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:


Thompson’s pastoral letter:


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


Cardinal Tobin’s statement on DACA



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.


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.

You Are My Beloved Son

Near a statue of the Blessed Mother, a small rock sits on my desk. Every day the simple image of Christ, painted on its front stares at me, and I stare at it. That rock does not tell me what time it is. It does not keep track of notes or missed calls. It does not help me to complete my tasks for the day. It simply sits. It stares at me, and I stare at it. And yet, I have heard the voice of the Lord speak—simply looking at this almost insignificant relic of the past.

This rock reminds me of September 14, 1999: the day my life changed forever. Somewhere, in a small town in Southern Romania, I left the hand of an extraordinarily generous woman, so that I could be given to the hands of a mother and father. She had given me life, and now, one she could never offer.  On this day, for the first time, I breathed in air on a whole new continent. Shortly after this day, I would be baptized. In a short period of time I went from orphan to son, and from little boy to Child of God.

“What a wonderful Father we have, who has created a plan for each of us.”

I never fully appreciated this day, until a cold January morning, almost 17 years later. I was standing in front of an abortion clinic. It was cold, and snow had fallen, but the true pain was seeing these mothers and fathers walk into this clinic. Here they would have their unborn children ripped apart from them and thrown away. Here “the greatest destroyer of peace”, as Mother Theresa called abortion, would reign. At least that’s what I thought.

We stood on the sidewalk, as we usually did, to pray for an end for abortion. We would never go to protest, or to condemn, those considering an abortion. As the motto went, we were there, “to be the last sign of hope, and the first sign of mercy.” We prayed that women would change their minds, and choose to give their child life. But if they didn’t, as it often seemed to be, we were there to show the compassion of Christ, and his unconditional mercy.

It was a normal morning of prayer with nothing too strange happening. Person after person would walk in, and we would offer a word, or a prayer, and in the blink of an eye, they would be in the building. Then came a change. As we were in the midst of praying, another woman came to go into the clinic. She didn’t shut us out, though. She had an air of sadness on her face, and she seemed to be full of anguish and distress. I thought for a moment, and against my usual disposition, I spoke up.

“You don’t have to do this,” were the first words I could think of. And then, the unexpected happened: she stopped. She looked at me and I looked at her. I don’t know who was more nervous, her or I. In that short moment, I let go of the fear of what she would do, and by God’s grace, I told her the truth.

“Your baby has a future. God already has a plan laid out for your little son or daughter. Who knows what amazing things He will do in their life? And if you do this, you are ending that.

“I was adopted. My mother could have chosen abortion, because in some ways, it may have seemed easier. But she didn’t. She chose life. And here I am, I can never thank her in the way that I would like, but here I am.”

She paused. She began to tear up, “We just don’t have the money,” she said, “I don’t want to do this any more than you want me to, but I don’t have a choice.”

“You can choose life, and I will do anything I can to help you,” I said. And she walked away, crying.

In that brief exchange that seemed like an eternity, my world collided. So filled with anguish, I had no idea what to do. I began begging God to spare this helpless child. What kind of future would her or she have? What would he or she accomplish in their life? What would he or she do for God? I was distraught at the thought that this may be the end. I began begging St. Jude, the patron of impossible cases, to intercede for this poor child. I prayed. I waited. And finally, I left.

As I left I couldn’t help the overwhelming thoughts of worry, distraught, and sorrow for the sin of abortion. I didn’t say too much to those I was around, and I simply continued in prayer.

As the Lord would have it, we had some time to spare later that morning, so we managed to swing by the clinic once more to pray one last rosary. As we prayed, I kept begging, begging the Lord for a miracle.

Finally, as we began the last prayers of that rosary, the door of the clinic opened. A small buzzer rang, and I saw a figure walk out. It was Amy. My heart dropped. She walked straight up to me. “It’s a boy. I couldn’t do it,” she said.

She showed me the little boy on the ultrasound, she smiled, a tear came to both of our eyes, and she left.

In this second of two brief exchanges, everything changed, but everything was just the way Christ wanted it to be.

