Yesterday’s letter from a seminarian about the trials and hopes of training to be a priest in 2017 received a very positive response. Among those we heard from was another U.S. seminarian — from a completely different diocese — who emailed us to share his own thoughts. He graciously gave me permission to share them with you under the same condition of anonymity.
I am writing in response to the recently published letter from a seminarian. I myself am also a seminarian studying in the U.S.
Firstly, thank you for publishing my brother seminarian’s letter. As I was reading it, I thought to myself how I wish I had been the one to write it. Actually moments ago, one of my classmates came to my room to ask if I had authored the letter.
Secondly, I referred to this anonymous seminarian as my “brother” not only because there is a sense of fraternity among us even if we meet a seminarian from the other side of the world, but even more so because I identify very much with the words of that letter.
Personally speaking, I have wanted to be a priest from a very young age and have grown up going to Catholic school (which as I progressed is school, the schools became more and more secular) and have been active in parish life from a very young age. Looking at the current climate, and looking back on my up bringing and the environment in which my vocation was nurtured, I can say that I have been very blessed to have had the influence of many good priests and religious. But I can also say that looking at a “then and now” picture, the current expectations of seminarians and priests are drastically different to how I had been formed since my childhood and my understanding of the role of the priest.
Thirdly, I thought about writing to OnePeterFive recently with all the rhetoric about “rigidity” and “rigid young Catholics.” It reminds me of a chapter from Nietzsche’s “Beyond Good and Evil” and something came up which I thought would be a good article for your site. In Chapter 31 of his work, Nietzsche criticizes young people because they want ayes/no, black/answer because we (I intentionally say ‘we’) do not understand the nuances of life. One could interpret what Nietzsche says by with the simple phrase that “young people are rigid.” I highly suggest reading that 31st chapter of Nietzsche’s work because it characterizes the current overwhelming attitude of the Church’s hierarchy. Who knew that our pastors were Nietzschians? Most likely they themselves have no idea. Nietzsche himself writes that after years of experience the young man begins to doubt his enthusiasm and retreats from his youthful passion. I have seen this myself, young priests’ fire being sniffed out by the pessimism of a previous generation. Of course there is no doubt that youthful passion can be unhealthy, but when it goes to the extent that young man just accepts the status quo and never then seeks to fight for the Kingdom, then he falls into what my brother seminarian mentioned as the pursuit of worldliness; creating for himself a little kingdom of comfort where no one bothers him and he challenges no one to live up to the Gospel.
Anyway, I could go on for days without end. From another seminarian who cannot wait to be your priest, thank you for sharing the letter, and for your work in spreading the Truth.
When I started OnePeterFive, it was my intention to give a platform to the most needed but least heard voices in the Church. I sought out the compelling stories — of conversion, of devotion, of experience — in the hopes of bringing them to life. I would hear from people, “Oh, I’m not a writer.” “So?” I’d respond. “I’ll edit you. What you have to say can only be said by you.”
As we’ve increasingly shifted our coverage toward the Church crisis, we’ve had less time to spend on the stories about real faith, really lived. That’s a pity. We can’t restore Catholic culture and rebuild Catholic tradition if we don’t know what that looks like. We need to hear from people like our seminarians. They are the future. They give us hope.
I encourage other seminarians, but also priests and laymen to send us their stories. If you’re a part of the Church, and you’re striving to live your faith in challenging times, I’m willing to bet you have something to offer that others would benefit from. We can’t publish everything, but it strikes me as very important that we remind ourselves that we’re all in this together.
Our shared experiences, challenges, and triumphs are an important part of that.