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.

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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.

The Catholic Both/And

Last July I was able to attend Archbishop Thompson’s installation last July and it was very moving for me. I was especially moved by listening to his homily, in which he addressed the increasing polarization in the Church and the mentality of either/or. Even among people I know and love, there is an attitude of either/or: ‘either you are for life or you are for the poor,’ ‘either you are for the refugees or national security.’ Instead of falling into these seeming dichotomies, Archbishop called us to bridge the gap of increasing polarization in the church on a number of issues and to adopt the mindset of the catholic both/and. He then listed a number topics that require the catholic both/and:

The Catholic Both/And necessarily requires sound catechesis and bold evangelization, if we are to make a difference in the progress of humanity rather than be mere bystanders pushed around by the winds of change, denial and criticism of irrelevance.  We must be concerned about both worship and service, Word and Sacrament, Scripture and Tradition, Head and Body, clergy and laity, commandments (as we heard in the first reading) and beatitudes, tone and content (what good is it for us if we speak the truth, but say it in a way that drives away the very souls we’re trying to save?), justice and mercy, doctrine and pastoral care initiatives, marriage and family, faith and reason, spirituality and religion, healing wounds and warming hearts, holiness and mission, personal prayer and communal prayer, formation and education, local and universal belonging, security and welcoming, rights and responsibilities, speaking and listening, cross and empty tomb, passion and resurrection, and as the Benedictines who taught me remind us, Ora et Labora, prayer and work. It all must matter to us. To be effective and credible witnesses to our Catholic faith and the Joy of the Gospel, we cannot make decisions or act with an “either/or” mentality of ignoring one for the other. In essence, as an example of the necessary balance, we must provide a fish or two as we teach people how to fish.

Archbishop Thompson has also released a pastoral letter to the Archdiocese this past Ash Wednesday. In it, he explores the various issues that affect the nation, as well as our local community in Central and Southern Indiana.

The first key principle of Catholic social teaching is respect for the dignity of each and every human person—regardless of race, sex, nationality, economic or social status, educational background, political affiliation or sexual orientation—as created in the image and likeness of God. All are equal in dignity. No one is “better” than anyone else. All deserve respect. All share basic human rights. No one is exempt from the responsibility to support and assist fellow human beings—whether they are from the same family/community, or they are strangers who are foreign to us in some way. Every human person, as created in the image of God, is a member of God’s family. For Christians, this also means that we are sisters and brothers of Christ and each other.

All sins against the dignity of persons, including the taking of a human life, sexual abuse and sexual harassment, rape, racism, sexism, nativism and homophobia, are violations of this fundamental principle. We can (and sometimes must) disapprove of the behavior of others, but we may never belittle, disrespect or abuse others simply because of our differences, no matter how serious.

The Gospel calls us to do radical things. We cannot reduce the Gospel to merely defending the unborn or merely a social justice movement. We are not conservative or liberal, we are Catholic. The same Lord who says “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you” also says “I was hungry and you fed me”. Our salvation depends on how we treated ALL our neighbors. In Matthew 25, the Lord declares that the goats and the sheep will be sorted, not just on their vote for life or vote for a cost of living increase for food stamps, but what they personally did to him in the least of our brothers and sisters. In the book of Exodus, God tells his people through Moses “You shall not oppress an alien; you well know how it feels to be an alien, since you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt (Ex 23:9).”

Being Pro-Life does not stop at protecting the lives of the unborn, but at respecting life at every stage; from conception to natural death. This means that we must respect the human dignity of the elderly parishioner who is suffering from loneliness, the child who calls the family van “home”, the refugee who flees their home country, not to seek a better life, but merely to stay alive, or even the college student who lives in the fear of deportation and separation from his family merely because he accompanied his parents in pursuit of the dream of freedom and opportunity.

It is possible, and necessary, to take a stand for life at all stages. This is seen beautifully in the life of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta.  She devoted her entire life to taking care of the poorest of the poor and those rejected by society, while at the same time, denounced over and over again the heinous act of abortion. The same woman who said, “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish” was the same woman accompanied the destitute, the lepers and the orphans. Her life’s work shows how the two can’t be separated without removing the heart and soul of each movement.

St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us.

Here are the links to Archbishop Thompson’s homily:

http://www.archindy.org/archbishop/installation2017-mass-homily.html

Thompson’s pastoral letter:

http://www.archindy.org/archbishop/installation2017-mass-homily.html

Poverty at the Crossroads (A document written by the Indiana Catholic Bishops on poverty in the state)

http://www.archindy.org/archbishop/poverty-2015.html

Cardinal Tobin’s statement on DACA

http://www.rcan.org/statement-cardinal-joseph-w-tobin-rescission-daca-executive-order

 


Liam Hosty

Liam Hosty is a seminarian studying for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and a member of the class of 2020.