I have not seen Amy since that cold January morning, but I know that that baby boy is alive and well. I choose to call him baby Jude, after the heavenly patron who prayed for his life, and I pray for him as often as I can.


Fast forward, to two years later, I found myself leaving a town during a pilgrimage in Poland. This time, I had an encounter that solidified all that had happened: being adopted, and helping to ensure life for another child.  A kind lady walked up to me. She introduced herself and she said that she was from Romania. In addition, she had found out that I was born in Romania. In fact, unbeknownst to both of us, the same part of Romania that I was born in, was the very part she was from.

In her hand she had a gift for me, a traveler she had never met. She told me when she heard that a seminarian from America, who was born in Romania, was visiting, she had to give him a gift. She said that she ran home, and since she had nothing else to give, she pulled this gift off of her mantle.

I opened it and it amazed me. It was a rock, but not any rock. It was a rock from the area where she was from, and where I was born. It was a piece of where I came from. On it was painted a beautiful image of Christ. That rock took me back to two days. First, it took me to the day I was adopted. Seeing this icon filled me with amazing gratitude at the providence of God. Later, however, this rock took me to the day God saved the life of baby “Jude” in my very midst.


What a wonderful Father we have, who has created a plan for each of us. He has already foreseen every detail of our being, and further, he has sent his own Son to save us from our sinfulness. He has a plan for us, “a plan to prosper us,” Jerimiah says. But it is up to us to say yes. We were made for “greatness”, though the world offers “comfort,” Pope Benedict said. May these words echo in the depths of our heart as we hear the Father say to the Son, and pray God, to each of us, “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Michael Schultz

Micheal Schultz is a seminarian studying for the Archdiocese of Louisville and is a member of the class of 2020.

The Audacity of God

This audacity of God who entrusts Himself to human beings-
Who, conscious of our weakness, nonetheless considers men capable of acting and being. Present in His stead- this audacity of God is the True grandeur concealed in the word “priesthood”
– Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI

One of the great gifts of being in seminary is the opportunity for daily Mass and participating in the Liturgy of the Hours in community, as well as the availability to frequent the sacrament of reconciliation. It is through these liturgies and sacraments that we begin to gain knowledge of Christ and can better conform our lives to His and continue to foster that relationship with Him. Likewise, through our participation in these sacraments as well as our encounters with one another, we gain greater knowledge of self. Along with that knowledge of self, we also come to recognize our sinfulness along with other qualities that we may say make us unfit to be a priest. This can lead us to the temptation to eliminate ourselves from the possibility of the priesthood. However, despite our sinfulness, failings, and shortcoming, the Lord calls and we must respond.
During my first semester at Bishop Simon Bruté in the fall 2015, we got the opportunity to participate as volunteers at NCYC. Our role as seminarians was to help with the reconciliation line and serve for Masses. During that weekend I decided to go to confession and afterward, a priest gave me a card with the quote listed above on one side and an image of Jesus calling the apostles from the fishing boats to follow him on the other. It was beautiful to reflect later on that in the moment in which I was able to recognize my sins and through God’s grace turn away from them and toward Him. God extends His mercy and calls us toward something much greater than ourselves through the sacrament. This is true of all Christians in our universal call to holiness, but in a particular way for those men that, despite their sinfulness, God calls to serve at His altar and entrusts them to take His place on Earth and make Him present through the Mass, and allow for his grace to flow from them in the sacraments. Through this encounter early on in seminary I began to grow in appreciation for the sacrament of the priesthood and the great gift that it is truly. Not just for the man that receives it, but rather for the whole Church. Since like all gifts from God they are not for the individual to keep but rather for the individual to give freely for the greater glory of God.
This recognition of the grandeur of the sacrament of Holy Orders ought not to discourage one from considering a vocation to the priesthood, but rather, should bring one to humble recognition that it is not through merits of their own that God works miracles, but rather it is through His grace that he does such things. What he asks of us is simply our willingness to be open to that possibility and to remain faithful to His will. Perhaps one may encounter moments in which he feels that he cannot respond to such a call because his sin is much too great or he feels that he will be unable to endure a task that a priest may have to take on and due to this is tempted to abandon all possibility of a priestly vocation. However, it is in these moments that one must allow himself to be guided by the grace of God, and not one’s own sinfulness. It is in these moments that one must remember as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said, “the priest is not a mere office-holder, but sacrament,” and thus God will work through His priest despite the priest’s sinfulness and unworthiness.
So as we continue to gain greater knowledge of ourselves while in seminary and may even begin to question our worthiness of such a call, we must not become discouraged for the reality is that no one is worthy of being a priest. Rather, it is God that invites us to share in His priesthood and we must respond with faith and trust. Two things that will take a lifetime to perfect and even then we will still fail at times but the important thing is to not give in to our sin but rather to continue to seek God and His will throughout our lives day after day. This I have come to realize more and more throughout my years in seminary. Although I’ve always known that seminary- while preparing us to God-willing become priests someday- will not answer all our questions nor will we leave being perfect, I have come to a greater realization of this throughout the past three years. Faith is truly a life-long journey and we must continue to persevere in it and never give up despite our sinfulness and we must remain open to the grace of God so that it may work in and through us.

