Seminaries need Windex

doctor’s waiting room signToday, I’m in the waiting room of a doctor’s office for a physical.  As I begin to get impatient waiting more than an hour for my appointment, I hear laughter from behind the frosted glass as I stare at a sign next to the window.  It reads, “Please check-in & notify us.  We will NOT know you are here if you do not. Thank you.” First of all, I already checked in (so they know I’m here).  Second of all, since the frosted glass is closed, I start assuming the worst as the laughter continues (like I’m being delayed because of slow officer workers who have time for fun & jokes when patients are waiting).  And third, as I’m trying to calm myself and think happy thoughts, I can’t help make a connection with this experience to the seminary.  Why? Let me explain.

When parishes try to encourage “vocations,” they usually refer to the “priesthood and religious life” in very broad terms without great detail about what each involves or even the differences.  Most people understand matrimony (which is also a vocation), but see priesthood & religious life so different & mysterious, that they don’t give it attention.  I don’t think young men & women know what they’re saying “NO” to. Even as an active Catholic involved in catechesis and youth ministry, I didn’t know much detail about the priesthood & religious life until I actively did some research and started asking question I think many have.  Questions like, “What the difference between priesthood and religious life?” “What kind of things do priests do (during the week)?” “Are they expected to do EVERYTHING?” “How much to they get paid?” “Do they get time off or vacation?” “Do they have to be perfect?” “What is seminary life like?” “Can you quit?” “If I want to get married, any I rejecting a vocation?” and more.  We need better “marketing” of vocations.

As a catechist, I know I have not presented priesthood & religious life to be very attractive (if I presented at all).  Because of ignorance or lack of knowledge, many develop our own picture of vocations that are not only irrelevant to our own lives, but just plain wrong.  As I tell people I’m a seminarian, some of the questions I get are surprisingly simple.  We need ways to make vocations (and the formation process) more “transparent” to everyone.  Replace the “fogged glass” with “clear glass” so that attitudes on vocations don’t rest on bad examples of priest, seminarians and the Church.  We need Windex! Windex

I know priests are always to encourage vocations.  And seminarians are probably the best poster-children for vocations, but “who knows a seminarian?” A young man goes off to seminary for 6-9 years and parishes get a occasional “freak show” viewing that make the formation process look even more irrelevant to the laity.  Maybe if the formation process toned down the emphasis on “community life” (to live at seminary 7 days a week and be removed from the laity), seminarians would be more “real” to outsiders and (in my opinion) a better preparation for the “diocesen priesthood” (around “real” people) instead of the “religious priesthood” (where community life is more important).  — What do I know?  I’m new here. Kermit? Anyone?

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