St. Augustine's Seminary House Life
The Roman Catholic priest is a man called and empowered to image Christ as Head and Shepherd. The candidates for the priesthood at St. Augustine's Seminary are prepared for this vocation, specifically, to be ministers of God's Word, ministers of the Eucharist and the Sacraments, and servant-leaders of God's people. The formation programme is a five-year course of study encompassing academics, field education, communal life and spiritual formation. Any introduction to what St. Augustine's is and seeks to be for its students is best undertaken by considering the seminary as, at one and the same time, a house of Prayer, a house of Study, and a house of Community Living.
House of Prayer
The seminary does not hesitate to give prayer the first place in its program of formation. Only in the raising of our minds and hearts to God in prayer can we advance in the life to which the Lord calls us. We cannot grow in intimacy with Jesus, we cannot know how to represent Jesus Christ and his teachings to the Church and to the world unless we are growing in fidelity to prayer.
There is another reason, existential if you will, why prayer is deliberately and consistently placed first in seminary life. Given human nature, especially in our ever faster and more secular society, where efficiency and utility are the measure of life, spending time with God in prayer has become much more of a struggle. The seminarian, as a graduate student in a renowned university, might feel, like the busy priest, that he has no time for prayer unless he conscientiously and deliberately makes intimacy with Jesus Christ in prayer his first priority each day.
Prayer is twofold, public and private. Both are crucial. Public prayer finds expression in the Liturgy of the Church, namely the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours. The liturgy has always been the Church's major opportunity for forming and educating the people of God. That is true in a parish, where for most people the only common experience of faith is the gathering for the Eucharist on Sundays and feasts. It is true in great monasteries; it was true in the Church of the Martyrs; it is true even under fierce persecution, where people take huge risks to meet secretly and celebrate the liturgy. Above all it is true in a seminary where future priests are learning to sustain worshipping communities in parishes, primarily through what happens when the people gather for the Eucharist. The most crucial formative experience for a seminarian comes about in his commitment to the communal celebration of the Church's liturgy at the seminary.
Thus, the celebration of the Eucharist is the source and summit of seminary spiritual life and formation. It is the central act of divine worship of the Mystical Body and the source of spiritual nourishment for Christian life. Association with Jesus' Paschal sacrifice lies at the heart of priestly ministry and life. The community and each member of the community are encouraged to grow in a truly Eucharistic spirituality.
Priests, deacons and religious are committed to celebrate daily the Liturgy of the Hours as ministers who praise and give thanks with Jesus and who intercede before the Father for the Church on earth and for all men and women in need. The seminary celebrates a portion of that liturgy in common every day.
Then there is individual private prayer, not a communal act but a community priority. The celebration of the Eucharist and of the Liturgy of the Hours will become a deeper experience for those who are faithful to private prayer.
House of Study
Theology has been described as fides quaerens intellectum, faith seeking understanding. The study of theology has many values, but the seminarian should see it primarily as a further opportunity to know and appreciate the presence of God's Word and self-communication in his life.
To this intensely personal need for theology must be added the pastoral need of the priest who is called to form and govern the priestly people of God. The priest's role of service, of being a "man for others," is also one of teaching God's Word which the priest must make his own by meditation, along with serious study begun in the seminary and continued throughout his ministry. The personal need for study and the pastoral need may be distinct, but they cannot be separated for this reason: the priest as teacher can lead men and women to Christ only insofar as his whole life is in union with the mind and heart of the Lord. Our house, then, is a house of study, the kind of study that is never far from prayer.
House of Community Living
It is not uncommon to hear expressions of gratitude from seminarians for the sense of fraternity, support and affirmation that comes from the seminary community. Though very often the spirit of fraternity is the most attractive thing about the seminary, let us also acknowledge that community life is as demanding as prayer and study.
The St. Augustine's community is enriched by several important factors: most of the priest-faculty are themselves part of the community; the seminarians come from many different Canadian dioceses.
We must acknowledge that the seminary is not merely a theological students' residence. Community life is an integral and essential component of priestly formation. Our house as a house of Christian community is irreplaceable in fostering the qualities of sacrificial love, mature obedience, celibate chastity and pastoral poverty.
Seminary Formation demands that for the four years of seminary residence and for the one year of parish internship, the seminarian give of himself generously in all circumstances to the seminary community.
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