Browse Our Articles & Podcasts

On Becoming Your Priest: A Letter from a Seminarian

Editor’s note: the following letter was submitted to us by a young man currently studying for the priesthood in the United States. Sadly, expressing even these measured thoughts on some of the difficulties facing seminarians in the current ecclesiastical climate could provoke retribution. For this reason, we have agreed to keep his identity anonymous. 


While I am but one young seminarian, what I am about to share with you is not simply my own opinions and ramblings. I daresay it is representative of the thoughts of at least a significant minority of your future priests. God willing, we will be raised to the dignity of the priesthood, so that we may follow the carpenter from Nazareth wherever He may lead us, even unto Calvary.

Catholics of every age have been tasked with the transformation and sanctification of their respective surroundings, and although the sheer magnitude and scope of modern man’s filth is truly breathtaking, sin is not a new idea. The fact that secular society is plagued by ambition, confusion, and deceit should not be that shocking, for that is the nature of sin. To put it simply: We must choose Christ or chaos, and I’ll let you guess where the world stands.

I wish here to specifically mention how the Church’s seminaries are at times besieged by the world’s vices, instead of striving for the virtues of Christ and the Saints. I’ll mention a few ways in which we see this occurring.

Let’s get something out of the way: these thoughts that we seminarians want to express are not a personal attack on the pope. While it is certainly true that there are times that we prudentially disagree (sometimes strongly) with certain policies of Pope Francis, nobody is plotting to poison the wine of his chalice. Hopefully this is obvious.

Many of us feel that the direction and emphases of this current pontificate are fundamentally misguided and can be summed up in a word: worldliness. Whether this is actually the intention of the pontiff or not, it is hard to deny that there is a huge effort on part of the Vatican to search the things that are below, and not vice versa, from pandering to the leftist presses of Europe and North America to inviting those with categorically anti-Catholic agendas to give speeches and conferences at the Holy See, and on and on.

Rather than engage these pressing concerns, character assassination is often employed against seminarians who don’t fit the vision for the modern, cosmopolitan priest. You’ve probably heard this unhappy litany before. Seminarians who dare to question something like whether we should actually be giving the Blessed Sacrament to people in “complex and irregular living situations” (which used to be called adultery, by the way) are smeared as rigid, un-pastoral Pharisees. This can happen by way of our superiors, but it is common especially among the more, ahem, “pastoral” seminarians, with the silent approval of the higher-ups.

The character assassination of a seminarian is a particularly pernicious thing, since the seminary is inherently a place of constant evaluation. This is good; we ought to perform well in studies, spiritual formation, human virtue, and the like. But when a stray comment leads to an accusation of something that would inhibit a man from being an effective priest, it not only places the seminarian on the defensive, but puts his future in question. Therefore, it is crucial to “know whom you’re talking to” before you make the grave error of mentioning interest in anything even hinting at tradition.

Thirdly, there is a type of uncharity, which is clearly the antithesis of the Christian life. We orthodox seminarians see this as a top-down problem. Some of the comments made by Pope Francis make many of us think that if he really knew us, he would see us not as loyal sons who have given up worldly careers and families for the sake of our vocation, but rather as instigators and troublemakers who don’t really know the Church.

This is not only tragic, but disingenuous. The pontiff who has been made infamous for saying things like “Who am I to judge?” also has made a habit of tearing into mainly hypothetical clerics who dare to wear the cassock, emphasize the importance of God’s law, or promote sacred liturgy. It gets tiresome to see your spiritual father rip you for the all the world to see when he doesn’t so much as know your name. And it gives other priests the justification to attack their more traditionally minded younger brothers, creating an environment of distrust among generations of priests. While this division is certainly not a new phenomenon, the tension has escalated dramatically since the ascension of Latin America’s first pope.

All of these things are serious cause for concern, but I would like to leave you with a note of hope and confidence. While the world becomes more and more uncertain, I must say that most of the current crop of seminarians is absolutely convinced of the truth of Jesus Christ and already battle-tested. We have come from extremely secular public (and sadly, many Catholic) schools where immorality and political correctness are seen as the highest objectives. We have been called every name in the book by our peers and been tempted by alluring worldly pleasures. But by the grace of God, many of us persevere unto ordination. The dedication and zeal of my brothers farther along than I in formation are inspiring, and those among our ranks who have been ordained are already making gains for Our Lord.

However, we ought not hide from reality. These things are happening to men trying to discern their vocation within the seminary. The more the entire Church is aware of possible traps for orthodox vocations, the more ardently we all can pray and ask for greater strength to see that many more men will answer the call.

