Dear Friends in Christ,
Sometimes when I pray, I like to imagine the “in between” times that are not recorded in the gospels. Punctuated throughout Jesus’ public ministry must have been hours and hours of time spent with his disciples, walking, conversing, eating,laughing, and deepening their friendship. These kinds of moments would be difficult to record because they would be very ordinary and somewhat uninteresting unless you were there. If you were there, however, you might somehow know that you were participating in something quite extraordinary.
Life at Saint John’s Seminary is like that for me. There are the “big events,” like ordinations, final exams, and major liturgical celebrations, but one of the most formative parts of life here is the “in between” times. It is when seminarians go hiking, play soccer and basketball, play a board game, or catch a movie together. It is when priests and seminarians spend time together and enjoy one another’s company. It is when seminarians sit in a common area laughing with one another. It is when they converse about their lives, their prayer, their families, and their histories. It is when they pray together.
These “in between” moments for me are when their humanity is on full display and when the humanity of each of us is deepened. In these moments, the Lord is forming his priests, drawing them into a new way of life, and convincing them that they are part of something totally new and extraordinary. It is difficult to convey the power that these “in between” moments contain, but I hope that in sharing them with you, I give you some sense that Christ is doing something so beautiful at St. John’s.
St. Augustine’s words convey something of my own experience of living in this place:
"There were other things done in their company which more completely seized my mind: to talk and to laugh with them; to do friendly acts of service for one another; to read well-written books together; at times to tell jokes and sometimes to be serious; to disagree at times, but without hard feelings, just as a man does with himself; and to keep our many discussions pleasant by the very rarity of such differences; to teach things to the others and to learn from them; to long impatiently for those who were absent, and to receive with joy those joining us. These and similar expressions, proceeding from the hearts of those who loved and repaid their comrades' love, by way of countenance, tongue, eyes, and a thousand pleasing gestures, were like fuel to set our minds ablaze and to make but one out of many."
As I prepare to leave full-time seminary work to take up a new assignment, I am filled with gratitude for what the Lord has given to me, especially for all the “in between moments.” These moments cause my heart to well up with joy for the Church because they convince me that Christ is doing something amazing in this place and in the hearts of these future priests. I do not have to imagine what it was like for those first disciples. I have encountered it here at this moment, with these people; together with Jesus Christ.