Friday, December 08, 2006

Talking with Seminarians

Yesterday (Thursday) I was at Wonersh to give a couple of classes to the top year students (all of whom, please God, will be deacons by the end of the year). There are four students in that year: Leslie, Con, Andy & Eddie. For me talks like these are very good occasions to learn from the people I meet. Each of the four students had spent quite a long time in secular careers and this was reflected in their perception of why some men hold back from applying for the priesthood. They made a number of points I hadn't considered but whichwould certainly be factors for what are sometimes called 'late vocations'. I was grateful for the experience, and also for the chance to work in the library during the day in order to produce a draft of the next edition of Vocations News which is long overdue!

8 comments:

Chris said...

Father, it would be interesting to know what the factors mentioned by the final year seminarians were. Especially for those of us who are pushing thirty, I suppose...

Fr Stephen said...

Hi Chris
The big thing was the question of a change of career. On the one hand, even though there's no stability in the workplace these days, you can get stuck in a rut and it can be hard to make the decision to apply. On the other hand the very fact that some people expect a variety of experiences during their working lives might mean that some find the idea of doing one job for life potentially monotonous.

Anonymous said...

Father Stephen,

Was there also mention of the idea that older seminarians may bring a different set of qualities to the Priesthood (not in any way better than someone younger, but more practical for want of another word). Also, something that has caused me some disquiet is fear that older candidates may feel under more intense pressure to prove themselves, because they 'ought' to be able to demonstrate more from a practical standpoint (or so they may think...). Do you know what I mean?

Mark

Fr Stephen said...

Hi Mark, that didn't really come up but I know what you mean. There are a number of important things to be borne in mind when older candidates come forward. It is clear that Christ is no 'respecter of ages' - he calls those whom he wants, when he wants. With older men we need to ask can they adapt to the demands of priestly life. A chaste bachelor isn't the same as a celibate: a bachelor is someone who has settled down to a routine of life, a 'comfort zone' - celibacy is a way of loving that requires us to give ourselves and step outside of the comfort zone. Is an older person coming forward because nothing else has worked out? Will the experiences they've had enrich their priestly ministry, or have they given rise to some psychological entanglement that limits freedom and will hamper their effectiveness as priests? These are questions that we have to ask, although of course it is not true that any older person will be unsuitable. A very good example is the present spiritual director at Valladolid. He received the call relatively late. His priesthood is clearly enriched by the many professional experiences he had as a lay man. Each case has to be discerned individually.

Fr Stephen said...

An anonymous reader accused me of psychobabble and claims that the remark "A chaste bachelor isn't the same as a celibate" is an example of semantics.
I'm not sure that he has understood what I was trying to say and so thought I'd better explain myself.
A 'bachelor' obviously is someone who is not married. However, words like 'bachelor' and 'spinster' have a more subtle meaning as well. We use them of someone who has gotten used to their own way of doing things, who have 'settled down' to a certain lifestyle. Priests are not called to be bachelors. They are called to celibacy. Celibacy is a way of loving - of moving out of routine in order to give ourselves to Christ and to his people.
Chastity for a bachelor is expressed in the absence of sexual activity. But celibacy is much more than this - it is also the gift of ourselves in love to Christ.

Anonymous said...

Strangely enough, recent secular legislation now outlaws discrimination on grounds of age. Not sure where the Lord stands on that one.

Fr Stephen said...

This has proved something of a controversial post - despite its brevity. It is worth recalling what I said in my original reply: Christ is no respected of ages. He calls those whom he wants when he wants them.
I'd add that the Church in this country has always made provision for later vocations. When I was a seminarian the Beda College existed for late vocations. The important thing is to discern whether the call comes from God or not.

Anonymous said...

"He calls those whom he wants when he wants them."

Now that's the faith! Well done and prayers!