When I was discerning, I thought most of my time in the seminary would be spent learning. I figured I would divide my days into going to class and preparing for class. Academics would consume my life.
Being in the seminary now, I realize I was right and wrong. Most of my time is spent learning, but not in the way I thought. Learning philosophy helped me become a better priest, but the other things I learned will help me be a better man. Here is a list of a few that I reflected on during my last retreat:
- Seminary gave me authentic self-knowledge.
God made me with gifts and faults, neither of which are by accident. I have learned that I can confidently claim my gifts knowing they are given by God. I can also learn to love my faults, which make me rely more on God. This was the first lesson I learned in seminary: that I had no idea who I was.
2. Seminary taught me the importance of brotherhood.
I remember writing in my journal during my first ever week of seminary about the variety of backgrounds of the men who were there. That year I lived on the same floor as a doctor, a lawyer, a former newspaper reporter, and a construction worker. Yet we all had the same goal. To discern serving Jesus at his altar. No matter our background, we were united in our goal and desire to help one another achieve who we were called to be. My fellow seminarians and I support each other like family and still sometimes fight like brothers, yet they are some of the best and most virtuous men I have ever met. This is a community I wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else.
3. God doesn’t need me, but He still wants me.
How profound is that? God is all powerful, all knowing, and can do whatever He wants however He wants. There are so many people more qualified and talented than I am. Yet he still loved me into existence. Jesus looks at my sins and loves me through them. God looked at the world in all its beauty and saw it was still missing something: You.
4. Discerning vocation isn’t easy, and that’s ok.
In my seminary career, I’ve thought about leaving more than once. I have yelled at God, been angry with my spiritual director, and cried behind closed doors. It took about three years in seminary before I actually wanted to be a priest. God made me work for my vocation, and I’m a better man because of it. Jesus made me fight to follow Him. Through everything He’s called me through, Jesus taught me that love is work.
This is only the tip of the iceberg of what my seminary years have taught me. When you make the choice to give yourself over to God, brace yourself for the most beautifully difficult ride of your life. Most days I love being in seminary, but Jesus still chooses to stretch me. But I wouldn’t change my life for anything.