.
Your reference to the lack of ‘normal’ people made me chuckle. Seminary life is a complex reality, filled with all types of characters, personalities and (dare I say) theological views! Finding your own space within that type of environment is not easy or comfortable at times. Many students can have far right leanings and seem more concerned with cinctures and incense than the Gospel of Christ! In my own seminary I too have listened to guys attack pope Francis or blast liturgical practices of the past 60, feeling that since VII the whole Church has been on a downward spiral. Speaking from experience, this can be off putting and disheartening especially if you love the Church and feel a deep desire to bring the saving message of Christ to a people who are hungry for His Word. Negativity and pessimism in a seminary is detrimental to community life and kills fraternity. It can result too in the creation of cliques which completely undermine what a seminary is about. Right winged rigidity is usually an expression of a particular psychological makeup, which with good formation, should be diffused during seminary training. However don’t be too hard on your brothers whom you might disagree with, they too might offer you something valuable and also your friendship with them is in itself an opportunity for their continued formation. I’m sorry that you feel lonely but I’m sure there are plenty of excellent guys in your house that would provide good company for you. Perhaps join a sports club or college society? It might be a good way to meet new people.
I implore you to not allow the pessimism or negativity you have experienced in seminary to affect your vocation or undermine your convictions. God called you by name for to be a priest for His people. He offered you an invitation to follow Him and you have generously responded with an open heart. He who called you will sustain you, just like he sustained the people of Israel in the desert or the apostles in the sinking boat. Don’t despair, but rejoice! Rejoice that God has found you worthy to be his priest and stay close to him in prayer. I’m sure the problems you outlined will seem a lot more unimportant if you meditate on the sheer awesomeness of you vocation and the actions of God in your life.
There is no such thing as the perfect seminary. No such thing as the perfect rector or no such thing as the perfect community. We aim for perfection but fall often, however we still aim for it. You are in this particular seminary because it’s God’s will for you and even though you might not see it, in time you will realise how these experiences have helped form you into a finer seminarian. Stay close to Christ and pour out your heart to him. If your vocation is really to be a priest then He will let you know this, in the stillness of your heart.
With regards to the liturgies, every liturgical celebration is worship to God so there is always some value in it. Become aware of the beauties of the liturgy, either obvious or hidden, and treat them as opportunities to meet Christ. Orthodoxy is important as is good solid liturgy; however the main reason why we train for priesthood is to further the Kingdom of God on earth and to bring souls to heaven. That is our goal and therefore that is our ultimate motivational factor. When we lose sight of this, we lose our vocation.
With regards to your experiences of homosexual seminarians, all I can say is that the seminary is no place for sexual relations, either gay or straight. If you feel that some students are engaging inappropriately then bring this to your Spiritual Father in the internal forum and heed his advice. A lot of seminarians in every seminary all over the world are gay. I don’t know why this is but it seems to be the case. Respect them with regards their orientation but they too are held to the same high standards as any seminarian. Any overly physical contact between guys is not appropriate either. I’d wonder about the credibility of their vocation if they are engaging like that. Don’t despair though, any issues you have bring them to your Spiritual Father or confessor.
Overall, don’t be too hard on yourself. Seminary formation is a wonderful journey but can also leave you disillusioned at times, as your thread outlines. The scriptures are full of examples of people who have felt isolated or confused, as are the psalms we pray every day. God understands your heart and will guide you through it. Place your trust in Him.
Be sure too to enjoy your summer and get a good rest and pray for your brothers, formaters and the Church. Please too pray for me and all seminarians discerning the will of God. I’ll remember you in my prayers.