18 November 2017
2004 Patrick 2

When God Calls

Deacon Patrick writes:

This is my sixth year of study and formation in St. Patrick's College Maynooth and I can honestly say that they have been the happiest and most insightful years of my life. I joined seminary in August 1998 and joined a class of 26. I was 18. I had no idea  of what seminary would be like. The word 'seminary' means seed bed and that is exactly what it is. It is an environment where I have grown and got the corners knocked off me.

 

 

When God Calls

Cardinal John Henry Newman wrote:

"God has created me to do some definite service; he has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission, I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next."

Within the Church people are called to exercise different responsibilities. Some are called to be parents of families, others to religious life, others to remain in the single state, others to be ordained priests. We are all asked to discern , to find out, what is the definite service God has created us to do.

This is my sixth year of study and formation in St. Patrick's College Maynooth and I can honestly say that they have been the happiest and most insightful years of my life. I joined seminary in August 1998 and joined a class of 26. I was 18. I had no idea  of what seminary would be like. The word 'seminary' means seed bed and that is exactly what it is. It is an environment where I have grown and got the corners knocked off me.

Joining a seminary or religious community is not a step one takes lightly. It is not because of the present climate of bad press, but because in a way just like marriage it is a step into the unknown. There are risks involved. God does not call from heaven and say "ok, pack your bags, your going off to maynooth to study and become a priest". I suppose if God did do this as with all major decisions in life, he would make our lives a whole lot easier.

People assume that just because you enter a seminary that you are automatically going to become a priest, that all the discerning is over. In truth it is only in formation that the real discernment takes place. There are four areas of formation:

Intellectual - 2 years of studies in philosophy , three years of studies in theology and a pastoral year in a parish.
Human - Self knowledge, exploring the whole area of sexuality.
Spiritual - personal relationship with God is explored with the guidance of a spiritual director.
Pastoral - includes placements in nursing homes, youth centres, homeless shelters and mountjoy.

Last Easter Monday I took a definite step forward. I swore obedience to Bishop Smith, celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, to pray the  liturgy of the hours five times a day for the Church and the whole world until I die. Of course  I would have loved to have my own house, to get married to have children and to grow old with my wife. Someone once said that a good priest would also make a good father. Some people say that priests should be able to get married but they are forgetting that for the priest, God comes first in his heart as I have discovered and will continue to discover.


One might get the impression that seminarians are Holy Joes. Well, while some might  have been like this initially, it is soon knocked out of you. Living in a house  with 60 other lads varying in age from 18 - 60, lads in straight from school, students and teachers, cooks, publicans, builders, and widowers, one very quickly gets the corners knocked off them. The slagging, the pranks, the mimicking and the very occasional trip to the pub all help in creating high spirits and formation.

At the moment there are 60 students studying for the priesthood in St. Patrick's, four of these are from our own diocese. We also have three students in the Irish College in Rome. During the last few years I have lived life to the full. I have endured a weekend in army, competed in a soccer tournament in the South of France and have become a cinema projectionist in the college. I have worked with youth groups in inner city Dublin. I have worked with aids patients and with the homeless. I am living life to the full and have and will continue to enjoy every moment of it.

If you were to ask those who leave and don't get ordained if there time in Maynooth had been a waste, I could guarantee you  that there time in Maynooth helped them immensely. Time spent there is not a waste, unless you waste it yourself..

So what would I say to anyone thinking of joining the diocesan priesthood or religious life....... Three words... Come and see. Yes it is a huge step into the unknown, but a whole new world is opened up to the people who accept the challenges of God.