The Beauty of Seminary Sports

This past January, the seminary basketball team, nicknamed the Bruté Buffaloes, traveled to Mundelein Seminary for the annual Father Pat O’Malley Invitational basketball tournament. This is my favorite seminary sport tournament of the year; it is basically the NCAA tournament of seminaries.

I had the special opportunity to coach the team this year after I was unable to play because of an injury. I was originally disappointed that I would not be able to play in the tournament games, but coaching offered me a different perspective on the tournament. Because I was off the court during the games, roaming the sidelines like a bonafide head coach, I was able to step back and enjoy the tournament for what it was: a beautiful opportunity for fraternity, human formation, and the advancement of vocations.

These tournaments make for great fraternity between the seminarians. For Bruté, the basketball team is a close-knit group of guys. We bond over the course of the practice season and the tournament itself. It is a great opportunity to grow closer to each other as teammates. However, this fraternity is not limited to just within a particular seminary but between all the seminaries. At the tournament, I see this especially with the way that the different seminaries root for each other. Bruté, as one of the few minor (or college) seminaries at the tournament, is always rooted for by the other seminaries. This is because everyone loves an underdog, and the minor seminaries are a clear underdog because the major seminaries have more players to choose from and older players.

I am always edified at the end of the games when all the players come together, shake hands, and pray. It’s so good to see the players who just played their hearts out for an entire game, re-center themselves, and join with their opponents in a peaceful moment of prayer. It’s a beautiful witness to the purpose of the tournament: to bring seminarians together in fraternity and faith.

One might think that a weekend of basketball and fun is separate from the goal of seminary formation, but the opposite is very much true. I think tournaments like these are good, especially for human formation. Human formation is one of the central dimensions of seminary formation. It focuses primarily on the formation of the man into a better man, and these tournaments give seminarians the opportunity to learn to work cooperatively, compete respectfully, and form an active lifestyle. Of course, the cooperative work at these tournaments is the work of the team towards the goal of winning. This requires communication and sacrifice, both extremely important skills to learn. Respectful competition is important because being able to compete, lose, and win with class is crucial to life. Forming and maintaining an active lifestyle is vital, and it is achieved with the act of playing the game (running, jumping, etc.) and the preparation for the tournament (practices -yes, we have practices-, laps, and drills in the gym). These are all important to the formation of priests as able to work with others, accept winning and losing, and live an active lifestyle.

These tournaments are good for the advancement of vocations because they show seminarians in a different light. Seminarians are able to get out of the seminary and into the real world; they are able to be seen as normal men discerning God’s will for their lives. Whenever I travel to a school in my diocese to visit the students, I always make a point to say that ‘seminarians are just normal guys.’ This is not to mention the fact that the kids love hearing about the stories of the sports we play, and then they want to see the seminarian’s real skills and play with them at recess. This experience for a young man is impactful because the seminarian and seminary life becomes tangible for him in that moment, and maybe, he becomes able to put himself into the seminarian’s shoes and see himself as a future seminarian.

Overall, seminary sport tournaments are awesome. They have given me some of my favorite memories from my time at Bruté, from buzzer-beaters to long tournament runs, and some of my greatest friends. These tournaments have taught me to be a better man and to praise the Lord always, even after a tough loss.


Nicholas Monnin

Nick Monnin is a seminarian from the Class of 2021 studying for the Diocese of Fort Wayne – South Bend

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Speaking the language of perseverance: My time in Siena

Throughout the month of January, I was blessed with the opportunity to live in Siena, Italy while taking lessons in Italian. I am now on my way down to Rome where I will spend the semester taking classes at the Angelicum (the Dominican University in Rome) and living at the Pontifical Irish College with a group of other American seminarians.

The Holy Head
The Head of St. Catherine of Siena

While in Siena, I stayed with a small community of Dominican Friars stationed at the Basilica of San Domenico on the edge of the city.  San Domenico is famous not only because it is old and beautiful, but primarily because it houses the head of Saint Catherine of Siena (her body is in Rome at Santa Maria Sopra Minerva) and was her home parish growing up in Siena. Her childhood home is just down the road and has now been converted into a chapel.

