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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My Inner Fonzie
“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we’re uncool.” - Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Almost Famous
After the road trip ended in September 2006 and we arrived back at St. Paul’s College in Washington, DC, I began to see what one of my bigger struggles would be during my time here: my Inner Fonzie.
My Inner Fonzie is that part of myself that should have been left behind when I accepted my High School diploma. But just when I think of myself as a mature adult, there’s the Fonz, hanging around my psyche like toilet paper stuck to the bottom of my shoe. Don’t get me wrong, he isn’t all bad – he makes sure I stay up to date on the latest Bon Jovi albums and still employ the phrase “jiggy with it” as much as possible to maintain my street cred. (I know what you’re thinking, but I said “Inner Fonzie,” not “Inner George Clooney.”) But he’s also the guy who tells whispers in my ear to, no matter what, stay cool… even though he hasn’t always proved to be the counsel.
I mention this because it was just beginning to hit me just how much of a unique sub-culture seminary really is. Words like “Presbyteral,” “Ecumenical,” and “Novice” were slowly entering my everyday vocabulary; words that when they slip out of conversation with “lay people” (another unique word) earn me funny looks from those outside of the jungle. My Inner Fonzie was giving me funny looks as well; he was starting to look nervous that the jukebox he likes to lean against is slowly but surely being filled with Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith songs. He subtly let me know that the chicks won’t dig it if I genuflect too much in Mass… please don’t ask me why that’s still important to me.
But I also like to think that he is trying to keep me grounded in the midst of all of this Catholicism on steroids—indeed, I was trying to keep a certain mental detachment to what is going on around me. I sometimes felt like Jane Goodall studying the apes, especially during hour-long meetings concerning stain glass windows and liturgical colors; except I was now wondering if God is calling me to eat more bananas. I’m not sure if a lot of this is going to live up to Fonzie’s idea of “cool.” At the same time, I was pretty sure it wasn’t supposed to be.