"[O]ur posterity will tend more and more to a single division into two parts – some relinquishing Christianity entirely, and others returning to the bosom of the Church of Rome." - Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1835), Bk I, ch. VI.
"Rome and the atheists have gained ... These two shall fight it out -- these two; Protestantism being retained for the base of operations sly by Atheism." - Herman Melville, The Piazza Tales (1876), p. 406.
"I came to the conclusion that there was no medium, in true philosophy, between Atheism and Catholicity, and that a perfectly consistent mind, under those circumstances in which it finds itself here below, must embrace either the one or the other." - The Venerable Cardinal Newman, Apologia, (1883), p. 198.
It's getting close to annual evaluation time for the Sacramento men at St. Patrick's. Writing my self-evaluation is one of the toughest things I've had to do since entering the seminary. What I always feel like writing is, "I am the greatest of sinners and in no way worthy of the sublimity and beauty of the priesthood." To be sure, no man is worthy of the priesthood on his own merit; it is wholly an undeserved gift from God. I know that on an intellectual level. In my heart, I simultaneously swell with love for Jesus Christ the Eternal Priest when I think that He may be calling someone so unworthy as I am, and shrink from the awesome responsibility and call to serve that the priesthood entails. I don't think many priests realize how much the people notice everything they say and do. I've met lay people who still remember kind words or cold rebuffs from priests from thirty, forty, or fifty years ago. I know laity who would literally give their lives for their beloved pastor, and some who left the Church over something Father did or failed to do.
One thing my academic adviser - a convert himself - has always driven home to us during rector's conferences is that men who become priests today are entering into uncharted waters. For the first time in human history, secularism and atheism are rapidly become the norm for society. Not just the priest, but all Catholics, have to understand the kind of world we live in to better spread the Gospel. We have to strike a careful balance however. Understanding the world does not mean capitulation to the world. Nor should we indulge in an unthinking wholesale rejection of modernity. To test modern thought and distinguish that which is good from that which is evil takes a lot of work, and a good understanding of our own Faith. An excellent discussion about the kind of world we live in today can be found in Charles Taylor's A Secular Age.
But our study of philosophy in the Pre-Theology program is not meant to turn us into academic philosophers identical to those turned out by secular universities. Philosophy in the seminary is aimed at training us to more fully understand the theological truths of our Faith. It is meant to prepare us to become stewards of the Word of God and the sacred mysteries in which the priest participates as an alter Christus.
This is a big evaluation for me. The faculty is deciding on whether to let my class move on to seminary proper. First Theology! I find it hard to believe it's almost time. I still feel like I just got to St. Patrick's. So keep me and the pre-theology II guys in your prayers. March 22 is judgment day for the Sacramento guys.