While in Siena, I had many great opportunities to immerse myself not only in the Italian language, but also in the life of the local church of Siena.  I was able to be present at many of the parish gatherings of San Domenico, from meetings of the Dominican Third Order group (with dinner and wine, of course!), to the annual blessing of animals on the feast of St. Anthony (the large crypt of the Church was filled with dogs, cats, and other animals to be blessed), to serving Confirmation Mass for the Archbishop of Siena, and simply assisting with the liturgies of the parish here by serving at the altar and helping distribute Holy Communion.  I came to find out that San Domenico is one of the most active and faithful parish communities here in Siena.

There was truly no better way to begin my study of the Italian language—as well as my semester stay in Italy—than by living with a religious community at a very active parish; I was able to put my daily Italian classes into practice through ministry at the parish, community life at the priory, and the day-to-day experiences of walking around the city of Siena, sight-seeing and eating lots of gelato.

View from the priory
The view from the priory

As great as the experience was in Siena, there nevertheless was also the frustration of trying to learn and speak in a new language while being immersed in Italian culture. I quickly learned that, as is with most things in life—especially the spiritual life—the virtues of humility, patience, and perseverance are especially important.  When learning a new language, it is important to realize that you aren’t going to be perfect at it, but you must nevertheless still work at it amidst the imperfection; I was constantly encouraged by my tutor and even the friars to just speak Italian, even if it was not perfect.  For, it was only by attempting to communicate in the language that I would learn it.  This requires a tremendous amount of humility (I was essentially speaking like a child, with broken sentences and faulty grammar), and I wasn’t quite ready for it at first. But, with lots of patience and perseverance, my grasp of the language has slowly gotten better. I am far from fluent, but through the help of my tutor and lots of practice, I can manage simple conversations now.

The process of learning a language is similar to the spiritual life.  While we must strive for perfection, God knows that we are sinners, and is waiting for us with mercy when we fall; then, by His help, we must get back up and keep going. As long as we keep persevering patiently and with humility in trying to live a virtuous Christian life, following Christ and obeying the Church, then God is pleased.  And, little by little, by the help of God’s grace, we’ll find that we will become more and more fluent in doing so!

Please keep myself and my brother seminarians in your prayers as we begin the semester here in Rome!


Sam Rosko

Sam Rosko is a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and a member of the class of 2020.

New Year, New Eve

Happy 2019! I’m more than sure that you’ve already been greeted with at least one, “Wow, I haven’t seen you since last year!” joke, so I’ll spare you. I think most will agree with me in saying that 2018 was too quick a year and its events way too unexpected. But I would say it’s a good thing when the events of the year don’t turn out as we planned because, the truth of the matter is, what we want isn’t always what God wants. And if we all had our way, then the world would be in even more chaos than it already is! So we can at least begin 2019 knowing one thing, to expect the unexpected.

Having said that, you might ask yourself, “What’s the best way to greet the New Year?” I don’t know about you, but as great as the whole feeling of “starting over” is, it’s also easy for me to feel intimidated by it. It’s kind of like when you go to confession and experience healing and renewal, but also a sense of fear for messing up again. So how does one find the courage to face the New Year without being overwhelmed by fear of messing up? Thankfully, the Church in her wisdom is always a good source of guidance. She shows us that the best way for one to greet the New Year is by greeting Mary.

As we know, every year on January 1st, we celebrate the solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God. I think the Church has this be the first celebration of the Year for a very good reason, that is, so that we can recognize Mary as the Mother of God, and in doings so, recognize her as our Mother as well. She is the perfect advocate and guide for beginning the year, because of the intimate relationship she has with Our Lord. We ask her to intercede for us so that she can take us by the hand and help us to always tread on God’s path. In doing so, we won’t have reason to fear, because if we fall and mess up (which we probably will), Mary our Mother will be there to pick us right back up. And when we encounter the unexpected, we know to trust, as Mary did, that it is part of God’s mysterious plan.

It’s important to keep Mary’s fiat in mind when making resolutions for the New Year. As we read the story of the Annunciation of the Angel Gabriel to Mary, it might seem as if Mary’s “yes” to the Angel’s proposal was easy and simple. All she had to do was say that she accepted the terms and conditions. However, as we read the Gospels we recognize one of Mary’s best attributes, namely, her fidelity to God. Mary had to remain faithful to that response that she gave to the Angel as soon as she uttered it, and we see that Mary was always consistent and steadfast in keeping her word. This, as we know, is why we call Mary the “New Eve”, because while Eve failed to keep God’s will, Mary remained faithful.

