Friday, January 27, 2012
Friendship That Goes Deep
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to serve as a spiritual director for seminarians and one of the privileges of that assignment was witnessing men who take their life seriously. When a man is considering entering the seminary and when he is actually in the seminary, it is difficult not to take life seriously. There is a persistent and constant awareness that you are called. And, if you are called, that means there is One who is calling. As a spiritual director, it was a privilege to stand with somebody as he sought to understand, obey, and live this call. And, I think that most spiritual directors would admit to a little bit of weariness if a seminarian lacked this sense of awe and engagement in his vocation.
Sometimes, I have had parishioners tell me how jealous they are of the fact that a priest has the privilege of spending so much time in the seminary praying and learning about God. And, they are absolutely right! Some people take a year to go and see the world. And, I wouldn't mind being able to do that. But, a seminarian is given 6-8 years to spend entirely focused upon his relationship with God. How awesome is that?
This all came to mind because yesterday I spent some time at St. John's Seminary in Brighton, MA. I was happy to see a full house of seminarians, filled with youth, joy, and with seriousness of purpose. It is amazing to think how much Christ is doing on that small plot of land. And it is fantastic to see these men living life in a way that is full and not wasteful.
After my visit to the seminary, I had dinner with a young man who is about to be married. As we conversed, I was really moved because I was with somebody who takes life seriously. As I listened to him talk about his life, I thought, "How privileged am I that I should get to be here." When we are surrounded by people who take life seriously, we cannot help but want to do the same.
When I talk about seriousness of life, I do not mean ponderousness, excessive introspection, or the repetition of platitudes. I mean persons who see their life as an engagement with the infinite and who are interested in reality. I feel particularly blessed in my life that people still find the priest somebody who is easily approachable in this regard. The priest is a privileged friend to many.
I love when I hear from a kid I met when he was in high school and now it is ten years later. Or when, out of the blue, I hear from a person I taught at our parish school a dozen years ago, who calls just to talk about life and its challenges. Or, when a young person today builds up the courage to ask me some question of moral importance; the question being an indication of an openness to treating their life more seriously and also an expression of openness to Christ and the Church. These and many other examples of what a priest is privileged to encounter in his life are sources of great joy. As priests, we are privileged to stand by the side of others as they accept the Lord's invitation to "Go into the deep."