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The Day I Started Seminary: Weekly Message for 07-31-2018
Dear Digital Pilgrim, pax Christi:
When God planted his call to the priesthood in my heart, it was also a call to the religious life. I felt a desire to make the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and to put my life at the unconditional service of the Lord. I remember telling him that I just wanted to go wherever he wanted to send me to do whatever he wanted me to do – all for his Church, because I had fallen head over heels in love with that Church.
I visited a lot of different religious orders during my discernment process. And some Jesuit priests especially helped me along in my journey, so I felt a special affection for them. But when I first met members of the congregation I eventually joined, the Legionaries of Christ, I felt something different entirely: a connection on every level of my soul that was different from anything I had experienced before, which was a powerful gift in my discernment.
Even so, I remember debating with myself a lot when the time came to make a decision. The Legionaries were new and energetic, but other orders like the Jesuits were mature and had stood the test of time. I had to wrestle with uncertainty. When it became clear that the Lord was calling me to be his Legionary, part of me felt sad breaking the news to my Jesuit friends.
In late July, 1993, I set out for the summer Candidacy program for Legionary aspirants, and visited my older sister along the way (she lived in New York City at the time, and the Legionary novitiate is in Cheshire, CT). Well, during my visit I came down with a strange ear infection that knocked me out and put me in bed for two days. “No traveling allowed!” the doctor ordered. When I was okay, I headed up to Cheshire to begin my new adventure. To my utter surprise, and contrary to all my plans, my first day in seminary ended up being July 31st, the liturgical memorial of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. When I realized this, it touched my heart deeply: to arrive at the Legionary seminary on St. Ignatius’s feast day was, I felt certain, much more than a coincidence. It seemed as if St. Ignatius was smiling at me from heaven, saying, “Don’t worry anymore – you are right where the Lord wants you to be.” And his smile made me smile, all the way to the toes of my heart, so to speak.
God sends us little messages like that all the time. It is our hope here at RCSpirituality that our many products and resources can help you learn to find, understand, and heed those messages better and better. The Conference from our newest Retreat Guide (written by my friend and fellow Legionary, Fr John Pietropaoli) on St. Ignatius of Loyola, For the Greater Glory of God, is especially helpful in that regard, since it explains the “examen prayer” (nothing to do with final exams, don’t worry). If you haven’t had a chance to watch it yet, I highly recommend it.
May God grant you abundant graces as the summer comes to a close.
Yours in Him,
Fr John Bartunek, LC