In this same way, we have to work to keep the resolutions that we make for ourselves this New Year. We have to make concrete resolutions, not vague ones that will be easy to dismiss. Lord knows that every year we say things like, “I’m going to workout more!” or “I’m going to pray more!” but we don’t follow through! Instead we should say, “I’m going to run for 20 minutes every morning,” or, “I’m going to pray a decade of the rosary every night before bed.” These concrete resolutions will help to keep ourselves in check and measure just how faithful we’re being to them. When we make vague resolutions, we’re just making it easier for ourselves to not go through with them. But if we choose to exercise our constancy, we’ll become more faithful in the little things and in the great things after the example of Mary the New Eve and Mother of God.


David Martinez

David Martinez is a seminarian studying for the Diocese of Gary, Indiana and is a member of the Class of 2020.

Immanence and Light

Whenever I found out about this blog-thing that the seminarians at Bruté do every month, I thought it was neat. Now that I’m a seminarian myself though, I admit that it’s a little bit intimidating being on the authorial end of things. Most of the fellas here seem to have an inexhaustible arsenal of knowledge on various deep theological concepts, not to mention memories like steel traps. If I had a shiny nickel for every time I’ve heard “Oh, you mean like Descartes,” or “blah blah blah – David Hume” I’d probably have at least a whole dollar. With that being said, though I’ve probably discounted my own intelligence and ability in the last few sentences, I think that what I do have to contribute to the lives of all of you who’ve graciously continued reading even after seeing “Nick Rivelli” up near the heading, is some perspective I have gained from my first semester here at Bruté. Don’t worry – it’s December, I know, so I’ll be sure to link it back to Advent somehow.

For starters, this has been a transitionary semester for me in that, for all the fans at home who may not know, I completed my freshman and sophomore years of college at Marian before entering seminary. Being at Marian has allowed for a seamless transition, at least on paper – all I had to do before the onset of summer, outside of the seminarian application process, was switch my major and mentally prepare myself for moving a couple blocks away from campus…not an incredibly difficult feat, to say the least. Adjusting to seminary life, however, has proved difficult in some respects. While I’m the oldest of 6 boys, and thus am by no means unaccustomed to living in a frat-like household (God bless my mother), certain things have taken some getting used to. Though the community has been extremely welcoming, I continue to struggle with feeling like the odd-man-out. Many of the fellas have been in-house since freshman year and thus our relationships are only just forming. Meanwhile, the relationships I have established with my on-campus community are changing before my eyes, a good number weakening considerably as I “take the road less traveled by”.

This state of liminality I find myself in invokes feelings of loss, longing, pain, jealousy…really all in all, a chorus of voices trying to drown out He who speaks so clearly at 2500 Cold Spring Road! This cacophony has, at times and especially as the semester has ramped up here toward the end, made it difficult for me to stay focused in prayer. Oftentimes my mind will drift to my schedule or thoughts of past relationships – tearing me between the glossy past and the cloudy future. Yet this past week, in a moment that a friend of mine would refer to as a “Jesus hitting me with a brick” moment, I have found a steadying point – just in time for the changing of seasons. During confession, the priest suggested to me, “What if the reason you are so scattered is because of the scariness of being so intensely close to God, so vulnerable before Him?”

During the Advent and Christmas seasons, we are reminded powerfully of God’s love and immanence. As we celebrate the birth of Christ, very intentionally during the darkest time of the year, we recall that God is present to us, physically, particularly when it is darkest. He is the light that shines forth in the darkness of our hearts and our lives – not eliminating the darkness but illuminating life in graceful light. In my own life and experience in seminary this past semester, there has certainly been a lot of illuminative moments. Throughout the past months, and particularly as the semester’s close and Christmas approach, I have been struck more and more by Mary’s shining example of surrender to Christ’s illuminative light. These past few weeks I’ve been striving for deeper intentionality in prayer, examining the words that I’m saying and seeking to embrace them both in speech and in action. The prayer that particularly has impacted me as I strive for this wholehearted prayer is the Canticle of Mary – appropriate, I think, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Lord.

As I, and as all of you readers, reflect during this season of Advent, let us examine the areas that we want or need illuminated in our lives. “Lord, amidst this struggle that I’m facing, in my great need for you, please make your immanent, intimate presence known to me.” Only God knows what the next semester holds for myself and my brother seminarians, but one thing is for certain – God is here. He is present with and within the friends I have on campus and at Bruté, both those who are distant and those who are close. He is present with and within you. With spirits of joy and gratitude, amidst whatever darkness you and I may be experiencing, I hope and pray that we might wholeheartedly embody Mary, saying, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God, my savior, for He has looked with favor on his lowly servant…” In doing so, by the grace of Christ we can hope that “…from this day all generations will call us blessed.” Merry Christmas and may the joy and peace of Christ be with you and yours during this season and into the new year. This is Nick Rivelli, signing off.


