Paulist seminarian Tom Gibbons reflects on his formation experience and his life as a seminarian right now. Along the way, some questions will be will be answered, and a lot more will come up.
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Back to Seminary
In order to answer the question, “Am I looking forward to going back to seminary?” it’s probably best to relay a conversation that I recently had with one of the Paulist priests. It was a simple conversation that happened a few weeks ago; I bumped into this Paulist with whom I am friends in DC while I was staying in Boston for the summer. He asked me if I was looking forward to my upcoming ordination. I replied that I was. Very much so. Because then I wouldn’t have to be in seminary any more.
My answer was not that I would finally get to serve the people. My answer was not that I could shine the love of God outward into a darkened world. It was that I would not have to be in seminary any more.
I know, I know. On some level I am supposed to say what a grace-filled time this is, what a blessing it is for me to have the opportunity to grow as a person, that all of God’s gifts are good, blah, blah, blah. And yes, there is indeed truth in the descriptions that fall under the category of “nicety,” but after five years of poking, prodding, and stretching, I’m getting a little tired. And if Kevin Arnold from The Wonder Years has taught us anything, it’s that after a while, growing gets kind of old.
Priestly formation can often feel like 10 different people are grabbing 10 different fingers and pulling in different directions, with each one shouting, “Grow spiritually! Grow intellectually! Be open to relationships! Watch your boundaries! Exercise more! Work harder! Take time out! Imagine swirled peas!” Constantly switching gears to all of the different areas you are expected to grow in, legitimate and illegitimate, gets exhausting after a while. You just get tired of reading the car manual and just want to take the car out for a spin already.
So, no, I’m not looking forward to going back to seminary.
Of course, there is an ounce of guilt than comes along with this realization. Some might say that I wouldn’t truly be Catholic if there wasn’t. And I am of course aware of the growth in most of this, that on some level seminary is a lot like exercise, that it is something I may hate doing but will appreciate having done.
That being said, when I told the Paulist the specific reason that I was looking forward to getting ordained, he gave me a quick response.