I’ll leave you with this: we seminarians may not have met you, but we already daydream about baptizing your babies. We already look forward to absolving you of your sins, consoling you in dire moments, fending off the wolves when they come for you, and showing you that the Catholic life truly is the good life. In short, we can’t wait to be your priests.

71 thoughts on “On Becoming Your Priest: A Letter from a Seminarian”

  1. One must recall that Christ was crucified, what a dark day for the Apostles, and then the Resurrection. It seems tha Church is being crucified but seminarians like this indicate that the gates of hell will not prevail. Chesterton reminds us that 5 times it seemed the Catholic Church would vanish and each time it renewed. Can we just invite PF to go join the Lutherans? We do not need a Protestant Catholic Church.

  2. And we faithful in family life, good sir, “day dream” about having more manful orthodox Priests to baptize our children and help us with the much necessary liturgical and ecclesial house cleaning to come. Keep going, encourage your brothers, and know that Catholics – many of them desperate – are waiting on the other side. In the meantime, you are in our prayers. AMDG!

    • Couldn’t have expressed it with any more heartfelt sincerity!! To this I say AMEN!!! I keep all of you that are in the seminary and have given your lives to Christ and His people, in my Prayers daily!!

  3. Heartbreaking. To ask men to give up a worldly life by sacrificing so much, is one thing. To ask them to do it while facing what they face now from within, altogether beyond the pale. When the day arrives that it is better for a seminarian to be a mincing effeminate than a man seeking to serve Christ, we know we are in the last days.
    God bless you, dear seminarian. May He sustain and guide you always.

  4. “Catholic life truly is the good life.” This. Know there are many young families who are coming to the same conclusions as you, rejecting contraception, gender bending, and all other evils the devil wraps up in a pretty package labeled “tolerance,” which is perhaps our lay version of “pastoralism.” We can’t wait to be your flock.

  5. Reading this reminds me of some underground seminary in a communist country or during the Nazi occupations when you could trust few. Having to hide the fact that you believe the true faith from your superiors, or fellow classmates, in fear of being outed and potentially ruined. How pathetic the modern church has become.

  6. May the Lord bless you and your brothers, dear seminarian. The last lines of your letter left me in tears. They are the words that my soul needs in this time of trouble.

    We are worried, most especially those of us who – for various reasons – are not able to make the move to the EF. Please pray for us. We are most certainly praying for you!

  7. A beautiful letter! Like the poster below, your last paragraph moved me profoundly, and gives all of us such hope.
    Rest assured, Spiritual Motherhood has entered onto the battlefield, and I am meeting more women concerned for priests and seminarians. We are offering scriptural rosaries, holy hours, privately and in cenacles for all of you, careful to include also those who are chained in sin.
    God bless you, and we, too, look forward to welcoming you, and supporting you, in our churches and homes.

  8. Words cannot express what is in my heart at this moment.

    But KNOW this: We wait for you! We pray for you! And…..should the day come……we shall protect you and shelter you, so that you may be the priest for Christ first, and for us.

  9. This letter brought tears to my eyes. God strengthen you , dear seminarian and your brothers.We’re living through difficult and confusing times but I pray the rosary daily and know that Our Lady holds us close to her heart. Our priests are especially precious to her.

  10. It is so very nice to know how much things have changed since I got booted out of the major seminary 25+ years ago. (SARCASM NOW OFF).

    My personal advice to all of these seminarians: leave and go to the SSPX. You will fare very well there. Had I known years ago, that is where I would have gone.

    • I guess being booted out was over being “rigid”. I just wonder how many good and holy Priests the flock have missed out on because of wolves in high places?

      • Pick up the book “Goodbye, Good Men” by Michael S. Rose. The book documents very well the question you ask. In fact, I will give you the answer- the number is in the tens of thousands.

        • And then read “In Sinu Jesu”. Nothing has given more hope and more motivation to pray for this generation of young priests! This book was written for priests and the laity who are called to support them.

  11. “But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” Good Seed has never been needed more than it is now. Be not afraid, good hearted young seminarians.