 

Nick Rivelli

Nick Rivelli is a seminarian studying for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, Indiana and is a member of the Class of 2020.

The Catholic Call to Holiness

Everyone loves a good saint! Their stories are incredible. Their lives were radical. Their deaths are awe-inspiring. What’s more, they come in all shapes and sizes. Some, like St. Thomas Aquinas, were capable of reaching great intellectual heights. Some, like St. Thérèse of Lisieux, were simple-minded yet full of love. Some, like St. Augustine, had extreme conversions. Some, like St. Teresa of Calcutta, gave their lives in service of others. Some, like Joan of Arc, were martyred for the faith. What all saints have in common, though, is complete self-denial and love of God and of neighbor, for Christ says, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me,” (Mt 16:24) and also “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you” (Jn 15:12-14).

Although the saints, whom we laud and revere, serve as a model and inspiration for us still here on earth, too often we create a divide between ourselves and the saints that we imagine never being able to cross. We might even think it irreverent to imagine ourselves in the same heaven as the saints, and we might whisk away thoughts of our own canonization on the basis of being too prideful or presumptuous. We might say, “That is all fine and good for St. Francis of Assisi, but he is St. Francis of Assisi! He’s a saint!”

I have noticed a similar divide when it comes to discerning a vocation. I am often commended for thinking about and studying for the priesthood—after all, the priesthood is a noble profession; a man considering priesthood has to make many sacrifices: he gives up having his own family, a career, and a certain amount of autonomy through swearing obedience to the bishop. But I have noticed that some seem to equate the priesthood with holiness to the extent that the vocation of priesthood is seen as holier than the vocation of marriage, that priesthood entails more sacrifice than marriage, that one more fully gives his life in priesthood than in marriage. We put priests on a pedestal of holiness, as if becoming a priest makes it easier to be holy, easier to sacrifice. We react with disappointment and sadness when we hear a man has left the seminary to pursue the vocation of marriage, as if somehow he has veered from the path of discipleship and holiness.

To believe that priesthood is a more sacred vocation than marriage is akin to believing that St. Peter is greater than St. Paul or that the Gospel of Luke is more important than the Gospel of Matthew. We are all called to holiness, and our vocation is the call from God that will bring us closest to him and bring us to holiness. One’s vocation is hand-picked by God in order to conduct that person most efficiently to holiness. God desired St. Joseph to be the spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary who was to give birth to His son Jesus. It would be irreverent and audacious to think St. Joseph could have chosen a more holy path than the one God had ordained for him. Nor would we think this of any other saint in heaven; the different paths the saints followed led them to holiness, and each of their paths was uniquely tailored to fit them. So why would we think this of ourselves? Why, when we are following the will of God, would we think that there is a more holy option available to us or that we are choosing the less holy option.

Let us be secure in our vocations, confident that the path to which God has called us is indeed the most safe, secure, expedient, and tailored route to holiness for us. And let us also remember the universal—that is, the Catholic—call to holiness, for we are all meant to be saints of God in heaven. Let us not be falsely humble, saying we will never be saints, who are so great and beyond us in their holiness. Let us instead be bold in our desire for holiness, not seeking to attain holiness at some vague point in the far-distant future, but seeking to attain holiness now, desiring to deny ourselves now, picking up our crosses now and every day, following after Jesus.

Tempus fugit; memento mori (Time is fleeting; remember death).

All of the saints, pray for us!


Robert Ross

Robert Ross is a seminarian studying for the Diocese of Gary, Indiana and is a member of the Class of 2019.

