Monday, December 15, 2008

What I did over Christmas break

Every seminarian has a spiritual director and an academic adviser. The spiritual director helps you with your internal formation and to conform your heart and your spirit to Christ which is undoubtedly the most important aspect of priestly formation since the priest stands in persona Christi during the Mass. The academic adviser doesn't just help you with academics, but ideally he also helps you with the external, visible aspects of living a priestly life. My adviser gave me an interesting task to work on over the Christmas break, although he was quick to point out this will probably occupy me for the rest of my life.

In case you're just joining us, I'm a fairly recent convert to the Faith - four years this Easter. I haven't had any trouble with academics thus far, so Fr. Stevens said he wants me to work on converting my imagination as well. I understand and believe (in some cases the latter more so than the former) everything the Holy Catholic Church approves and teaches, but I never got to experience Catholic culture growing up.

When I told my fellow pre-theologians about this at St. Patrick's, the most common reaction I got was, "You mean Catholic books and movies and stuff? I haven't read or seen many 'Catholic' books and movies." That may be so, but you've been living the faith since birth. If you're here in the seminary or discerning a vocation to the priesthood, it's reasonable to assume that your parents did a good job of teaching you and raising you in the faith. Even if you've never had any catechesis since your confirmation classes, you've had a certain way of looking at the world since you attained your reason. Much of my conversion process has included "unlearning" and rejecting a lot of modern assumptions which lead, as our Holy Father put it, to a dictatorship of relativism. God has His reasons for everything, so I trust that I grew up the way I did because He was shaping me to be the man I am today with all of the experiences, memories, and history that goes with it.

Good literature, music, or cinema points us toward the true, the good, and the beautiful. All of those things are ultimately grounded in God, who is Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. As Cardinal Newman once put it, the real conflict is not between faith and reason, but faith and imagination.

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