  12. Heartening it is to read this reflection on life in the contemporary seminary. Heartening because it manifests courage and fidelity in the face of rude realities that exist in clerical life across a
    spectrum of environments – seminary, chancery, rectory, and monastery – this young man speaks the truth. Mournful as well, particularly that young men with hearts given to Christ must find this reality among those who should be their spiritual fathers. What a betrayal, of Christ and His contemporary disciples. I was lucky to be a mature middle aged man before I had to live with it, though well prepared for the rude reality before I entered contemplative life.
    Yes, even there.
    One need only be what might be called a “centerist” to be regarded as a threat to the legion within who actually hate the Roman Catholic Church. Their interior disposition is often concealed, their lives a masquerade, the depth of their aberrance from the Truth of the Gospel, the Roman Catholic faith unfathomable to most laity. They see the Church is “their” oyster. They will stop at nothing to wrestle the façade, the pedigree, the treasure of the Church to their purpose. They come in all vesture, all rank. Their exhortation to a blind obedience, their claim to superior insight, their adoption of new forms of “virtue” (ah, the “open mind”) are their mark. We need recognize and reject vigorously the reptilian subterfuge.
    Vindictive, retaliatory, all under the guise of pastoral, charity, psychological discernment.
    Life in the heterodox kirche is akin to life in the Soviet Union. Snooping, sneaking, backstabbing. It is particularly rife within religious communities.
    Jesuit Bergoglio is no doubt a master.
    Where are all the priests? Many who should be imparting their apostolic efforts to you did give it a virile try but are now found piled along the edges of the path — clerical, monastic road kill.
    Keep your head down anonymous Seminarian. You have a target on your back.

    • There are good holy seminarians and Priests out there. A group of 6 set up the website Denzinger-Bergoglio, and they are European Priests. They said they must remain anonymous to do the work they do, and on that site they educate Catholics who wish to understand more.

      • Yes, there are good holy seminarians and Priests out there and, yes, they must remain anonymous to do the work they do.
        The ecclesiastical sandbox is a dangerous place, and that is tragic.
        That is my point.
        The enemy is within.

  13. Yes, Fr Z and others have mentioned the gauntlet of their seminary life and it seems like this is again the situation in some seminaries where the holy vocations are attacked and the unworthy or worldly or even homosexual men without that true vocation are passed along.

    If the seminary is too rigid in its unorthodoxy, may the FSSP and other holy seminaries welcome them.

  14. How fabulous is that! Please God, the seminarians who wrote or join in this letter will have the good sense to
    do what it takes to make it to ordination relying totally on the Good Lord and knowing that there are many laity desperately waiting to meet them and support them in prayer and friendship. Let’s all pray for such priests to increase!

    • And pray that they will find a faithful remnant who will welcome them.

      For the day may come, when the Sacrifice of the Mass will not be in a beautiful and fancy church.
      There will be no Gregorian Chant, or Sacred Music sung from choir, but a simple altar, with a Crucifix and a priest in the basement of an old building. Will the faithful still come?

      • I would be honored to attend a reverent Mass in a basement. It would be better than going to the beautiful church I attend where the pastor tells me if he were Pope Francis he would eliminate the Sunday obligation so he wouldn’t have to spend so much time hearing confessions.

        It’s a body without a heart and it breaks mine. Thank you for this article.

        Beautiful beyond words.

      • Well I think they will always come to offer the sacrifice of the Mass. But the time might come when the sacrifice of the Mass is only offered by a few good Priests, and another newer Mass without belief in its being a sacrifice, a more ecumenical and interfaith version might be easier to find. I wont be attending any of the latter.

  15. Oh WOW! I’ve got goosebumps just reading this. Thank you. You’re all in our prayers, especially, because they need it, the, “pastoral” individuals. God bless!

  16. Dear Seminarian, please leave the apostasy of the Novus Ordo Church, and join a seminary of the Society of Pius X. Why keep your real life secret in the midst of a “wicked generation”? After your ordination you will probably be bullied by a godless bishop to give adulterers and homosexuals holy communion! You’ll forced to do things that are blatantly against Catholic doctrine and your conscience will be never at rest. There is simply no place for you in the Modernist Pseudo-Church of Bergoglio. Be courageous and leave this Babylon of Confusion.

  17. There is a military saying: you fight the way you train. You are being trained to keep your head down, your mouth shut, and to go along silently.

    Not that you have a choice. We didn’t either. It’s been like this in doctoral programs in psychology for decades. If anyone found out you were traditionally religious, then for some totally unrelated reason, out you would go.

    However, you need to be aware that there are consequences. I hid behind a foul mouth, so as not to be suspected. It took a long time to clean it up. And I still flinch a little inside when a client asks me to pray with them. Survival training is trauma training, and trauma training sticks.

    Be aware of what the consequences of hiding are, and have a plan to correct them once you get out. I didn’t realize there were any. I thought I would be “ordained” (licensed) and then everything would be fine.