Praying the Psalms

One of the things I am most grateful for in my life of prayer has been the praying of the psalms during the liturgy of the hours. Before I began to pray the liturgy of the hours, I had never had close contact with the psalms. There were a couple that I had read or heard that I loved, but outside of that, there were at least 145 psalms to which I had never truly paid attention.  However, after three years of praying the liturgy of the hours, though I am still a child in the practice, I have found much more depth in them than I ever thought I would.
One of the earliest ways the psalms were described to me was as the prayers that Christ prayed as a faithful Jew. Even now, when I pray them, I like to imagine a situation or a way in which Jesus would have prayed each one. For any given psalm, it has been helpful for me to picture him praying it from the cross. I know at least one psalm was on his mind when he cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I also picture him humming some melody unknown to me and thinking the words of the psalm in his mind after a time of prayer. I see him praying with his disciples, for his people, to his Father in secret, etc. Jesus knew the experiences of the psalms because he created the psalmist, but also because he lived them. In praying the psalms, I know I am getting to know Jesus.
I find that because of praying them as often as I do, I tend to have the words floating around in my head, much like song lyrics do when I’ve been listening to the radio. I remember one time, last year (my second year at Bruté), I was walking and talking to God. As I was telling God something, a line from one of the psalms we pray at night prayer became the next thing I said, and then the rest of the psalm followed. I knew I could sing it by heart because I had practiced it so many times in order to play the organ for our community to chant it. I was not, however, aware of how easily it could have become my own prayer to God. The psalm became personal because the words had become a part of me. That is one of the beauties, I think, of all scripture. With repetition, and over time, it sticks, and as the word of God, it leads me closer to Christ.
Nurturing this relationship with Jesus is the center of my life in seminary. As written in the Bishop Bruté Rule of Life, “The purpose of spiritual formation is to assist the seminarian in coming to know Jesus Christ in a personal and meaningful relationship.” Our daily schedule of prayer, I think, is one of the things for which I am most grateful to formation.  The liturgy of the hours is naturally spread out into designated times throughout the day, and our community prayer times along with encouragement to pray the other hours on my own give my prayer life a comfortable consistency. It is really like walking with God. We aren’t running here. Jesus is with me in the prayer, and steadily walking with Him strengthens our relationship.
A very gospel-based image for me at the seminary that I like to picture is that of a plant. Jesus has planted me here in the garden of the seminary. I grow and am nurtured through the food of prayer and formation – a slow process.  The psalms are a spiritual fertilizer – I take them in over and over again, and through the slow process of growth, I am transformed into the person God is calling me to be, and I become more like Christ.
I cannot force this transformation because I am not its cause. It is a great gift from God that I can pray or even understand the scripture at all. God has blessed me with the formation at Bruté, and with the liturgy of the hours that metes out scripture with constancy. With the psalms, I walk with God. With the psalms, I am spiritually fed and grow in prayer. With the psalms, I am more united to Christ, but I have a long way to go. I am still at the tip of an eternal iceberg, at the mouth of an endless, beautiful mine. I look forward to the rest of the journey and to seeing where Jesus will take me.


Daniel McGrath
Daniel McGrath is a seminarian studying for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois and is a member of the Class of 2019.

Remembering Fr. Tom

It was the summer before my freshman year at Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary, and I was helping my pastor prepare for a wedding at my home parish of Our Lady of Hope in Washington, Indiana. He was talking to me about seminary life and in walks an older man who I recognized from one of my visits to Bruté. His name was Fr. Tom Widner. He was the celebrant of the wedding that was to take place. He looked at me and said, “Oh yes, I know you. You’re coming to Bruté this year, right?” I told him that was the plan and that I was excited to be heading off to seminary, to which he responded in a laughing manner, “Just you wait, Tyler. You are in for a treat!” I certainly was. I would soon come to find out that Fr. Tom was my appointed spiritual director. We built a very good relationship in as well as outside of spiritual direction.
A group of us would often go to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and Fr. Tom would always try and be a part of that. He certainly liked to dine with us at a local Italian restaurant where he enjoyed telling stories of days when he was in seminary. I must say some of his stories where very peculiar; he liked to keep us on our toes. We also had a lot of similarities as funny as this may sound. I recall one time I was standing in a dark doorway with my winter hat and coat on, and one guy came up behind and said, “Okay Fr. Tom, ready to go?” They were surprised when I turned around. It must have been the hat. Another time during our seminary Christmas gift exchange, someone “mistakenly” got Fr. Tom and I the same gift. Everyone thought that was the funniest thing for some reason, but the real funny moment was when he came down to judge the gingerbread houses in his Jesuit cassock and a Santa Claus hat. I think the whole seminary was shocked by that one.