Growing Closer to God and Others

“When Jesus heard of it (the death of John the Baptist), he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, ‘This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.’ Jesus said to them, ‘There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves’.” -Matthew 14:13-16

As I am in the midst of my last semester at Brute and preparing to transition from here to St. Meinrad in the fall, I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect upon the journey that I have experienced over the last four years. I could talk in depth upon the many friendships that I have gained and nurtured, the many stories that I could tell about life at Brute, or a vast majority of other experiences. In this post, however, I want to talk about one thing in particular; namely, my understanding of the priesthood and how that has changed over the last four years through both what I have learned and what I have experienced.

When I first thought about the priesthood, I was attracted to it because I saw what the priest did each Sunday and I wanted to do the same. As I grew older and the thought of the priesthood was still present, I was still attracted to the priesthood because of what the priest does, but I also realized that a priest does more than just celebrate Mass. The months leading up to entering seminary I included within my understanding of the priesthood the notion of being with people during the most joyous and most sorrowful times of their lives, but it would not be until a couple years later that I really understood what the priesthood is about.

During my first year and a half of seminary, I fully entered into the process of formation and began looking at areas of my life that I needed to work on and allow God to enter into more deeper. I also remember describing this time as having a sense of peace knowing that I was in the right place and that my understanding of the priesthood pretty much remained the same during this first year and a half.

Fast forward to sophomore year, and in particular, spring semester of that year. Sophomore year we are required to participate in sophomore service and earn a certain amount of service hours each month. At first, this was not too challenging, but as time went on, I found it somewhat hard to go each time that I had said I would go and serve because I wanted time for myself and I wanted to rest after a long day instead of going out and serving like I knew I had committed. Towards the middle of the spring semester of that year, I began to realize that my time is God’s time, which means that my time comes from God and belongs to God and that I needed to go outside of myself to serve and encounter people even when it was difficult and challenging. Because of this, I began to realize that the priesthood is more than just celebrating Mass and providing the sacraments and that the priesthood is also about being with people and giving of your time to be present to people even when it is the most challenging and most difficult thing to do.

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The formation staff at Brute conveys to us all the time that the reasons why we come to seminary and the reasons why we stay are completely different. I can say that this is definitely true for me and that this moment from spring semester sophomore year is the reason why I am still in seminary. I chose to come to seminary because God had placed a desire in my heart, and I was first attracted to the priesthood because of the externals such as the vestments the priest wore, the things he used at Mass, and what he did at Mass. Although I had a bigger picture of the priesthood than this when I first came to seminary, the attraction to the externals was still there. I chose to stay because of how this experience changed my understanding of the priesthood, and although it was still a challenge to give of my time when I wanted time to myself, I had this desire to be present to people and to interact with people in a way that I had not really experienced up to this point.

Now that my knowledge of and my desire for the priesthood was expounded upon, I was given the opportunity to experience what I had learned throughout junior year, but in an even greater way this past summer in Jeffersonville. I fully entered into the experience and was excited to meet people and be present to them. The one thing in particular that I learned was that I was better able to remember people’s names if I had an encounter with them outside of Mass. Whether it was seeing them at a parish function or going to their house for dinner, I realized that if I had something to point to, such as a conversation that we had or just something about them, I was able to remember their name and I could look back and say that this person’s name is this and I went to their house on this day and we talked about this certain thing. Although Mass is the most important thing that we as members of the faith can do each day, it is only a small portion of a priest’s day, and, as I learned sophomore year, this cannot be the sole focus of the life of a priest. Being present to people and entering into their lives is crucial as a priest, and I could not imagine where I would be had I not completely learned this when I did.

I chose the Scripture passage that I did to begin this post because I think it encompasses the totality of what I have learned and experienced over these past four years. I definitely see myself as being one of the disciples my first year and a half of seminary in that they were tired and wanted time to rest and did not want to have to provide the people with food. To be a priest requires much sacrifice and love, and often times it involves setting aside your own wants and desires to provide for the needs and desires of the people that have been entrusted to the priest. As I continue in seminary formation and prepare for the transition to St. Meinrad in a few months, I ask for your prayers, not just for the transition, but also that I might always keep my focus on Christ and his people and never allow my wants and desires to get in the way of ministering to his people. God bless!

 


Matthew Perronie

Matthew Perronie is a seminarian studying for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and a member of the class of 2018.