Friday, August 29, 2008

Feast of the Martyrdom of John the Baptist

Another sign of the "end of summer" is today's celebration of the Martyrdom of St. John.  It's also that time of year when seminarians are back in classes for another semester of studies.  This time of year, I especially think of the men in 1st Theology, who are going through a bit of a panic time right now, as they adjust to seminary life, wonder whether this was the right thing for them to do, and try their best to memorize the names of their new classmates.  We've all faced those "What the heck am I doing here?" moments, and if it gives any comfort to anyone in 1st Theology reading this, they never really stop happening.  Just because a loving God is the one giving us the test doesn't mean he's sharing the answer key.

I think that seminarians, in a special way, have a special affinity towards John the Baptist.   Seminarians, as "JB" did in being the hinge between the Old and New Testaments, do represent the "transition": guys who are not yet clergy, but more than just "regular" laymen.  In the seminary or in parish settings, they're constantly reminded that they are not yet Priests, and shouldn't act in a "clerical" way.  But when they're at home, family members and friends have begun acting differently in their presence, watching their language and asking them to explain anything remotely having to do with the Church that made the newspapers.  But they also face the heroic danger that John the Baptist faced: sometimes calling things as you see them can get you into trouble.  As in the days of Herod, telling the truth to power (say, for example, that the pastor to whom you've been assigned is insane and who, shall we say, "doesn't just have issues but a whole subscription!") runs the risk of imprisonment (in the case of a seminarian, being sent for counseling, or, perhaps asked to take time away from studies to "discern" their vocation), or even death (being dropped as a seminarian altogether).  Always remember the "magic pastor shield", which is the aura that settles upon someone when given the canonical title of Pastor (there's no such thing as a "magic administrator shield").  It means that no matter what happens in a parish between you and the pastor, the powers-that-be will begin their investigation with the presumption that the Pastor was correct.  

Enjoy your feast days, guys.  Take deep breaths.  Count the days until Fall Break.

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