Fr. Tom was always interested in talking about things going on in our world. He was a very cultured man who loved music, art, and literature. Above all though, he had a deep love for Christ and the work he was doing at the seminary. He was always there to provide direction and give counsel to anyone in need. At any time, day or night, a seminarian struggling with some issue or who just needed to talk could be confident in knowing that Fr. Tom would be there for them. I can say that my experience of having him as a spiritual director made this all the clearer. I could always count on being comforted by him but at the same time, he did something even more important; Fr. Tom challenged me. He would help me through some very difficult times which allowed me to grow in my own spiritual life. I can honestly say that Fr. Tom has been one of the most influential people in my life and I can confidently say he has been for others as well. One thing Fr. Tom made clear to all of us here is that no matter where we are in life, what we are doing, or who we are with, Jesus is our center. Without Christ in our lives, we will go nowhere. Fr. Tom showed us the importance of a Christ-centered life based in the sacraments and prayer.
The Bruté community has been blessed all these years to have Fr. Tom lead us in spirituality and be here as a great mentor and guide. I have been blessed to know Fr. Tom and am so very thankful for the love and kindness he showed to me and many others here at Bruté.

May Fr. Tom, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.


Tyler Underhill

Tyler Underhill is a seminarian for the Diocese of Evansville and is a member of the Class of 2020.

Childlike

I was a bit concerned how I would communicate with the children in the orphanage in Guatemala that first day because I was relying on my one semester of Spanish in college, but the children quickly showed me that I would learn much more from them than words could express. On the first day, a seven-year-old boy ran up to me, he grabbed my hand and put his hand next to mine. His tiny fingers barely expanded past my palm. He smiled, giggled, and then, ran off on his next adventure. As he skipped off, I instantly thought of these words that a priest told me a year earlier, “Look at your hands, and see how God has made each one of us beautifully. You need to spend more time witnessing how children are a gift to this world.” At the time, I did not think much of these words, but simply brushed them off as a “cute” saying. Surprisingly, it was the hand of this child next to mine that made me realize that God was challenging me on a profound level to experience why Christ calls us to be childlike.

I was blessed to be able to experience this authentic love during a mission trip that I led this summer through Marian University. Another student and I had been making preparations all year to lead a group of 12 people to Guatemala City. During May we embarked on a 10-day journey to share and encounter the Gospel through about 200 children who lived in a Franciscan orphanage called Valley of the Angels. These 10 days will most certainly be days that I will reflect on for the rest of my life.

It did not take me long to realize why the Father wants to guide us to have the pure heart of a child. Sometimes the call to be a child can seem like we are being told to live out a totally blind and ignorant faith, but it is quite contrary. To be childlike is to be curious, always willing to soak in new information, and being open to discovering new depths of the Father’s love. I could write page after page of stories of these little ones, but I will just share a few moments that show why being childlike is the most authentic way to live your life.

They showed me that a simple life is one of pure joy and love. Each morning as the sun began to peek over the fog that hung in the tree- covered mountains on the edge of the city, I would witness a few children sweeping the walk ways with a glowing smile. I would hear children singing as they hand washed their clothes. I would walk into the dining hall and smell the fresh bread that some of the older children were baking. Each task the children did with gratitude and joy. These children came from broken families that they would go back to throughout the year, and most of them had nothing more than a 20 X 20 foot scrap metal building they would call home. In the States, we would be quick to say that a life like that is not worth much, but to these children, every task of life is a blessing, every meal is a banquet, and every encounter with a person is a gift to be cherished.

So many people today have surface level conversation, but when these children talked to you, they made you feel loved. These children are not concerned with cell phones, television, or wearing the coolest clothes. They live simple lives with no barriers or masks, enabling them to see the beauty of a conversation with another person. How often do you talk to somebody and give them your full? attention? These children just loved having someone with whom to share their life. For example, one Sunday we had to walk to Mass. I ended up walking with three young girls. It was so simple, yet a profoundly beautiful walk. We were not racing through life, rather we were enjoying life and the bright green trees, birds, and friendship.

The most captivating moment was on the last day, when they lined up the children to give us hugs goodbye. Tears began to fall out of my eyes as I embraced each child. In that moment, I realized in a new way how the Father loves us as His children. The Father does not want us to be overcome by the masks and shame of our life. He wants us to be open, vulnerable, and able to strip away the mess. Like the child who has just finished his bath, is washed clean, and begins to run naked through the house singing, “I am a child of God!”


Nicholas Sellers

Nicholas Sellers is a seminarian for the Diocese of Evansville and is a member of the Class of 2020.

