Cardinal Sarah in his book The Power of Silence wrote, “Without silence, God disappears in the noise. And this noise becomes all the more obsessive because God is absent. Unless the world rediscovers silence, it is lost. The earth then rushes into nothingness.” Thus, it would make sense that an essential part of life here in the House of Formation is daily prayer.
We cap the beginning and end of each day with the Liturgy of the Hours (LotH). The Liturgy of the Hours, also known as the Divine Office is the daily prayer of the Church, marking the hours of each day and sanctifying the day with prayer. Every priest and consecrated religious participates in all 5 times of prayer, at the HoF we pray Morning and Evening prayer together in community. Recently in our Latin class, we learned more about the origin of the English word ‘antiphon’ (a common occurrence in the LotH) as meaning etymologically, ‘voice against voice’. This reflects the back and forth exchange from each side of the chapel as we pray with the figurative lungs of the church.
(Beirvery turned to morning prayer in the St. Joseph House of Formation Chapel)
Devotion to the Holy Eucharist makes up the other primary communal opportunities for prayers. We share in Mass each day, sometimes with the St. Joseph parishioners, or on Wednesdays in the St. John’s Chapel at Newman University. (Saint Joseph Mass Times and Newman University Mass Times).
personal prayer before morning Mass at St. Joseph’s Church
A major part of many of our vocation stories was time spent before the Blessed Sacrament in an adoration hour. We share in one of those daily as well. We have grown to find this time completely essential. As many here are new to college life (and some not so new), we find it easy to get lost in our homework and exams - then in finding free time: relaxing, watching T.V, or board games. All good things, but all things that can contribute to losing sight of the whole reason we are here. Sometimes we have to put in some personal effort to reclaim theses times of silence. Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said, "As a man must be born before he can begin to lead his physical life, so he must be born to lead a Divine Life. That birth occurs in the Sacrament of Baptism. To survive, he must be nourished by Divine Life; that is done in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.”
Prayer is important because we find in it the fruition of our vocation. Daily prayer allows us to share in building a culture of vocations. As St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “like Jesus we belong to the world living not for ourselves but for others. The joy of the Lord is our strength.” But as seminarians we cannot bring joy to the world if we do not know the Lord. It is easy to get ahead of ourselves, to try and give what we don’t first have. Is a challenge to slow down and realize true love and joy starts from within and spread outward.
Our goal, as Paul entreats in 1 Thessalonians (5:16), is to pray without ceasing. Perhaps this is easier said than done, which is why we have these times of prayer baked into the rule of life already. It make the goal more attainable. We see the fruit of routine on our free weekends and breaks, as the rubber meets the road and our personal weaknesses show with more clarity. We often find inspiration in each other. Even in the simple ways like praying a Hail Mary when we see an ambulance on the way to the gym.
Through formation and prayer, we are able to lay down the foundation of our discernment. To seek and grow in relationship with Christ, where through knowing the Son, the Father is revealed. Where we can feel God’s overwhelming love for us and spread to all we come in contact with.
May God Be Praised,
House of Formation
Prayer can be hard, here is some motivation:
"To be happy, what you need is not an easy life but a heart which is in love"
-St. Josemaria Escriva
"Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin."
-Mother Teresa of Calcutta
There are many great resources available, here are some that we use at the house:
iBreviary – great for finding the daily mass readings and LoTH on the go.
Mass Times – great for find adoration chapels and mass times around the United States, especially helps when schedules get crazy or in new areas.
Catholic Diocese of Wichita Website – This has helped many of the men from finding different parishes, to growing in one’s faith, to applying for seminary.
As seminarians, we pray, study, eat, sleep, eat, play, and eat. So, what do seminarians do while on break? We pray, eat, serve, eat, sleep, play, eat, relax, and eat. Just because we are on break does not mean that we get away from everything in seminary. We barely get away from studies. In fact our Director of Vocations, Fr. Chad Arnold, gives seminarians homework over break. We are to pray, eat, sleep, and have fun.
We pray the Liturgy of the Hours go to mass daily, and set aside time for personal prayer as we are able. These help keep our focus on what we are striving for. One of the best parts of coming home for break is having the opportunity to serve at our home parishes. This is wonderful as we are able to meet the people who have been praying and supporting our journey through seminary. It is really cool being able to serve with the pastors and associates of our parishes. During Mass, we are able to help with incense, setting up the altar, and even lighting our surpluses on fire! (Of course there is a story behind that! Two of our number had some poor experiences with fire while serving Mass… Nothing really hurt but pride! For the full story, you can listen in at about the 15 minute mark on out podcast here)
The second-best part of a break for seminarians is having some home cooked meals with your family. Having all the shelves filled with all of YOUR favorite foods is something that should never be taken for granted. Also, it gave us a chance to break out a few of the recipes we had learned over the semester and give Mom the night off!
The next part of Fr. Chad’s homework was to get some rest. This is by far the easiest of the four. Getting a solid 10-12 hours of sleep is something that doesn’t come that often anymore.
Finally, seminarians have fun on our breaks. Each Christmas, Bishop invites the seminarians and clergy over to his residence for a great evening of fellowship. Many of us also meet up with some of the other seminarians who are studying at a different school to share a meal and excellent conversation. We at the House were able to get together for an afternoon of adventures that started with Ice Skating. Some of us had skated before, for some it was the first time. The results were… mixed. The lack of experience, was more than made up by the fun moments they caused.
After ice skating, a test of teamwork came around to challenge us as one of our cars wouldn’t start. With guys on every side, we were able to move a car with a dead battery through the parking lot of the ice rink and into another parking spot until later (food too priority).
The night ended at the stroke of midnight with a late night taping of our legendary podcast known as Sem Lyfe. You can find the results of that madness here.
On a surface level, the Christmas break for a seminarian could seem similar to any other college student. Look a little closer, though, and you will see the foundations of prayer, study, fraternity, and charity, still being built up… admittedly, with many more naps. But we must always keep in mind that we never stop discerning, even on break.
A staple in any seminary program, are apostolics. Simply put, an apostolic is a formal opportunity for the men in formation to encounter the people of God in more of a pastoral way.
The further you go in seminary, the more specific to the work of ‘pastoring’ the activities get, while in earlier years, the pastoral pillar of formation is less of a priority. Intellectual, Spiritual, and Human formation are more of the priority in an effort to first build up a good foundation.
Nonetheless, we still advance in pastoral ability by spending a few hours a week participating in our assigned apostolic ministry.
Here at the House of Formation, we are involved with many different organizations. Some of our apostolics include The Lord’s Diner, The St. Vincent DePaul Society, Newman University Campus Ministry, and the Pope Francis Building Project. These activities help us to gain experience with the homeless, college students, and families in need. Conveniently, all these are of benefit to local ministries from within our Diocese.
This has the twofold advantage of helping wichitans, and letting us get to know Wichita, its priests, and its people. If a seminarian is less exposed to the diocese before entering, the ability to plug in with our own diocesan programs helps to provide a stronger connection. We get to know the people that one day, God willing, we will return and serve as priest. An important part of priesthood is knowing your community, and being able to start off our pastoral experience at home, in Wichita, is a blessing.
In Pope Francis’ address to the world’s priests at the Chrism Mass in 2013 he exhorted, “This is what I am asking you — be shepherds with the smell of sheep.” Apostolics help prepare us for this ministerial work of the priesthood, and we are excited to have such a variety of service options here at the HoF.
To provide an inlet into the life of seminary formation through the lenses of prayer, study, and fraternity.