Now, obviously God does not call all young men to the priesthood, however, those that do have a strong attraction toward such a vocation should not become discouraged because of fear. But rather he should continuously seek the grace of God through the frequenting of the sacraments and should recognize that God will work through them despite their sins as long as they continue to lead a virtuous life and do their best to strive toward holiness. This is the audacity of God of which Pope Emeritus Benedict spoke of in which God entrusts Himself to human beings- Who, conscious of our weakness, nonetheless considers men capable of acting and being present in His stead- this audacity of God is the True grandeur concealed in the word “priesthood.” The priesthood, in some sense is truly a mystery and if one authentically feels a call to such a vocation, he should not run from it out of fear, but should rather run toward it out of love of the one who calls, which is God.

Fermin Luna

Fermin Luna is a Seminarian studying for the Archdiocese of Louisville and a member of the Class of 2018.

Christ in Our Midst

Altar serving at a funeral Mass recently left me with quite a few takeaways. All funerals are sad in nature to some extent, but this one was particularly moving given that there were only ten people present. Four of the mourners were parishioners who showed up out of devotion or simply happened to be present at the time. The other six were not family members and were not Catholic, indicated by their clear unfamiliarity with a church setting.

I remember thinking in between my prayers for the repose of the soul of the deceased how strange the whole Mass must have been to those six individuals. They walked into a church, an environment that can make just about anyone uneasy, and were attending a service for a man they could barely call a friend. I can only imagine how peculiar the sights and smells must have been to them- the formalized structure of the prayers, the young men in what appeared to be black dresses with white garments donned over them, the statues and detailed stained-glass windows depicting the saints. Yes, it is safe to say that the whole experience was a recipe for puzzlement straight out of the cookbook- a new environment mixed with a half measure of guardedness and finished off with just a pinch of curiosity.

I remember thinking to myself that the Mass could have been the only encounter that those people will ever have with Christ and his Church. What kind of an impression did it have on them? What kind of thoughts went through their mind as father elevated our Creator before their very eyes? Did what we partook in draw them closer to our Lord? Did anything lead them away from the Truth?


I think that having this perspective, reminding yourself as a person of faith that your encounter with someone might be the closest that another person ever comes to Christ, is the key to being a faithful Christian. Did not Christ himself treat people with love and compassion in every encounter? He too is fully human. He too was tired and frustrated, yet he chose to approach them with all that he had.

Perhaps the best way in which we as Christians can prepare ourselves for these encounters is by having something to say. I do not mean that we should have a set of rehearsed lines carried around on an index card in our pockets, but rather that this is a matter of voicing from our hearts and minds to another person whom we encounter what it means to be a disciple of Christ and exactly why it is the only thing worth giving all for. This then should be seen as our call.