A Community Among Strangers

After my first year at Bishop Simon Brute College Seminary, I found it difficult to
leave my brother seminarians for the summer. In comparison to Christmas break and
spring break, summer break is much longer (three months compared to one week). It’s
hard to leave because one: I love the schedule at the seminary of daily Mass, Adoration, and prayer. And two: I love the constant interaction with the friendships I developed this past year. In general, when people leave a comfortable environment, transitioning can be difficult. Throughout the year, I have loved coming back from a busy day at school, and going to my one spot, the Brute room, to just lay and take a breather. I loved walking down the hall to see what some of the guys are up to. But now, I won’t have the Brute room to go to and I don’t have the hallway to walk down through. The guys will be back in Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, or other parts of the area. It just feels great knowing that someone is there for you, especially one who is in close proximity. All of that becomes very comfortable. Now, I am leaving for Columbus for three months, a place that I have never been to but usually, only when I pass by on the interstate. On the first day, I met a lot of strangers. That  is not the case.

There is a reason as to why parish assignments are beneficial to a seminarian’s discernment. I need to learn how to organize my life, instead of someone else telling me. I have to choose when to go to Mass, when I need to pray the Liturgy of the Hours or go to Adoration, and how to spend my free time. But on this post, I want to focus more about how the community at St. Bartholomew became a home to me in just the first week of summer. This transition is really a continuation of the community I had at Brute Seminary. Community is an important aspect to all Catholics. It is what binds people together throughout the journey of life. What does that look like for a seminarian who is preparing for priesthood?

One of the pillars of formation at the seminary that I have learned is human
formation. Human formation allows me to learn how to have human interaction with
various types of people. It is more important to also learn how to create a bridge between the various people I encounter because everyone has different personalities, interests, and hobbies. We are a family, so how do I connect with the people I live with? I am able to practice and apply what I have learned at St. Bartholomew’s.
After every Mass that I attend, I am encouraged to shake parishioners hands as they
are leaving, just like the priest does. Human Formation asks us: how is the seminarian
doing in this environment? How will I react? Actually, I find great enjoyment in shaking
their hands. Almost at every Mass, there are 2-4 people who strike up a conversation with me and invite me out to lunch afterwards. So Brute is doing a great job at forming me. The more people I meet and the more conversations I have, the more I feel welcomed into the community at St. Bartholomew’s. Even though I have physically left the seminary, in some ways, I feel like I’ve never left.

You see, there are about 1500 parishioners at St. Bartholomew, and I’ve met maybe
100 of them, I can only remember maybe 20 peoples face and name, together, and I have
been invited to go out to eat with parishioners 5 times. I still have no idea of the other 1300 parishioners. What is amazing is that I feel connected to the rest of the Church through the Mass. Fr. Clem allows me to serve and sit up with them in front of the congregation, and wow, is it such a view in the sanctuary! Have you ever noticed a large crowd as one unit, whether that is at a concert or the fans at a football game? The first Mass I attended at St. Bartholomew’s, during the Our Father, when you see everyone in the Congregation holding their hands up and singing so beautifully, I could feel the Church united talking to God as if we were One, and God was responding back to us in the words of the priest. Gosh, I’m getting the chills again. You see, we are not strangers because we have Jesus who bridges everyone together. This is one of my favorite parts of being Catholic.

Here is a side story but I mean to tie it back to community. When I told my friend I
was entering the seminary, he said: “So you’re joining a frat house.” I told him: “No, it’s just a place where a bunch guys live together.” And he said, “So it’s a frat house.” Ok yes, it’s kind of a frat house, but there is one big difference between the seminary and the Greek Life Frat House . A Greek Frat House brings people in through restrictions to particular people. Seminaries do not but only through their desire to grow in relationship with Christ. If I didn’t have the desire to grow with Christ, I can say that I would never associate myself with the Catholic Church. What I am trying to say is that, without Jesus Christ, I would never see a stranger, especially those I have never met at St. Bartholomew, as my brother or sister. It’s a great mystery, the Eucharist. The Eucharist brings people together; those from the past and future, those in other parts of the world, and all the angels and saints. When I take this reality and bring it to life, I experience the joy that God brings to me through the St. Bartholomew Parish.