    And when I finally did start fighting, it was always under an assumed name. The secular world has “bishops” too.

    Good hunting, and God guard you from all dragons.

  18. How lovely it was to read the final paragraph. I never really think about a seminarian having such thoughts. God bless all of you. We need you more than ever.

  19. The formation process cares not about the disposition of ones heart and soul in service to God, but in crushing that for a more secular, social justice warrior, self reflecting rather than God reflecting presence in the world. I felt this in my short stint as a religious sister before I ran for my life and soul. It’s not just seminarians who are noticing this, but is pervasive in all vowed membership. That is why so many leave before vows/ordination.

  20. Reminds me of Our Lady’s grave warning given in Quito; “There shall be scarcely any virgin souls in the world. The delicate flower of virginity will seek refuge in the cloisters.…Without virginity, fire from heaven will be needed to purify these lands.…”

    And again

    “The small number of souls who will secretly safeguard the treasure of Faith and virtues will suffer a cruel, unspeakable, and long martyrdom. Many will descend to their graves through the violence of suffering and will be counted among the martyrs who sacrificed themselves for the country and the Church.”

  21. Many of us feel that the direction and emphases of this current pontificate are fundamentally misguided and can be summed up in a word: wordliness.

    I feel the presence of wordiness and worldliness in my brother Francis. Yet I hanker now for this concept of wordliness. It is something that I have not yet savored.

  22. Is it possible for you to withdraw and enter the seminary of the FSSP? There I suspect you would not have to live a lie daily. If not, remember something I read many decades ago. Dale Vree who later became Catholic lived for a while in East Germany; I believe at the time he was Anglican. The GDR was one of the most Stalinist of the satellite states, even long after the tyrant’s death. Nevertheless, Vree looked back on his time there as the most intensely Christian of his life. His faith thrived on the rigors and spiritual deprivation of everyday life in Ulbricht’s socialist “paradise.” Our faith can allow us to get blood even from a stone.

      • About where we are right now. This seminarian might find life in many dioceses around the world very difficult. I’ve seen what a bishop (one of the gang groomed by Law in Boston) can do to priests whom he deems “recalcitrant.” He would be under heavy pressure to conform.

  23. Steve, please pass on my deepest, deepest appreciation for this young man.

    His letter makes me cry.

    May the Lord fill you and other seminarians and priests with a super abundance of grace to be the priests that God meant you to be.

    Thank you Jesus for this new crop of would be priests!

  24. Thank you for this letter. Your last paragraph is beautiful! We too look forward to new priests baptizing our babies, hearing confession and assisting your flock in times of trouble. The good life IS the Catholic life! Amen!

    I will be praying for your (and fellow seminarians) perseverance unto ordination with renewed vigor.

    May God bless you!

  25. Dear seminarian: I add my voice to all the “thank you”s here. And I say an “Amen” at the end of your letter. What you write makes clear now: Something vast, institutional, ideological, worldly and cultural, and dark, is against our young seminarians and faithful priests. But opposing it is something else, and is more powerful: sheer grace, a grace that moves in the hearts of people and which is accepted by people in faith. Thank you again, and God bless.

  26. You need a proofreader: “Many of us feel that the direction and emphases of this current pontificate are fundamentally misguided and can be summed up in a word: wordliness.” I think the word is meant to be “worldliness” though the other also works 🙂

    • This piece was edited, it somehow slipped through the cracks. And then, I went in to fix it probably 8 or 10 hours ago, only to now see that the change didn’t save.

      Just one of those days, I guess. (The worst typos are in my pieces, because nobody edits me. 😉

  27. It’s a real Cross! You will be a real Priest when you’re through! Our prayers are with you and more importantly, Jesus’ Prayers because for all this chaos, His Graces afterwards will be HUUUUUUUUmongous. Thank you for your vocation!

  28. “It gets tiresome to see your spiritual father rip you for the all the world to see when he doesn’t so much as know your name.”

    Envious my foes watch, while thou dost spread a banquet for me; richly thou dost anoint my head with oil, well filled my cup. All my life thy loving favour pursues me; through the long years the Lord’s house shall be my dwelling-place.

