Saturday, June 20, 2015

Life of a Korean Seminarian

A seminary professor  writing in a pastoral bulletin for priests reflects on "weariness and rest" of the clerical life. He spends time with the first year students. When he first received the assignment he thought he would be spending time with them in their studies and prayer life. He has been in seminary work for six years and his  lectures and prayer life have not been a problem. He doesn't remember when it started but at the end of a semester he is tired and exhausted.

In the first two years he felt  vacation time for  the seminarians was too long. Now looking at the freshman class he is in admiration of their life. They are not allowed to have smart phones, no internet,  no games, can't leave the seminary, no TV.  How is it  they can give all this up? He finds their appearance at the liturgy a beautiful sight.

Meeting the students he has to give all of  himself to them. When he is stressed out, and deals with them sternly,  they will be uptight, and just look for correct answers. When it is not heart to heart, we are just talking in circles. We have a superior talking to an inferior-- military style. There is not the respect for the other but  wanting the other to understand the superior, and respond to him. Initiative in the work of formation is not with the formator but  with the student.

We may think with heart to heart talk, joy would be the natural result but in his experience he finds pain appears first. These young men have many scars. They have suffered an educational system where competition was everything, and they fear  more of the same. They were exposed to snobbery in the home, where they were compared to others, becoming a priest they would have a respected job. He reminds us that many of the students lived through the IMF times ( international financial period) where the  economy was not doing well. They experienced a great deal of anger, and difficult times.  Suggestive modern culture  left traces on their psyche. Thankfully, the parish community and  sports were able to liberate them from the scars enabling  them to take the  necessary steps to enter the seminary. 

Seminarians do not  have a romantic understanding  of the life they will be entering. Difficulties, frustrations  and  a heart that has received many  wounds is who they are, and prepared to meet a world filled with gloom. It is beyond their strength    and are tired by it all.  Words of Pope Francis  during the Holy Thursday Chrism Mass are words of consolation.                                                          

"Our weariness, dear priests, is like incense which silently rises up to heaven.  Our weariness goes straight to the heart of the Father, now how to rest by accepting the love, gratitude and affection which I receive from God’s faithful people?  Or, once my pastoral work is done, do I seek more refined relaxations, not those of the poor but those provided by a consumerist society?  Is the Holy Spirit truly 'rest in times of weariness' for me, or is he just someone who keeps me busy?  Do I know how to seek help from a wise priest?  Do I know how to take a break from myself, from the demands I make on myself, from my self-seeking and from my self-absorption?  Do I know how to spend time with Jesus, with the Father, with the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, with my patron saints, and to find rest in their demands, which are easy and light, and in their pleasures, for they delight to be in my company, and in their concerns and standards, which have only to do with the greater glory of God?  Do I know how to rest from my enemies under the Lord’s protection?  Am I preoccupied with how I should speak and act, or do I entrust myself to the Holy Spirit, who will teach me what I need to say in every situation?  Do I worry needlessly, or, like Paul, do I find repose by saying: 'I know him in whom I have placed my trust.' " 

"Let us learn how to be weary, but weary in the best of ways!"

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