So far, this summer has definitely confirmed my decision to continue on in seminary
formation. Even though a priest doesn’t have a physical and biological family, he has a
spiritual family who are all present physically and desire Truth and Love. As a spiritual
father, they become the leader of this family, as the dad is the leader of his family. This idea of the spiritual family has come to life here at St. Bartholomew, and I can start to put this image in relation to the whole Archdiocese of Indianapolis, the rest of the Catholic Church, who is spread out across the U.S. and the world, and the angels and saints in heaven! So St. Bartholomew never was a community of strangers but my family.


J.C. Aguilar

JC Aguilar is a seminarian studying for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and a member of the class of 2019.

Why we study philosophy

In preparation for major seminary all seminarians must study philosophy. Here at Bishop Brute all of us are required to major in philosophy (the degree is technically Catholic Studies, but we take more philosophy classes than the philosophy majors). This naturally leads to two questions: What is philosophy, and how does studying it make one a better priest?

Philosophy literally translates to ‘love of wisdom.’ It is our human reason’s attempt to understand creation. While now distinct fields, the disciplines of modern science started as subfields of philosophy. Philosophy, is, in fact, the original science, and its field of study is the pursuit of meaning. Examples of philosophical questions include: what does it mean to know something? What is being? What is a human being? What makes an action right or wrong? Is there a God? (These fields are, respectively, Epistemology, Metaphysics, Philosophical Anthropology, Ethics, and Natural Theology (yes, it’s a philosophical discipline). Here at Bishop Simon Brute and Marian University we take classes in each of these core disciplines of philosophy, as well as courses that cover the history of philosophy, such as Plato and Aristotle, Medieval Philosophy, and Modern Philosophy. Philosophy is different from theology in that theology uses our human reason in light of Divine Revelation to form its conclusions, while philosophy makes use of only our human reason. Before one can talk about the supernatural, one must have some idea of what the natural is. Thus, philosophy must come before theology.

This is still no justification for studying it over any other subject. After all, there are so many bad philosophers, and it would seem that there are better things for a man studying to be a priest to learn. A priest must manage a parish, provide counseling, teach, write homilies, etc. Wouldn’t a degree in business, psychology, education, or English be better? To be frank, I wonder this on occasion as well. After all, philosophy is not very practical, and a degree in it will not be of much help in securing me a job should I discern the priesthood is not where God is calling me.

Yet the concerns above miss the essence of what it means to be a priest. Over and above all of the practical requirements of the priesthood, as necessary as there are, however, the priest must be someone who knows God intimately. In the words of my rector, Fr. Joe, “who wants a priest who doesn’t know God?” Who would want to be such a priest? Knowing God necessarily includes knowing about God, though it is obviously not limited solely to academic knowledge, and in major seminary this will be the main focus of a seminarian’s intellectual efforts. Just as learning Calculus requires knowledge of Algebra, learning theology requires knowledge of philosophy. Many theological concepts are deeply indebted to philosophical concepts. Two examples of this are the Christian understanding of the soul, and the doctrine of Transubstantiation, both of which use philosophical language to then make a theological point. Thus, to know theology one must first know philosophy.

Philosophy is not practical, at least in the sense that something like a business degree is. This does not mean that it is not useful. To quote G.K. Chesterton,

There has arisen in our time a most singular fancy: the fancy that when things go very wrong we need a practical man. It would be far truer to say, that when things go very wrong we need an unpractical man … When things will not work, you must have the thinker, the man who has some doctrine about why they work at all.

(What’s Wrong With the World, Chapter 2)

A priest is called to be an impractical

man in a practical age. To a world that wants five step programs and ‘Lean Six Sigma’ but has forgotten the exact purpose of any of the myriads of activities it engages itself in the priest must preach Jesus Christ. To do so coherently a priest must know theology, and he can’t know theology without knowing philosophy. After all, if a priest cannot explain the natural, who would trust him to explain the supernatural? This is not to say that there are no practical benefits from knowing philosophy. I have become a more critical thinker, better at reasoning in discussions, and a better observer of the implicit philosophies surrounding me.

Studying philosophy enables me to be a far better priest than any of the more ‘practical’ disciplines because the call to priesthood is far more than simply the call to be the manager of a worship space and a director of liturgical functions (the practical aspects of the priesthood) – it is the call to radically conform oneself to Christ so as to be in a unique way Christ’s presence with His people through the Sacraments of the Church, preaching, and ministry. This is why we learn philosophy, even if its not always our favorite subject, because without it we would be worse theologians, and because of that worse priests.

 


David Langford

David Langford is a seminarian studying for the Diocese of Fort Wayne – South Bend and a member of the class of 2019.