  29. What a beautiful letter.
    His last paragraph brought me to tears.
    We laity love our priests.
    the TRUE priests,
    those that seek our salvation,
    those that lead us to Christ,
    those that lead us to sanctity.
    those that lead us to heaven.
    Now, that is TRUE mercy, TRUE charity:
    those who are not afraid to teach us Christ’s Truths.
    We must be called to awareness of our sinfulness so that we may repent.
    If that is rigidity (or so-called) then bring it on.
    I prefer that kind of “rigidity” (born of true love) than the “rigidity” we will face on judgement day.
    This is our time of Mercy, our time of Truth in order to prepare for our judgement day.
    God Bless this suffering seminarian and his fellow like-minded seminarians for
    loving us (and Christ) to suffer so, for our eternal salvation.
    We must pray (and pray hard) for these loyal priests and seminarians.
    I, for my part, pray the Divine Mercy daily and the rosary (if I have enough time since, I have other rosary intentions) daily for loyal priests, bishops and cardinals. How they all suffer.

  30. God will forge great priests in this furnace.
    I have seen the meanest practices among those who are supposed to be pastors of the flock. Shunning, blacklisting, back stabbing, destruction of reputations. Many who practice those things are on your EWTN screen every week, piously pretending to be fighting for the faith. “Their end will be according to their deeds.”

  31. this is a great great post..thank you 1P5 for posting..God and His blessed Mother help guide and protect this good and holy seminarian and may he and his fellow seminarians persevere..we need Godly men to be real priests not just social workers ala the society of judas

  32. Practice the virtue of fortitude, your martyrdom is one of everyday life. But if I may offer one piece of advice, study your philosophy, theology and Latin well, while you’re in the seminary. I pretty much doubt that Thomistic philosophy or solid dogmatic is being taught there. Do it in hiding if you have to. Sacrifice your vacations for this. It’ll be quite harder to catch up after your ordained. But I’m very glad to see the prayers said for decades now by faithful Catholics coming to fruition. Keep fast to the tradition that has been given to you! Mother Mary, help your children!

  33. Dear seminarian,

    The potty-mouth, trash-talking, insult-spewing, ecclesiastical version of Don Rickles that is Jorge Bergoglio will be gone…….and hopefully soon. Hold fast until then.

    One question: is your seminary a “pink palace”? What would happen if you were to voice support for the Church’s discipline that homosexuals should not be admitted to Holy Orders?

    God bless and keep you always.

  34. This is such an excellent article. It really gives hope to read of the passion and faithfulness of these seminarians. My Our Lord and Lady keep you and all seminarians always. God bless you.

  35. Future priests like these are the real hope for the Church. And what prophetic insight in the accurate summing up of this pontificate with the word ‘worldliness’. I would add as an apt motto for Bergoglianism Wordsworth’s ‘ The world is too much with us’. Bergoglio’s horizontal vision is plain for all to see, rarely does the vertical supernatural dimension figure in his loquacious deliveries. He has always sounded more like a this worldly SJW than a Catholic pontiff whose overriding concern is the salvation of souls for eternal life. Bergoglio seems to prefer sheep who live consoled by two eyes in this world than sheep who enter the afterlife with one, as the only Master and Saviour councelled.

  36. Yes, we’ve heard of “Priestly Formation” and accusations of “rigidity.” The prior version was the cause of the sex scandal as strongly suggested in the book “Goodbye Good Men.” Now it is the left-politicization of worldly politics, a Gospel without Christ so-to-speak. You and seminarians like you are in our prayers. One day they will be another Pope. Time has a way of doing that, and hopefully it will be another TRUE leader that can clean out so many of these Rat’s Nest that fester in the Church that our Lord founded. The purpose of the Church is Salvation, not a Gospel without Christ !!!

  37. Frankly, all of the above SOUNDS good, except for the distinct whiff of sanctimony coming from “Seminarian X.” A Bishop’s hands have not even come close to being laid upon his head and, yet, he feels — already! — comfortable with spouting off his opinions on: the Pope; the Church; other sems; etc. What’s the old expression (quoted even by Our Lord): “Physician, heal thyself!”

    Just because “Seminarian X” says the right things, the things that “Traditional” or “Catholic” ears want to hear, does NOT mean that his demeanor is not problematic. I sense the same arrogance exuding from our anonymous “Future Priest” that I have sensed before coming from any “hippy-dippy,” “pastoral,” liberal Priest. The clericalism is the same for each.

    “Seminarian X” already seems to view himself as my “Benefactor,” rather than a “Servant” (cf. Luke 22:24-30). This is a dangerous attitude.

    What “Seminarian X” should probably do is: stay off the computer; keep his mouth shut; listen intently to his formators; study hard; and (of course) pray at every opportunity.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Popular on OnePeterFive

Share to...