Seeing God in another is difficult in our world. Society labels people by race, religion, orientation, social class (but ironically preaches individuality) and in so doing creates divisions. Pornography and the lull of a capitalist society make people out to be objects, and the undesirable are cast aside. The challenge is certainly daunting. Yet, seeing Christ in others is a choice, much like faith, to respond. Regardless of our perspective, each person that we encounter is made Imago Dei, in the image of God. Let us not forget this. It seems beneficial in the midst of a difficult situation to reach a point of awareness and in so doing to find a way to remind yourself that the person you are engaging, all persons in fact, are counting on you to be Christ in their midst- whether they realize it or not.

Owen Duckett

Owen Duckett is a seminarian studying for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and is a member of the Class of 2019.

The Saint Who Is Just Me

There is a lot of conversation in the Church right now about discipleship. Many dioceses in the United States are really stepping up their discipleship efforts and are trying to fan the flame of the Holy Spirit that the Church received at Pentecost. It’s very exciting to see the different ways that this is manifesting itself at all levels of the Church. The Lord’s invitation to follow Him is extended to all people; men and women, children and adults, priests and lay faithful. We must continually ask the Lord how it is that He wants us to serve Him and His Church!

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One of the fatal flaws that many disciples have fallen into is to see another incredible disciple and want to copy and paste their life into his or her own life. It is certainly admirable to seek to follow the examples of holy men and women in our lives, especially the saints, but I am not called to be St. Catherine of Siena, St. John Paul, or St. Juan Diego (just a few of my favorites). I am called to be St. Mark Vojas, Jr., and nobody else has received that call except me. Likewise, you have received a unique call that no one else has received. One of my favorite Christian singer/ songwriters is Danielle Rose. One of her songs is entitled, “The Saint That is Just Me.” In this song she names many beautiful saints and some of their attributes that she thought she would try to emulate in her own life, but then in the chorus, she expresses one of the deep truths of discipleship. Speaking to the Lord, she sings;

“When You hung upon the cross looking at me,

You didn’t die so I could try to be somebody else.

You died so I could be the saint that is just me.”

This beautiful reminder can be difficult for any disciple, but I think it can be especially difficult for men in the seminary. We have grown up learning about the saints, as well as receiving inspiration from great and holy priests in our lives. These great inspirations call us to great heights of holiness, but can sometimes prevent us from looking deeply at ourselves to consider how the Lord wants to use us for a unique and specific purpose. We can be tempted to say, “I want to be just like Saint So-And-So,” or “As a priest, I can’t wait to do blah-blah-blah just like Fr. Something-Or-Other always did,” which is okay, but if we stop there, we are short-changing the Lord. If we only seek to emulate the greatness that we have witnessed in others, we fail to offer the Lord the greatness that He has planted deep within us!

Many people ask why I want to be a priest. Seminarians have to get good at answering that question very quickly! It’s interesting to me to consider how my answer to this question has evolved through my two and a half years as a seminarian. My answer has evolved from a genuine, but somewhat general desire to celebrate the sacraments, to a more particular desire to use the gifts that the Lord has given me specifically to be His hands and feet in the world. The more that I come to know myself, the more effective instrument I will be for Him to reveal Himself to the People of God as well as to those who do not know Him. My favorite saint, Catherine of Siena, when writing to her friend said, “If you are who you were made to be, you will set the world ablaze!” (She actually said “you will set all of Italy ablaze,” but you get the idea.) This is what my desire to be a priest is centered on because to authentically become who I am meant to be is to become more like Christ.

I hope this last verse of “The Saint That Is Just Me” will give you the confidence to run to the Lord to become who you were made to be so you can set all of Italy the world ablaze!

“…If it weren’t for my sins and wounds and weakness,

Then you wouldn’t have married me upon the cross.

Why do I fear being seen naked and broken?

That’s why You came; cause I needed you that much.

When You hung upon the cross looking at me,

You didn’t die so I would try to be somebody else.

You died so I could be the saint that is just me.”

Let this be our prayer. Let this be your prayer for the seminarians! May we seek to be the disciples, the SAINTS, that the Lord has made us to be. He sees our weakness. He knows that we fail. He wants us anyway. Let this bring us peace.

Mark Vojas- Jr

Mark J. Vojas, Jr. is a seminarian studying for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois and is a member of the Class of 2019.